By Stefanie Kruglik
After working with public-private partnerships for over a decade, I’ve noticed one essential ingredient in those that do well: a framework. A framework creates holistic solutions, builds trust among the partners, and makes implementation easy to navigate – ultimately making the partnership more effective.
Yet when I speak about frameworks, I often see dread in my counterparts’ eyes. “Don’t worry,” I tell them – developing a framework doesn’t have to be a huge burden, and it will save you time down the road. A robust framework also helps you develop your key performance indicators (KPIs); more on that later.
Think about a long drive with a new friend. What are you trying to achieve – do you just want to get there ASAP? See the fall foliage? Sample the local cuisine? Discussing these questions in advance will inform your route selection, pace, and choice of diners (it isn’t a real road trip without a diner stop!)
Just like on your road trip, when you establish a framework with accompanying KPIs, and review them regularly, you will be able to avoid roadblocks and stay on track to reach your goals.
It’s easy to get started. Answer these key questions that too many partnerships skip, and your framework will begin to take shape:
Stefanie Kruglik Is Senior Director for Impact + Strategy at Connective Impact. Learn more about our partnership evaluation tool and see how your partnerships shape up!
You know that partnerships matter for your business, and to address critical challenges that can help you deliver on impact. Yet how do you find potential partners, determine which types of partnerships are best for your business, which are best to advance your high-impact goals, and how to position your company for growth?
Partners help us address gaps that may exist, and ensure our businesses are working within our strengths. Partnerships that are designed right, built around the concept of comparative advantage, and that offer mutual benefit, will keep resources at a minimum and help ensure greater efficiency in your efforts. The concept of partnership building can seem overwhelming when there are so many potential partners out there. Where does one start? How do you know which are the best partners for your organization? Which partnerships will advance your impact and propel the success of your efforts?
Let's examine the three most important partnership types.
1. Service Delivery
Once you have determined what your organizational priorities are, and what impact you want to make as a business or nonprofit, identifying the most effective service delivery partners is crucial. These types of partners can range from customers to suppliers, employers to in-country project leads. Partner organizations or individuals that keep your programs moving, budgets in line, follow programmatic timelines and help deliver on prioritized goals or program objectives are service delivery partners. These partners should have a mutual benefit in helping you stay accountable, as their own organization or individual goals will be improved in doing so (at least in an ideal partnership). If you are an international nonprofit, your service delivery partners are often local nonprofits that help liaise with local governments or communities. If you are a company, service delivery partners are often suppliers, factory managers or those who you rely upon for following your company plans.
Your organization has a story. Your partners do too. Joining together to capture insights and ensure others understand the impact you are making helps ensure your story is cohesive and targeted to those who need to hear it. Being held accountable to the facts, being transparent and honest about the work you are doing is truthfully one of the most important elements in delivering true impact, so partners that encourage that honesty are among the most critical.
In order to advance your business aim, as well as your high impact goals, you will need the resources. For example, if your goal is to donate $10,000 a year to a local hospital, and you don't have the funds to do so, you will need to tap into your network or be creative working with suppliers or customers to raise that money. Finding ways to dedicate resources to causes that you and your colleagues care about can seem intensive. You don't want to go down a rabbit hole trying to achieve your high-impact goals, because that's just too expensive. Finding the right types of funding partners can save you time and ensure you have the resources you need to acheive your goals.
Brainstorm all of the partners that you have engaged with in the past, and that you can potentially engage with in the future. Think about which partners can benefit your potential impact from a service delivery, marketing/story-telling or fundraising perspective before narrowing in on which are the most suitable for your organization. Discuss with colleagues and determine which types of partnerships ignite excitement. Those are the types of partnerships to pursue. Ask prospective partners to share ideas, examples and existing project cases, but be prepared to do the same. Go one step further and share some ideas you may have for your impact goal. Be willing to give a little and offer up some creative Intel or information that will encourage the partner to engage with you and share resources, ideas, networks, and most valuably, their time. Don't forget that this is your chance to work on identifying your comparative advantage in order to engage partners for the benefit of your impact goal, the growth of your business, and to ensure mutual benefit for them too.
