Partnerships for development

Leena Wokeck
Many players in the development community now focus on the role for business in tackling development and sustainability issues in Asia. Businesses that recognize the strategic relevance of being part of the solution rather than part of the problem in addressing the global challenges of our time are working on integrating development and sustainability issues into their business strategies. And many organizations in both sectors recognize that partnerships between them will be necessary for meaningful implementation. A rising number of events on partnerships for development as well as the inclusion of private sector engagement strategies in many development organizations, initiatives and projects are testimony to this.
Complex and pressing global challenges require urgent and far-reaching action that no sector can tackle alone. This is leading to an emphasis on engaging business to devise effective strategies for development that harness the innovative capacity and implementation efficiency of the private sector. Leading companies have moved on from giving parts of their surpluses to “good causes”. They focus on strategic investment opportunities, even new business models suitable for a sustainable future where shared value is created in thriving and inclusive economies through innovative business practices. This requires a comprehensive and consistent redefinition of business management strategies and fundamental changes to “business as usual”.
As the way development works changes, opportunities for new collaboration models arise. The financial crisis and 60+ years of lessons learned are leading to less development aid from traditional OECD donors. Foreign direct investment flows into developing countries dwarf overseas development assistance (ODA) and will continue to rise, especially in Asia with its high growth potential countries. Much of the poverty alleviation that has happened in Asia over the past two decades is due to economic growth and development, spurred by the private sector.
Governments, development agencies and civil society organizations are looking to harness this through new modes of development cooperation, which often involve private sector partners and funding. But considerable uncertainty prevails over how to effectively achieve, measure and manage meaningful and sustainable impacts. Promising focus areas include innovating new products and services that fill a need in a poor community, engaging small-scale farmers or producers in supply chains, or changing processes to reduce vulnerabilities, improve livelihoods and make economic growth more inclusive and equitable – and are often built on long-term partnerships involving key stakeholders.
Finding common ground and bridging the organizational culture divide between non-profit and profit-making entities however remains a challenge. It means opening up to new issues and approaches. And it is an area of important strategic consideration for leaders in the private sector and successful companies of the future in a rapidly changing world.
Directly contributing to stabilizing the environmental or social conditions of the countries or regions in which a company operates and on which it depends will contribute to managing risks – and to creating business benefits. Utilizing skills and resources to build stronger local economies and human capacities will result in more vibrant business environments and facilitate access to new producers, suppliers, customers and partners. Development challenges and crises can result in the innovation of new products and services that can be replicated or scaled up for use elsewhere and thus create new market opportunities.
Successful strategies for a sustainable future will require solid relationships with stakeholders and partnerships that result in new business models equipped to tackle global – and local – challenges in the long run.
(Source: CSR Asia)

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