To feed the world’s growing population in a sustainable and inclusive way with good quality food is one of the main Sustainable Development Goals’ tasks. Malnutrition affects one in two people globally. Of these, 162 million children under the age of five are estimated to be stunted (e.g low height for age). Two billion people are estimated to be deficient in one or more micronutrients (global nutrition report, 2015). The task of securing food and nutrition worldwide is multidisciplinary. Access to food, food distribution and food production are all important, and cannot succeed independently.

Current investments in food security are mainly channeled through national policies and centralized negotiations, but priorities could be set and decisions could be made within a more participatory local democracy through dynamic public private dialogue mechanisms between elected representatives, grassroots civil society, youth, women, farmers, herders, traders and the likes.

Experiences from the corporate sector reveal that fifty to seventy percent of partnerships fail prematurely. While partners often have goals in common, they also have individual objectives that do not necessarily complement one another.

A key premise of a collaborative partnership approach is that it enables so called “beneficiaries” to become partners in development processes, which is empowering and facilitates mutual learning and will create more meaningful inclusive and sustainable development. There are many forms of collaboration, but “true” partnerships, are defined as partnerships that:

  1. are voluntary collaborations;
  2. leverage the respective strengths and core competencies of each partner;
  3. optimize the allocation of resources;
  4. achieve mutually beneficial results over a sustained period; and
  5. create linkages that increase resources, scale and impact, and are a vehicle to progress sustainable development action and outcomes.

In practice, collaborative arrangements (or partnerships) are between and amongst organizations from across the public, private, NGOs and donor sectors, and are often referred to as public private partnerships (PPPs).

The benefit of partnerships

Partnerships have the potential to deliver critical development benefits especially at the local level, since they often include “beneficiaries” as partners for e.g. identifying real development needs, assets to build on, service characteristics, standards and costs and also for the delivery and monitoring of, for instance, the appropriateness and quality of development services. Combining multiple actors with a clear interest in the development result or service allows for complementary mandates, skills, resources and perspectives to become explicit and to be negotiated towards a common approach for service delivery. It also facilitates a process of understanding different values and the co-creating of joint values for the partnership, which improves outcomes and enhances ownership of the parties involved. Partnerships furthermore have the potential to change existing mind-sets of development “provider” and development “beneficiary” and create joint action, responsibility and accountability for overall progress and its benefits.

PPPs are important because they can maximize the strengths and contributions of the public and private sectors in (infrastructure) investment and efficient service delivery and they are particularly useful in conditions where:

  • Governments lack sufficient capital resources for the scale of infrastructure and service needs;
  • Greater efficiency in infrastructure provision and service delivery are needed to sustain them;
  • Governments face capacity constraints and wish to mobilize additional skills and expertise from the private sector and other non-state actors to deliver on  key services;
  • Greater value creation from public assets is needed.

In general, mainly two forms of PPPs are being used, namely:

  • PPPs where private investment is required and revenue collection responsibility is given to the private sector partner (that can apply arrangements like lease, franchise, Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) and concessions);
  • PPPs in which the private sector partner receives regular payments from government, that may fund this from user fees, tax revenues or both, and payment to the private sector partner is based on performance targets set by the government.

The latter form of PPP is proving especially important as they can be applied for a much wider range of infrastructure and services sectors, such as those where user fees are insufficient to recover costs or cannot be charged or collected, where taxation is an appropriate financing form, and where traditional full cost recovery for the services is culturally or politically difficult. Countries that have been successful at mobilizing the private sector through PPP arrangements have invested in creating an enabling environment for PPPs and in encouraging a flow of projects conducted on a PPP basis.

PPPs have the potential to improve the provision of infrastructure and rural agricultural services. However, for that to happen, some constraints in existing policies, regulations and capacity challenges of both government and the local private sector to effectively use of PPP in the country, should be addressed.

Challenges in Developing Public-Private (Community) Partnerships

PPPs are demanding in terms of the need for developing and maintaining complex relationships and in bridging the different perspectives and interests of stakeholders. Often distrust between stakeholders has to be overcome and a champion is often needed to bridge divides and to bring parties around the table. As indicated above, PPPs often emerge as possible solutions to address a crisis in for example rural service delivery.

A crisis often creates a sense of urgency to take action and therefore opportunities for developing a shared direction or vision. It is important to facilitate a dialogue to create mutual understanding of and respect for one another’s goals and to shape broader joint goals that can be achieved through the partnership. There is also a need to create political support and social acceptance for private sector involvement. Support from the population and the public sector for PPPs will depend primarily on the actual performance and quality of services and development results delivered at reasonable cost. Mechanisms therefore need to be developed for accountability to the customers. A genuine partnership must also include principles of equity, transparency and sharing of benefits. At the same time PPPs are context based and can be very different depending on the locality and service to be provided. This necessitates flexibility in design and in implementation to ensure applicability and responsiveness to changes.

Empowerment and gender equity

Gender-responsiveness in collaborative arrangements and gender equality is central to sustained human development and Development Connect considers it vital to integrate women’s empowerment and gender equity. Developing capacity to integrate gender concerns in core areas of any program, as well as designing gender responsive PPP interventions is therefore a critical element for overall development effectiveness. Gender equity and responsiveness is especially important in partnerships for sustainable development, not only to ensure equity in development benefits but also because women are an important stakeholder in ensuring and sustaining development results. It is through responsiveness to vulnerabilities and inequalities within partnership approaches, and development inventions as a whole, that a truly holistic approach to sustainable development can be achieved.

Development Connect developed a gender capacity assessment (or questionnaire) to identify and analyse the factors that hinder efforts to integrate gender into programs/projects and to identify approaches to strengthen capacity to integrate gender in planning, implementation and evaluation of (partnerships) programs/projects.

Partnership development is not a process of negotiating how to implement a final strategy to achieve results, but a joint process right from the start. This does not exclude though the opportunity to identify and develop partnerships also during the implementation stage. This is said with the additional caution that the rather artificial delineation of the boundaries between the different stages of a program cycle (initiation, analysis, development, implementation, monitoring and phasing out/new design) will no longer apply. Instead, it will be a continuous process of adaptation and innovation with ever changing program elements, actors and partners.

It will be challenging, though definitely possible, to capture this continuous dynamics in any programming, and this is where Development Connect can assist and offer support to interventions which

  • Promote an enabling environment (policy, regulatory and institutional frameworks) conducive for local level PPPs;
  • Assess and develop capacities of partners, including local governments, local businesses and local communities to effectively engage through PPP to improve (rural) service delivery;
  • Support to design and backstop implementation of “quick wins” of innovative and pro-poor local level partnerships that contribute to improve service delivery;
  • Provide knowledge which shows examples of good experiences and lessons learned on local level pro-poor partnerships for local service delivery, agricultural development etc.