Making Public Private Partnership happen: The vital steps

Monica Marshall examines how PPP collaboration can help ensure a generation is not left behind in Asia’s dash for growth  


Amidst fast paced economic growth, Asia is also host to the highest proportion of the world’s hungry with 100 million children under 5 stunted and over 30 million wasted. Asia has the highest proportion of natural disasters.

Of the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change, 6 are in Asia. We have an urban population that is expected to increase by as much as 60%, majority of the majority being elderly and poor. With vulnerability at an all time high in this region, we must work together to adapt and manage risks in a way that minimizes impact and builds resilience.

There is an urgent need for companies, the public sector, civil society and the UN to work together to align business and social objectives. With true coordination, efficient use of resources, and eliminating duplicated efforts, Public Private Partnerships allows us to address Asia’s social challenges.

For the UN and NGO communities, “private sector,” “profit making” and “return on investment” should not have negative connotations. We need to embrace them in a way that works for everyone. For the private sector, “Public Private Partnerships” will not give you immediate profits but it can help build a strong base for the future.  At WFP, we have been building innovative partnerships for nearly a decade and we have learned a lot – about what works and what does not work.

Here are eight suggestions that you need to remember when developing public-private partnerships:

(1)          Align core competencies. Don’t try to force fit a partnership just because you have a history with an organization or you work well together.  In the end, the partnership will most likely either fail or only partially succeed.  When big companies step up with big contributions, it can be hard to refuse their objectives or ideas.  But sometimes, what a corporation desires requires a tremendous amount of energy or time, disproportionate to the implementing partner’s ability and desire.

(2)          Frame the vision clearly.  Public Private Partnerships by their very nature set forth a bold vision. But often, the vision can be interpreted differently depending on the stakeholder.

(3)          Define the strategy and stick with it. If you work through the challenges but remain with the original strategy, you are far more likely to see your Public-Private Partnership brought to scale, than dismantled and abandoned.

(4)          Involve the right stakeholders … from the beginning.  Spend the time upfront to educate and gain acceptance of the Public Private Partnership vision. Work through any misunderstandings partners may have and have clear parameters for engaging any new stakeholders. Also, make sure the partners have respect for each other.  The partner with the biggest checkbook is not always the most important partner to have.

(5)          Agree that it’s all about ‘Location, location, location’. Agree from the onset on the demographics and location of the project. While NGOs, UN and other implementing partners need to feel comfortable with choosing places that are viable for business, corporations need to trust the project partner in defining the locations to ensure the greatest social impact.

(6)          Make sure there is sufficient funding – for programs and overhead. Successful projects require some type of governance structure, monitoring & evaluation, outreach to host governments, communications, etc. The costs for these activities need to be covered, and should be planned when the vision is framed.

(7)          Factor in long term capacity to bring the PPP to scale.   The path to real change is bringing good projects to scale.  Make sure the thinking has been done to ensure there is an exit strategy for the partnership, allowing for natural forces to take over.

(8)          Be Patient. While we might all speak the same language, we often do not. It is only in an ideal world that different stakeholders will have the same set of expectations, but if we listen carefully to the aspirations, and ideas of our partners and stakeholders we can reduce the time spent on negotiation and proceed to successfully implement our common goals.

Overall, it takes a holistic and open approach to design successful Public Private Partnerships, that are cognizant of local conditions and social factors here in Asia. For Asia to chart a future course, it must be realistic and tenacious in aligning business and social objectives, and take that vision into manageable ideas and projects that are scalable, sustainable and replicable.

Monica Marshall is Deputy Director, Global Private Partnerships at the World Food Programme

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