Can Partnerships Become 'The New Normal'?

By Dave Prescott, The Partnering Initiative

As the post-2015 development architecture is being debated and put in place, the role of business as a partner in development remains a critical subject of debate. While an increasing number of commentators and practitioners agree that business has an essential role to play, translating the rhetoric into action is far from straightforward.

In April, there will be a high level meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation in Mexico to discuss the post-2015 development framework – including the role played by business. Participants will be invited to commit to a ‘roadmap for systematically engaging business as a partner in development’ – the subject of this blog series from TPI. And, as Florian Mölders has pointed out on this blog, it will be critical for the business voice to be heard at the GPEDC. Business is ready and willing to help drive development but they will struggle to engage if the design of development goals remains largely subject to conventional political processes.

The case for enhancing the role of business as a partner in development is increasingly clear for both private and public sectors. For companies, we are not simply talking about ‘opportunities’. We are suggesting that any company that does not consciously and actively partner with other sectors on development issues that affect their business will fail to thrive in the longer term.

The case for partnership in the development community is equally compelling. Despite many development gains made over the past decades, the urgency of challenges are such that solutions must be found and scaled up yesterday. Organisations tasked with responding to increasingly complex challenges, usually with restricted budgets, can maximise development impacts by leveraging the extraordinary problem-solving abilities of business, its reach and the complementary resources it can bring.

The good news is that many of the required solutions are now available. Partnership tools and techniques are being developed, good practice examples have been written up, lessons are being shared, and impact assessment is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Much depends on the courage and vision of decision makers as they design the new development architecture.

The roadmap will aim to support these decision makers by setting out practical steps for engaging business as a partner in development. A collaborative path forward is not easy or comfortable, but it is achievable, and the alternative is unthinkable. So much comes down to the politics: if interdependence and collaboration can become ‘the new normal’, then we stand a chance of making real progress on development.

This is the first of four blog posts for Business Fights Poverty. The remaining articles in this series explore the following areas:

The roadmap draws on interviews with practitioners from across the public, private and civil society sectors, a series of in-country consultations, and the huge amount of existing written research. Since the readers of this blog are among the most well-informed people currently active on the partnership agenda, we would like to invite you into the debate – and to help sharpen and focus our roadmap:

Add your comments below

Join the live online discussion Thursday 20th February

Contribute to the Roadmap – complete a survey

Editor’s Note:

This blog is part of a series co-hosted by The Partnering Initiative. Join the online discussion here.

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