Business-NGO partnerships and a call for a more systemic approach

Darian Stibbe, executive director of The Partnering Initiative, says the NGO-business collaborative model has already progressed from the transactional (fee-for-service) to the transformational. Using the example of drug maker GSK and the NGO Save the Children to illustrate the latter model, Stibbe notes that the partners combine capabilities, resources and influence over the long-term to increase value. However, he adds a transformational approach is limited in that scaling requires greater financial inputs, which may not be sustainable from a donor's point-of-view.

In a recent article for Business Fights Poverty, Stibbe contends a more systemic approach can increase the reach of business-NGO collaborations. In this model, the partners integrate with the governmental sectors that offer relevant infrastructure and local expertise (bearing in mind the introduction of more partners inevitably leads to greater complexity of the model, sometimes creating issues surrounding the process and accountability).

To avoid getting bogged down, Stibbe recommends collaborators choose soft ties (i.e., ongoing communication, sharing current and future activities and plans, exchanging knowledge and experience), which encourage organic, integrative activity, over hard ties (i.e., formal MoUs, clearly defined partnerships with specific goals). We're interested to know what you think about how partnerships can be most effective -- please share your thoughts!

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