Deficit-Driven Developments

January 17, 2012
Corporate Citizenship Center

[Editor's Note: This is the first in a three-part guest series.]

The recession started a renaissance in how companies, NGOs, & governments collaborate. Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention.  With governments and non-profits facing yawning budget deficits and business facing one of its biggest trust-deficits in history, organizations are coming together in unprecedented ways to tackle some of society's greatest challenges.  In fact, a distinct set of collaborative practices used by the “best corporate citizens”and their partners have emerged that others could adopt.

Even as movements like Occupy Wall Street show how dramatically trust in business has declined and even in the depths of the recession, most companies continued investing in corporate responsibility programs (according to a recent survey by CR Magazine).  At the same time, countries face mounting budget shortfalls especially in foreign aid, and many NGOs face declining giving, leaving vital programs in the lurch.  As a result, what began as small experiments in public-private partnerships have taken off and spread throughout communities, working to address everything from global health to education.

I’ve made the rounds here in Washington, D.C., speaking with leaders at multiple NGOs and U.S. federal government agencies, many of which now have appointed executives to lead “partnerships.”  The Department of Education has its Director of Strategic Partnerships in Suzanne Immerman and the State Department has its Director of the Global Partnership Initiative, Kris Balderston, to name just two.

Public-private partnerships themselves are not new.  What is new is how businesses and their partners engage with each other. Guidestar’s recent Money for Good II report shows a vast difference in the dollar-for-dollar results produced by different NGOs.  It also shows a striking lack of due diligence on the part of most donors. 

So what drives successful partnership decisions and how can companies adopt best practices in their approach to cross-sector collaboration?  What successful practices have you deployed that others can adopt?  Do you have examples of what not to do?