How can we systematically engage business as a partner in development?

One of the key priorities in the wider subject of business and development is around measuring impact. This goes for partnerships, too. This is the focus of another of TPI's research findings.

Partnership impact assessment remains a complex area.Although pioneering work is being done on impact assessment by DCED and others, the complexity of this subject remains a stumbling block. Put simply, if we can’t prove that partnerships work, how can we recommend more of them? What are the most effective methods of impact assessment that you have come across, either through a partnership or elsewhere in the field of development?

Hi all, yes, agree multi stakeholder platforms can be an immensely powerful driver for action at local and national level as long as all partners are equals and one sector/partner does not capture the agenda. It is crucial to have a facilitator, recognised by many as such and as being trustworthy and independent - I have seen many platforms work and fail because of this crucial factor. Have been involved in platforms in Zimbabwe, Guyana, Nepal - all set up for various differing reasons but allcan work if true partnership is at the heart and all see what's in it for them!

And not to be forgotten, these multi-stakeholder platforms can be as powerful and necessary in any country. They are not linked to a country's income level or where in theworld it might be and rich countries donot necesarily have better functionning platforms...

These can take the form of collaborative leadership workshops, in which participants are invited to step in the shoes of another (stakeholder) organisation, and try and enter into partnerships with other organisations by representing the views and meeting the objectives of that organisation. This leads to a very helpful shift of perceptions, and contributes to the building of a shared understanding among participants. These workshops have already been run at local (London) and national levels (UK).

Thanks, Mayke - that's a really helpful addition to the conversation. Can you give any examples where these have been done successfully?

Yes. I could have been clearer. With the meeting being in Mexico in April, what opportunities might there be for leverage for partnerships within Mexico…given that the meeting is there… Raises profile etc

Another interesting language-related barrier is the use of appealing or unappealing terms. Certain terms appeal more or less to different actors. Take socio-economic empowerment versus poverty reduction. There are certainly some differences in the two terms, but on the practitioner level they share a fundamental meaning. Yet, I've known businesses to have an slightly adverse reaction to engaging in 'poverty reduction', while embracing opportunities to promote socio-economic empowerment. Have others experience the 'use of unappealing terminology' as a barrier to engagement? What are some of the terms that cause hesitation?

These challenges are bigger than language barriers. How do you align business to those long term social goals?. Even though I am close to Adam Smith I do not think that the market will self correct on these issues. Government (setting the agenda, RandD, aid, taxes, subsidies) are the way to make such goals align.

I'm also wondering if the findings from this work touched on trust-building? Trust is key for collaboration and I'd be curious to know whether these platforms also contributed to building trust and therefore enabling further collaborative opportunities to emerge which might not have otherwise?

A lack of capacity in government, and a mismatch of cultures, timescales, language of business and government, is a significant challenge and many companies have become frustrated when trying to work with the public sector. However, if we are to achieve transformational change, we need to build capacity in government, as the legitimate authorities, for them to be able to work for effectively. Otherwise, if we simply bypass them, we risk business taking on the role of government and having to continually provide public services in their geographies of interest - an unsustainable solution.

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) ( has a mechanism - called 'Local Education Groups' - for facilitating multistakeholder dialogue at the country level related to development/implementation/monitoring of the country's National Education Plan. Unfortunately, participation by the private sector has been extremely limited. However, there are efforts underway to explore how private sector participation could be increased.

It would be interesting to understand how other initiatives, such as the Global Fund, have catalyzed private sector involvement at country level, both in terms of articulating the drivers for companies to get involved, and navigating the politics of business engagement among other actors.

Definitely lessons to be learned...

Thuy, Thanks for your answers and sharing the links! I imagine will discuss question 4 shortly, but I was just curious if in your work at IGD you ever went beyond measuring the impact of the partnership to other aspects of monitoring the process of partnering itself: such as the partners’ relationship; how efficiently it is set up and operating; the balance between costs and benefits from each partner’s perspective; and the value-add of partnering... etc. One of the challenges we have seen is that resourcing this type of M&E is often not thought of when the initial partnership is set up.

Great discussion. We need to re-think what kind of partnerships we are talking about, to understand financial and human resources needed to make them happen, and benefits to partners and the society.

Looking forward to share examples, Barbara

Valerie, this is an approach The Partnering Initiative uses in its Essential Skills for Partnering programme. Highly recommended!

Providing a 'safe' space for the different sectors to discuss areas of common interest, understand they are affected by the same issues, and that they have different resources to contribute to solutions, is hugely important in beginning to build trust. As I commented elsewhere, trust is built much more strongly on action than on words. We've found that when organisations start working together, that often results in further collaborative opportunities to emerge, as you suggest.

Hi Mayke - I'd be interested in your thoughts on BoP business models and just how far this approach is viable. What is the role of business when it comes to the very poorest/most vulnerable where citizens are not ready/able to be consumers or employees. Does business still have a role? Is this where CSR/philanthropy is more relevant? What do you think?

Hi Amanda, Can you expand a bit on what you think is holding back private sector participation?

Even where the need for partnering with business is there, the skills needed for effective partnering (on either side) may not be.

This is the focus of the fifth research finding from TPI:

Organisations should be ‘fit for partnering’ – but much boils down to having the right person in the right place at the right time. Our experience suggests that organisations need the right leadership and strategy, internal systems and processes, and a culture that supports collaborative working. However, even in organisations with a lot of partnering experience, a supportive internal culture and people with a collaborative mindset, this does not guarantee that individuals will able to identify a partnership opportunity. How can organisations maximise the chances of having the right person in the right place at the right time?

There are frameworks that can be used to measure impacts of a partnership. For example, at IGD, we developed practical business-oriented impact measurement frameworks that align with core business goals. Based on this framework, we also developed a tailored approach to measurement of specific public-private partnerships. For example, we recently worked with Visa and the Government of Rwanda to measure their partnership for financial inclusion. If you’re interested to learn more about this effort and findings from the report, please visit:

Others I'm sure can provide some thoughts on specific methodology, but it strikes me that the national level cross-sector partnerships platforms which we focused on on one of the previous questions, could very helpfully have strong learning and impact assessment mechanisms embedded into their strategies and operational plans. Thoughts?


with regard to my country and in the context of regional intergration in the SADC and COMESA(hope you are familiar with this) there are National committees with a government contact person to formulate and discuss those matters that hinder trade facilitation with the long term objective of strengthening the business environment to grow the respective economies.whenever there has been need to create CCMs Governments take a "go- it- alone" and organised private sector is usually ignored.

we are interested forging lasting partnerships with Governments and international development agencies that recognise such institutions as National Chambers of Commerce(in southern Africa,we have a regional chamber of commerce and industry whose membership are the national chambers. the intetion is that this would provide a regional platform for regional governments to engage the private sector on a regional basis to engage more broadly. On the basis of this platform,it is the belief that international development organisations can then engage this tripartate platform to recommend/advise on best practices to get the most out of available resources to grow businesses,econmoies and begin to tackle poverty in a more sustained manner.