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At the IDB, we believe that together we can go farther. Our partnership network is making positive differences in Latin America and the Caribbean every day, and this blog is our channel for telling that story. Stay tuned for literature on partnership perspectives, stories from the field, changing trends, outlooks for development and the region, information on ways and opportunities to partner, and more. Thanks for stopping by.

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Stronger Partnerships, Stronger Results

By - Sep 8 2016


In business and development circles there’s a lot of talk about “shared value,” about the benefits businesses can generate for society. One broadly accepted concept is that the private sector’s greatest contribution lies in expanding economic opportunity, working for example through job creation, supplier development, human capital empowerment, and public revenue generation to make communities stronger and wealthier. Given the multiplier effects of these activities, companies can make a tangible difference in the development of entire countries.

But the health of companies—and their ability to expand economic opportunity—is intrinsically tied to the existence of an enabling, business-friendly ecosystem, and to the well-run institutions and fair policies on which these ecosystems are built. We talk a great deal about the role of government in creating this sort of climate. But can the private sector participate in this process? And can it do so without usurping the duties of government or unfairly influencing the political system to suit their needs? To both of these questions, the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) say yes.

In the new sustainable development agenda unveiled last year, SDG #16 targets the building of “effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels” and the promotion and enforcement of “non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development.” They also called for the private sector in SDG #17 to get involved, declaring that no SDG could be fully achieved without the active participation of business. Given that SDG #16 is traditionally public sector territory, our newest challenge lies in determining the role of companies in strengthening institutions, and addressing the potential conflicts of interest related to this new level of engagement.

At the IDB, we decided to answer this question through action. Our partner PepsiCo’s Performance with Purpose vision – to deliver top-tier financial performance over the long term by integrating sustainability into their business strategy – has been a driving force in our partnership, which has impacted more than 1 million people across 12 countries since 2008.  We have begun institutional strengthening efforts with the public sector in areas comprising inclusive recycling and youth development. In the newest phase of our partnership, which was renewed just this year, we plan to redouble this commitment to public institutions through two primary approaches.

In the first approach, we are partnering to generate evidence for solutions to the issues of undernutrition and obesity in children. Thanks to the PepsiCo Foundation’s support of the Spoon project, a novel and integrated effort to tackle these twin nutritional challenges, the IDB was able to bring its capacity for innovation to the region. Also collaborating with GAIN, Nutriset, and the Government of Japan, the partners are working closely with the health ministries in Colombia, Peru, Guatemala and Mexico to mainstream the project’s best practices into existing health services for pregnant women and babies, helping to take this innovation to scale.

In the second approach, we’ve used technology to empower public sector leaders. Partnering through the multi-donor Aquafund and working with fellow donors Austria, Spain, Switzerland, and the PepsiCo Foundation, the IDB developed the Hydro-BID platform to help governments better manage water resources. Building on this innovation, the PepsiCo Foundation and the IDB gathered in Stockholm during World Water Week to unveil a new incoming regional support center, complete with tools and training. Through these channels, PepsiCo stands to help institutions operate more effectively, conserving important resources and better equipping them to serve their constituents.

Like partnerships in all sectors, public-private collaboration around institutional strengthening can tap into the core competencies of all players. By bringing to the table their strategic philanthropy, managerial acumen, and capacity to innovate, companies can help introduce novel solutions to traditional challenges. With institutional capacity essential to extending the scope and impact of corporate contributions to society, it’s in the private sectors’ best interest to get respectfully involved, and in the public sector’s best interest to be receptive to well-intended corporate support and ideas. In this space, the importance of the old saying “we’re stronger together” is evident to us at the IDB. Here, we will continue sharing our belief that building institutional capacity is not an “either/or” activity in the portfolio of “shared value” contributions companies can make. Rather, it is a key strategy for delivering societal and business impact that should become “business as usual” for any business that seeks to achieve true and lasting growth.

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