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Save the Children Looks to Scale Up its Business Partnerships

By Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi, Director for Programme Policy and Quality, Save The Children UK

Save the Children Looks to Scale Up its Business Partnerships

Save The Children has had a long standing relationship with a number of corporates since its inception. Historically that relationship was predominately a traditional CSR relationship where businesses gave us a grant to either to contribute to our core costs as an organisation, or to implement a project in a specific country around health, education, etc.

When we wrote our strategy a couple of years ago, we took stock of how the world had evolved, and reviewed the role that business increasingly plays in the development space and the importance of business engagement for contributing to development outcomes.

One of the areas we looked at was the work that has been done around traditional value chains and we then asked ourselves, “Could there be a similar relationship with businesses around core business development and social sector outcomes?” This meant not just focusing on getting a check from them to do a project, but really thinking about how we partner with business to contribute to key development outcomes and looking at the issues around core business: what are the products and services that poor people need? Which of these products and services can companies develop or adapt for people at the base of the pyramid?

If you look at the percentage of poor people’s income that is spent on basic goods and services like health, education, household products, food, etc., it is actually quite high. That is why we started having conversations, not just about the cheques that businesses can give us to deliver our programmes, but about what they can do as an integral part of their core business to deliver outcomes for poor people. We are looking for the common space between business imperative and development outcomes at the base of the pyramid. Our aim is to work together to achieve a better vision for poor people and better products and services for poor people.

We recently launched a major partnership with GSK, which is along the lines of this new framework that I’ve just outlined. When we launched the partnership, we also started conversations with other corporates looking at the nexus between development outcomes and business outcomes and we are finding that there are real opportunities in health, in education, in livelihoods and even in our work on child protection.

To make sure we are making the most of these areas of commonality between development outcomes and business outcomes we have created a new position – Head of Business Partnerships for Programmes – to look at one key issue: what are the development challenges that we at Save The Children are trying to contribute to and how can we build business partnerships that enable us to have a much greater impact and ensure better outcomes for poor people? What makes this role really exciting is that we do have a new business development team in our fundraising team who are focused on new partnership opportunities. And, having a business partnership person sitting in our programmes team will ensure that there is a constructive dialogue between the kind of development challenges that Save The Children is trying to contribute solutions to in a global space along with other partners, and the conversations that we are having with businesses globally.

Between now and the end of September we are recruiting for this new role at Save The Children – it’s an exciting opportunity for us and for the successful candidate.

The new Head of Business Partnerships skills need to include:

1. Good influencing skills

2. Strong analytical skills

3. Excellent networking skills.

I think that we’ve come a long way in the whole space of business engagement. About 10 or 15 years ago when we started this dialogue, most people did not understand that businesses has a role to play in the development discourse beyond CSR, and especially around core business.

In the time that I have been with Save The Children, I have come across a wide range of opportunities that we haven’t even thought about in terms of partnerships with businesses. If we think of a development challenge, increasingly, I am learning that businesses have a solution already. So, the new Head of Partnerships needs be able to make a clear link between the development challenge and the potential opportunity out there. You need to have strong networking skills and engage effectively with business, if you want to ascertain where those opportunities are.

There seems to be different views globally around the role of civil society in this space, so there is now a common acceptance around public/private partnerships. So, the business and the public sector nexus is an acceptable norm, and I think I would like us to explore a tripartite relationship. There is a real opportunity to look at how civil society can engage with businesses and bring in their relationships with government, especially local governments, to help find some of the solutions to development challenges out there.

Within Save The Children we recognise the importance of understanding incentive structures and identifying where there is commonality for development outcomes. And, the more poor people that we can lift out of poverty, the more businesses benefit.

Editor’s Note:

Editor’s note: If you wish to learn more about this new Save the Children role or apply for this position click on Business Fights Poverty Jobs Board.

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One Response

  1. Yes, I perfectly agree with Maivis that the more poor people we can lift out of poverty, the more businesses benefit. The effective partnesship between business and  and the social sector is something that we urgently need to explore and made to work. As I thouight through this, it came strongly to me that most often these engagements are made at the higher levels, between ”big NGOs” and ”big businesses”, leaving out those small local NGOs who live and work so close to the rural poor that they know very well what the issues are that can lift the poor from poverty. Many of these local NGOs have the essential ideas and the needed skills to bring transformation in the lives of people at the base of the pyramid. But they are saddled with financial constraints and are therefore not able to deliver on their plans. I believe that it is high time the more established and well endowed NGOs sought out and entered into partnerships with credible local NGOs for the effective, efficient and sustainable delivery of development outcomes. I salute Save the Children for this laudable framework they are introducing and I challenge all of us to seek out effective partnerships as together we fight poverty.