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2007 Annual Meetings

Public-Private Partnerships: Opportunities and Challenges.
The GF-WB Partnership and the We are the Future Model

Session organized by Glocal Forum
October 22, 2007


A joint Glocal Forum/World Bank panel entitled “Public-Private Partnerships: Opportunities and Challenges. The GF-WB Partnership and the We Are the Future Model” was held at the World Bank during the 2007 Annual Meetings. Speakers included Salvatore Nigro (Director, Advocacy Department, Glocal Forum), Mattias Lundberg (Senior Economist, Children and Youth Unit, World Bank), Matthew Clark (Director, Global Strategic Accounts, Microsoft Corporation), Bob Patterson (Senior Liaison Officer, Food and Agriculture Organization), and Trevor Neilson (Senior Advisor, APCO Worldwide). Nell Derick Debevoise (Director, Intercultural Relations, Glocal Forum) moderated the panel. The interactive discussion was attended by over 30 representatives of international CSOs, private sector and the World Bank.

Public-private partnerships were presented as an important element of development work being done today by civil society, the World Bank and other bilateral donors, and also private sector actors. MDG 8, for example, prescribes a “global partnership for development,” which supports this notion of broad alliances between public and private entities. Conceived initially as agreements between government (national or local) and private sector entities, the basic logic for Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) is that both actors have unique characteristics that provide them with advantages in specific aspects of service or project delivery. CSOs have a lot to gain by entering in those partnerships as well as much to offer in terms of on the ground expertise. By sharing resources, each party not only shares the risks, but mainly maximizes the potential internal and external effect of its activities.

It seems that the time for these alliances is ripe, given a number of factors, not least of which the vitality of this sixth Civil Society Forum during the WB/IMF Annual Meetings. Further, in his first annual report, UN Global Compact’s Director Georg Kell cited a “growing premium on proactive and collaborative efforts by business to address environmental, social and governance issues – by applying solutions that… mitigate risks and seize previously untapped opportunities.”

Salvatore Nigro presented the Glocal Forum’s ongoing partnership with the World Bank, with a particular focus on the We are the Future Program. Based in Rome, the Glocal Forum (GF) is a leading non-profit organization in the field of city-to-city Cooperation. It emphasizes the central role of cities in international relations through its “Glocalization” vision, believing that mayors are poised to be the new diplomats of our world, and that they are in a position to mobilize the goodwill, energy and expertise of civic communities, and to build an environment in which divisions and conflict can be overcome. Since the first Memorandum of Understanding was signed between GF and the Bank in 2002, the cooperation has involved a wide range of activities, including in-country consultation, technical assistance, participation in events, and financial support.

He then presented the We are the Future (WAF) program, a series of municipally owned and managed community centers initiated by the Glocal Forum, as a case study of public-private partnerships. From the conception of the WAF concept, the goal has been to construct diverse alliances of partners to support youth-led, non-formal education activities for young children in conflict and post-conflict cities (i.e. Addis Ababa, Freetown, Kigali, and Nablus). For example, Microsoft Corporation provided in-kind donations of technology for telecenters at many of the locations as well as financial support for the ICT program. FAO and UN-HABITAT established trust funds for the WAF program to facilitate a large cash donation from Starbucks.

This experience has offered a number of valuable lessons to the Glocal Forum and its partners. The municipalities are important to the alliance because of the sustainability they can provide onsite, provided that relationships are forged with political and administrative levels of the local authority to avoid losing ground after elections. Private sector partners were most valuable when they were engaged throughout the project, from conception to implementation. Their added value can be maximized by soliciting merchandise and technical assistance from corporations as well as financial contributions. Finally, international organizations such as the World Bank and FAO are valuable to local or small international CSOs as they can provide technical expertise as well as credibility in the eyes of corporate donors.

Mattias Lundberg of the World Bank spoke next, presenting a straightforward overview of the Bank and its lending for CSOs. He pointed out that in Fiscal Year 2007 the Bank lent 25 billion dollars to recipient countries, but that is only 4% of the sum of overall capital flows, including total bilateral assistance (100 billion dollars in 2005), net private remittances (300 billion dollars in 2006), and total net public and private capital flows (650 billion dollars in 2006). This data supported Mattias’s point that the Bank is obliged to partner with private sector actors, a far larger source of funds and increasingly, traditionally private services like health or education.

He pointed out ways in which the Bank has opened up to CSOs, particularly beginning with the Wolfenson presidency, including consultation through formal and informal processes, and private sector agencies who are hired to provide services directly or indirectly by recipient countries. He pointed out the difficulty of reconciling the large scale of Bank budgets and programs, and CSOs’ generally small scale. Strategic partnerships and alliances between like-minded CSOs could be a way to provide a large enough platform to support Bank intervention. The Small Grants Program of the Social Development Network is the largest grant program, running since 1983, and there are several other opportunities for financial support from the Bank, including Development Marketplaces and unit-specific initiatives, such as the Children and Youth Unit’s upcoming Global Partnership for Youth Investment, including a small grants program that will be managed by the Social Development Network.

Matthew Clark of the Microsoft Corporation differentiated between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ partnerships, ‘hard’ ones being regulated by legal agreements and contracts, whereas ‘soft’ partnerships are not driven primarily by financial considerations but common goals and interests. He also emphasized the distinction between private sector donors and foundations, for example the Gates Foundation and Microsoft Corporation, which generally engage in very different activities. Shared interests often lead to understanding an issue more completely, and carrying out activities more effectively. Unfortunately, for most staff people at international agencies, including the Bank, forming partnerships with CSOs is not generally a priority, nor is success in this area measured, thus there is little staff incentives. Perhaps the Bank and private corporations should explore the possibility of tracking such cooperation in order to increase the likelihood of PPPs’ development and success. Private sector donors need to perceive clear benefits in terms of knowledge, experience, and/or contacts obtained through PPP activities.

Bob Patterson echoed Matthew’s points about transparency, incentives, and interests as essential considerations in the context of PPPs. He described his work on The Growing Connection, a project which helps kids build gardens around the world with low-cost, high-technology materials and techniques. He engages individuals from public, private, and community organizations in such activities, and connects all participants within and between communities in the US and internationally. The Growing Connection is based on growth and choice through the availability of information and connecting participating youth to the internet so that they have access to information about horticulture, as well as about education and career opportunities. This activity has been possible through partnerships with private corporations in the IT sector who consider the youth participants to be potential clients. Bob mentioned the future direction of development work as a new phase in which CSOs will have to identify corporate partners with similar interests to their own,

Trevor Neilson asserted that no contemporary global problem can be addressed without PPPs. He added that both multilateral institutions and private corporations are not particularly effective in developing PPPs. Finally, he asserted that some of the most innovative responses and tools for combating global problems have roots in the private sector, such as HIV/AIDS drugs that could have only been developed with the huge research and development budgets of private pharmaceutical companies.

Participants had the opportunity to pose a variety of questions after the conclusion of the panel, and a variety of discussions continued in the reception afterwards. They addressed a range of topics, including details about the Bank structure, details of the Bank’s policy for accepting private sector funds, and privatization policies. The energy of the session could be taken as a testament to the relevance and value of PPPs in today’s development context.

A video of the session
Drafted by Nell Derick Debevoise, Global Forum

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