Wondering where to begin with your partnership journey? Reach out to discuss.
Some tools that may help:
Partnership Evaluation Tool
Fundraising Made Simple
20 Ways to Find New Partners and Amplify Your Impact
As we approach the final few months of 2019, many of these institutions are re-evaluating their goals, recognizing that while change has occurred, we are still on a path towards the true seismic shift we all expected. We are running out of time, though. 2020 is just around the corner and there is still quite a lot of work to be done.
In 2015, the United Nations created the Sustainable Development Goals, (“SDGs”), a set of 17 critical priorities that businesses, governments and civil society must work around together to create a healthy, resilient and thriving planet for all people, nature and animal life that live here. The release of the SDGs gave these actors an opportunity to reframe their 2020 goals, and look towards 2030, the year the SDGs are targeting for their finish line. As 2020 approaches, 2030 becomes the new beacon for many of the same goals that were set back in 2000.
Has your business examined the SDGs? Have you considered what role you play?
We cannot deny, nor should we, that businesses need to make money as a first priority. At the end of the day, businesses exist to provide customers with goods and services. That said, businesses of all sizes have a role to play in society, too. The SDGs allow businesses a roadmap, of sorts, or even a menu of options to consider, as they evaluate this role. To play even a small part in advancing the SDGs, businesses will need to prioritize what's possible. It won't be easy to land on a solution for no poverty, or clean water and sanitation for all, or zero hunger in isolation. Collaboration will be essential. Now is the time to take a look within, however, to consider what role your business does play, and how your goals can align with the SDGs.
So where does one begin?
Working through these steps should give you a good sense of what elements within the SDGs are feasible for your company to commit or contribute to. It will take all of us working together to address the SDGs. Change is possible if we focus and act with intention. Let's make the next ten years count.
I can’t stop thinking about the immigrants at the southern border of the United States. Images from the news haunt me. Stories of neglect and utter deference for people’s humanity disgust me. Feeling powerless to the enormity of the situation, from the violence prompting families to leave their homes in Central and South America, to the sheer lack of civility portrayed by the American people, let alone our inept leadership, I do what I know how to do best – I figure out ways to encourage economic support in the places where these people are fleeing.
I tweet and retweet news that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is turning to the private sector to help build sustainable markets in places like Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala (despite funding cuts on the public side). I share ideas with corporate executives who are considering new and innovative ways to source products or services from different parts of the world where labor is needed and costs are lower. I help create partnerships for companies that do, still, provide them with profit but also provide a sense of long-term investment for communities where poverty has taken such a strong hold that the only solution is to migrate and face our borders.
I imagine the families I’ve met, not just in South and Central America, but in East Africa, in SE Asia, in the Middle East, in the Pacific, and think creatively about how market-based solutions could provide some semblance of economic advancement such that not only is migration held at bay, but violence too.
I am an idealist, no doubt. I am someone who believes in the power of Purposeful Profits and the ways businesses can use their purchasing power for good (consumers, too, by the way!) I am also someone who reads between the lines when USAID releases their strategy calling for ‘self-reliance.’ This means that as the U.S. Government retreats from its position of aiding those communities that cannot support themselves, and focuses investments on humanitarian and emergency assistance, funding to match private sector investment that helps propel ‘self-reliance’ in places where USAID operates is of crucial importance. Matched funding from the private sector will allow a dollar spent by U.S. taxpayers buoying local communities in places in economic turmoil to be matched by a dollar (or more) of private sector market building, with the hope that these two dollars will provide a return of three, or four or five or ten dollars into the future.
I believe it’s possible. I am seeing it happening. It’s one of the bright lights of this Administration and it means that if the private sector continues to come to USAID with a dollar in hand, USAID will match that dollar and help countries find the self-reliance that encourages fewer families to face the horrible decision of staying or leaving their homes.
If you are working in the private sector, or WITH the private sector in any way, consider how to pair your investment with that of the U.S. Government. It does not have to be through USAID. MCC, State, USDA and others are keen to work with the private sector to advance economic scenarios in developing economies. The results will benefit these communities in the end if we all work together towards this common goal.