A public/private sector alliance is a relationship between public and private organizations formed in order to meet complementary goals in a more productive way than either can do on its own. Incentives for both sectors must align in the short- and long term to create a sustainable alliance. The degree of integration between partnering organizations can range from subsidies and philanthropy to integrated, sustainable business operations.
Traditionally, public/private sector alliances are formed between businesses and government agencies. This is changing as businesses become larger and more integrated into global and local communities. New alliances are formed by private organizations (both for profit and not for profit) that work for the public interest and by global companies partnering directly with communities and civil society organizations without direct government involvement. If managed well, an alliance can create sustainable growth in developing economies and provide youth with the jobs, health care, and security that are the foundation of healthy communities.
Alliances should be considered when they will be mutually beneficial to all partners. In livelihoods programming, this often comes in the form of an internship, apprenticeship, or job placement program. In addition, the project should consider bringing in local businesses at the outset of the program. These businesses can serve as ambassadors to other potential alliance partners.
Before engaging private sector actors for alliances, development professionals should identify a market or intervention opportunity from which youth could benefit. The opportunity can then be matched to the organization(s) that will benefit from the program. Developing networks and contacts is an essential part of connecting to businesses. Getting to know the businesses in the project community and in the scope of the project will facilitate later alliance possibilities. The project should consider multiple means of meeting and getting to know these potential partners. Projects can meet and seek out businesses through chambers of commerce or trade associations, or can even visit local businesses door to door.
If designed and implemented well, private sector alliances can have lasting impacts many times greater than traditional aid programs. USAID has recognized the need for alliances by developing a Global Development Alliance program (GDA), now a part of the more inclusive Office of Innovation and Development Alliances (IDEA). To date, the GDA mechanism has developed over 1,700 alliances encompassing 11 development sectors. Private foundations such as the Gates Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative, other government agencies (AusAid, DFID), financial institutions (IDB, World Bank), and large companies (Chevron, Walmart) are recognizing the value of public/private alliances for pooling resources toward aligned benefits.
Alliances with greater potential for sustainability and high impact are those with a strong business case and significant funding behind them, not simply a small philanthropic effort. If a company has a vested interest in the project and its outcomes, support for the project will be more focused and sustained, leading to a more successful alliance.
The project should seek to create systems for monitoring and evaluation that make data easy to obtain and user-friendly, so that partners can be regularly informed of progress on the project. If a private sector partner understands the success of activities, it will be more likely to invest on a sustained basis.
An analysis of USAID’s experience with public/private partnerships and recommendations for how missions and projects can develop their own alliances.
The United Nations Capital Develpoment Fund (UNCDF) and MasterCard Foundation created an alliance to develop financial products for youth in sub-Saharan Africa. This program has a long-term objective of helping develop financially savvy and responsible youth. The same target group is a potential future market for MasterCard financial services.
A USAID database in which practitioners can search by partner, region, country, and sector to see previous partnerships implemented by USAID.
The Cracking the Nut Conference is a gathering focused on leveraging public/private partnerships to develop rural and agricultural markets and help identify investment opportunities at all points along dynamic rural and agricultural value chains.
A toolbox for USAID missions on alliance development. This resource can help practitioners better understand how this funder understands alliances.
A report on various projects under the International Youth Foundation’s Education and Employment Alliance that worked to broaden education and employment opportunities for disadvantaged youth in strong partnership with stakeholders across the public and private sectors.
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