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By Jenny Blair, Policy & Advocacy Officer at PATH

The development landscape has changed dramatically in the last 50 years, and it’s time for governments to take note. For example, only about 9% of the money flowing from the US to the developing world comes through traditional overseas development aid. This number was once 80%, but the significant increase in private and philanthropic financial flows, coupled with changing demographics, and a new generation of consumers in emerging markets are changing the game. In order to capitalize on critical opportunities to engage new partners and different sectors in global development, governments need a new playbook.      

Building super teams through multisector partnerships

The Concordia Summit is a time when world leaders gather to tackle some the most challenging obstacles to creating social impact. On September 18th PATH hosted a roundtable to garner ideas from experts in health, development, and finance to discuss novel approaches governments can use to build and preserve more effective partnerships between the public, private and social sectors.

One idea that stuck? That today’s most successful partnerships aren’t just between the public and private sectors – they are multisectoral, involving the public (government), private (industry), and social (non-profit, philanthropic, and academic) sectors. Multisector approaches are like All-Star teams, where each accomplished partner can leverage its unique assets and do what it does best to tackle the most complex development challenges that require expertise in so many areas.  

Lesson’s learned from PATH’s 40 years of partnership

With over 40 years of experience working across the public, private and social sectors to develop and scale health solutions, PATH has often served as the intermediary between the public and private sectors. In this role, we’ve seen what challenges exist and what conditions are needed to effectively forge multisector partnerships, and ensure diverse players work together to achieve global development goals.  Many of these insights, challenges, and winning strategies have been published in our recent paper, Innovating Foreign Assistance: Harnessing the Power of the Private Sector to Achieve US Global Health and Development Goals. I’ll preview a few of them here.

Earning “buy-in”

There is a lack of understanding about motivations and incentives between different sectors. Many of those negotiating partnerships have little experience outside their own sector and partners often don’t understand each other’s motives. This makes it difficult to attract partners, offer compelling terms, and sustain relationships.

What if the next generation of aid workers had experience and fluency across sectors? We imagine a world where aid workers think like entrepreneurs and source the best ideas to solve the challenges at hand in the most cost-efficient and sustainable ways. Governments could achieve this by investing in programs, like secondment, to help development works gain experience working with other sectors.  

Calling the right plays at the best times

Different models governments use to facilitate partnership have their own strengths and weaknesses. Using the wrong one when approaching a partner could unintentionally discourage participation. For example, partnerships between the public and private sectors often require long negotiation times or partners to divulge sensitive information without clear information on return on investment, an obvious barrier to partnerships, particularly when trying to engage the private sector.

A winning team has a play for every situation. Cracking the code on effective sustainable partnerships will require governments to develop a suite of partnership models, and a better understanding of how to match the right model to the challenge and partner is critical. Governments should review current approaches and engage representatives from across sectors to better understand how different kinds of partnership models are appealing to different sectors and how they are achieving impact.

Cultivating talent from all corners of the world

Private sector partners and innovators are everywhere, not just in wealthy nations and well-funded labs. Local innovators have a better understanding of the challenges their countries face and may be able to overcome specific barriers to development, such as the need for affordable health products, at a lower cost. Many of these promising innovations could reach scale in local and global markets if supported with greater investment and assistance navigating common barriers to failure. Governments can embrace their potential as conveners, investors, market shapers, and technical assistance providers. Expanding partnerships to include local industry and innovators develops new talent, builds local economies and creates public good.  

What we’re playing for

Global development is not a game; perhaps no results in the world matter more. Two years ago global leaders agreed to an aspirational set of developments goals to transform the world. 50 years ago, the idea of ending poverty or ensuring good health and well-being for all would have been laughable, but in today’s world with private sector interest in development at an all-time high, we’re convinced that by tapping into the power of multisector partnerships, governments have the opportunity to ensure that losing isn’t an option.