Photo ©Jason Mulikita/CARE

Seven Lessons on Business-to-business Partnerships for Social Value from the Barclays GSK Partnership

By Diane Eshleman, Managing Director, Global Head of Citizenship and Reputation and Rogerio Ribeiro, SVP and Area Head Emerging, Markets and Asia Pacific, GSK

Seven Lessons on Business-to-business Partnerships for Social Value from the Barclays GSK Partnership

In 2013, Barclays and GSK came together because we both believe that long-term success is inextricably linked to the wellbeing of the communities in which we operate. We developed a partnership bringing together the skills and expertise of a bank and healthcare company to test new models that would increase access to healthcare and improve economic livelihoods in Africa.

Focusing our efforts in Zambia, the partnership worked with CARE International UK to set up Live Well, a social enterprise that trains and supports a network of Community Health Entrepreneurs to promote healthcare and sell health products into underserved communities.

As the partnership comes to an end, we are reflecting on the partnership’s outcomes, not just on the ground in Zambia, but also more broadly in terms of what we have learned. From the beginning, the Barclays GSK Partnership set an explicit objective to be transparent in order to help build partnering know-how. This is consistent with the vision of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which encourage ‘inclusive partnerships built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the centre’ (SDG17)

Today, in collaboration with Accenture Strategy, we are releasing a report which reflects on the Barclays GSK experience, and considers how companies can work together to deliver commercially sustainable businesses that also create value for society.

Based on our experience we have developed seven keys to a successful business-to-business shared value partnership:

Lesson 1: Identify the right partners

Companies should actively identify potential partners who have a shared vision, complementary skills, compatible cultures and a willingness to partner on something that will require time, energy and resources to become successful.

Lesson 2: Create a compelling vision

Whilst a bold and inspiring vision is key to driving the right actions and building confidence, leaders should exercise caution in committing to specific, time-bound outcomes, especially in untested areas.

Lesson 3: Understand the opportunity and environment in depth

Detailed research on the opportunities, risks and operating environment will help to avoid significant costs and challenges emerging during the partnership that could affect the collaboration’s feasibility.

Lesson 4: Focus on innovation, impact and commercial sustainability

Partnerships present an opportunity for companies to innovate and build shared value solutions that they could not easily create independently.

Lesson 5: Build dynamic teams that have local ownership

The skills needed to deliver against the vision of a shared value partnership are likely to be different to those needed in a more familiar corporate setting. Governance structures should be as simple as possible to give the right level of oversight as well as the space and flexibility to focus on delivery. If working in new or less mature markets, local ownership and engagement is critical to build the right relationships and sustain results.

Lesson 6: Start small, move fast and fail quickly

A start-up approach– focused on smaller-scale goals and rapidly testing what works and what doesn’t – can be an effective way of developing and testing new ideas.

Lesson 7: Ensure resilience and patience

New teams, new business models and challenging markets can cumulatively create an environment where results take a long time to realise which requires partnership teams, and senior leaders, to be comfortable with ambiguity and patient for success.

You can read the full report, ‘Sharing the path ahead: Insights from the Barclays GSK partnership’, here.

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