As part of the roadmap for systematically engaging business as a partner in development, we would like to set out a vision for a collaborative society that is so compelling that it acts as an inexorable draw for organisations to aspire to. There is value in taking a step back from the nuts and bolts of partnership and reminding ourselves what it is that we are trying to achieve over the long term.
We envisage a collaborative society as one where a culture of partnership has been internalised to the extent that it is woven into the social fabric. Interdependence has become mainstreamed. There is general understanding of the situations and contexts where partnerships are likely to be effective.
For example, partnerships are more likely to succeed where the subject is of strategic importance, such as energy, water and agriculture. These are issues where the investment of public money and resources are more likely to have an impact, as well as directly impacting a company’s core business. The decision process required to identify where a partnership’s time, money and effort should best be directed is well understood – just as, conventionally, companies are able to assess and pursue the markets where they are most likely to make a return on their investment.
In a collaborative society, the impacts of partnership are the focus of public debate and discussion, and there are tight feedback loops between the recipients of development (or their representatives) and the suppliers of solutions.
The collaborative society is one where governments, donors, businesses and civil society organisations have transcended and included their traditional roles. For example in addition to their core role of:
- funding development programmes, donors are also facilitators of collaboration between business and government; expert impact assessors; .
- selling products and services, businesses are also consciously and proactively regarding local development needs as potential business solutions
- providing public services and upholding the rule of law, governments are actively seeking engagement in their country’s development from other actors that share their strategic objectives.
- building local capacity, holding organisations to account and providing technical assistance and support, civil society organisations are playing a major role in building and strengthening local networks for development
The result of this new cultural landscape is a major leap forward in development impacts. In its ‘Architects of a better world’ report, describing the business role in the post-2015 development agenda, the Global Compact highlighted a series of ‘sustainable development goals’ (inclusive growth; social equity and progress; and environmental protection) and ‘long-term business goals’ (revenue growth; resource productivity; and risk management). In a collaborative society, the overlap between these two sets of goals is simply common sense.
What do you think of this vision? What would make it more compelling? What kind of collaborative society would you subscribe to?
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