Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Cross-sector partnerships: fashion, fuzz and focus

This post marks six months to the summit to agree the next global development agenda, to replace the 2000-2015 MDGs (Millennium Development Goals).

Discussion of the Sustainable Development Goals is filled with the significance of cross-sector partnering as the key to unlocking development potential.

By 'cross-sector' is often (if not exclusively) meant 'public-private' and so the partnering agenda is, in large part, about more proactively engaging the worlds of business and finance in the world's development.

If 2015 is the 'year of partnerships', what is at stake?

Any good contribution on this topic needs to address, at a minimum (a) what sorts of activities might be meant by the broad term 'partnership' or 'partnering'; and (b) the many assumptions that attend the rhetoric on this issue: assumptions about trust (between business and government), and about aligned incentives and adequate capacities for long-term sustained partnering.

This is vital since (as often when UN summits loom) there is a tendency towards self-reinforcing rhetoric, persistent refrains that reinforce fashions while often losing sight of opportunity costs and risks.

The fashion for cross-sector partnering risks erecting this very difficult, emerging set of practices as the development panacea without adequately theorising, testing, illustrating. 

It also risks distancing states from their development obligations by suggesting that the main vector for development requires the cooperation of business and others. Yes, collaborative development holds great promise, but development failures cannot simply be put (in future) to the failure of partnerships. These fail all the time, in many areas of life.

A blogger on this -- or any -- issue should offer variety along with some attempt at insight, opinion, information.

This is true even for an occasional (roughly fortnightly) blog like this one.

Yet when a topic is complex, surrounded by mediocre inputs, and very important, I think a blogger adds value simply by passing on something worth reading.

Of all the pieces I've read in 2015, this World Vision report perhaps best sets out the issues and meets its title's promise of 'advancing debate' -- if only by promising to help clarify what the debate is, and so separate fashion and fuzz from topics that need focus. (It follows some earlier excellent briefings from that organisation on this topic).

For the most recent thoughts on this issue on this blog, see here.


No comments:

Post a Comment