By Joanne Sonenshine, Founder + CEO
I appreciated the urgency articulated by all panelists, realizing that to address our 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), feed a growing population, and ensure international development doesn’t leave agriculture behind, we must figure out how to combine forces and collaborate for greater efficiencies and effectiveness in agricultural communities (particularly with smallholders).
I asked a question about infrastructure, and who bears the brunt of the challenges imposed by crumbling roads, disintegrating bridges, limited connectivity and other challenges that smallholders face when trying to sell more of their products into markets, domestic or foreign. An interesting conversation ensued, which I share below generalized and without attribution.
Keep in mind that to make a mark in a developing country, company investments are not without risk, and the returns, both social and financial, do not always compensate for that risk. Partnering with public entities, be they donors or service providers, is a critical and often forgotten element in international development, and one that has evolved as the definition of an economic ‘externality’ shifts. Goods and services once thought of as externalities, where price can’t easily incorporate the true costs and benefit of usability, were often covered by public investment. Think utilities or telecom. Nowadays we may define an externality in relation to climate change, or other factors that cannot easily be valued positively or negatively. As externalities shift, private sector entities are taking on more risk, and relying upon other actors to serve as conduits or to pass-through that risk. The benefits of these partnerships can exceed the cost, and often lead to positive externalities (increased rates of education, better health, more powerful labor force, empowered women and girls, etc.) Roles between public and private entities in development are not always clear, however.
Generally the messages I heard in today’s conversation were the following:
The answers to all of these questions are of course context specific. As one panelist said, it’s not about finding A partnership….It’s about finding the RIGHT partnership to advance the needs of communities they serve. That’s exactly what we need. We need the RIGHT partners working on the RIGHT projects together to advance the needs of all constituencies (private, public, civil, community) based on information from the communities themselves.
The conversation today, informative, refreshing and invigorating, is the kind we need to keep us thinking strategically and systematically about solving our world’s most pressing problems. I thank the panelists and hosts for the inspiration.
Joanne Sonenshine is Founder + CEO of Connective Impact, an advisory firm working with mission-driven enterprises to address our greatest social and environmental challenges through effective partnership development.
By Stefanie Kruglik, Senior Director Impact + Strategy
Adding to the complexity, standards are garnering more attention as investigations question whether they actually deliver what they promise (as evidenced by the recent Washington Post report on certification inside cocoa supply chains.)
Properly evaluating sustainability standards before choosing one is crucial, as the relationship between brand and standard is key for both creating sustainable supply chains, and maintaining consumers’ trust. Most brands evaluate standards by looking only at criteria or frameworks, but it’s just as important to study factors such as how the standard is validated before making a determination about its efficacy or reliability for a brand.
To boil it down, here are the 5 things smart brands do when searching for the best sustainability standard partner:
By Joanne Sonenshine, Founder + CEO of Connective Impact
Last week I was lucky enough to attend the 12th annual Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) conference in San Francisco California. Overlooking the beautiful blue bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, I spent three days learning from, talking to and being inspired by social entrepreneurs, impact investors, funders of all kinds, technical experts in a number of different issue areas, NGOs, and so many others who came together to think through tough questions and begin developing collaborative solutions to some of the worlds biggest challenges.
I was a first timer, among hundreds of others who had heard about the powerhouses that attend this conference each year, knowing not what to expect. Truthfully I thought the conference may be attended mostly by braggadocious investor types simply looking to make a buck off of budding entrepreneurs who claim to be doing “good” at the same time.
Wow was I wrong!
The reality of SOCAP was completely the opposite of any preconceived notions that this was simply a boondoggle for venture capitalists. I can’t recall a conference more full of intellectuals, idea generators, creative provocateurs or problem solvers. I prepared for SOCAP with many questions. I left with some answers, and many examples of amazing work that independently could be world changing, and yet collectively, with all other ideas permeating through the conference, could be paradigm shifting.
What questions did I have to begin with?
What did I learn?
I could have attended every session offered at SOCAP and still not have taken advantage of all the knowledge and creativity that was clearly abundant among the 3000+ attendees. I barely made it to the sessions I had planned to attend, and even then, spent much of the sessions among the standing room only crowds trying to absorb what they could. Some sessions were high level and barely scratched the surface of what organizations are doing, and others had more granular approaches. Examples of the dynamic ideas I heard about included:
There were also several big funding announcements* this week including:
I can't wait to attend SOCAP20 (!) and am jazzed to spend the next few weeks following up with the incredibly smart and mission-driven new friends I met at SOCAP19. I have no doubt that world changing action is ahead.
Joanne Sonenshine Is Founder + CEO of Connective Impact, a partnership advisory firm providing structure and methods to mission-driven, socially and environmentally-conscious companies to aid in effective collaboration for lasting impact.
*want to follow these initiatives as they develop? Be part of our funding + partnerships opportunities community.
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!