As we close the chapter on the Millennium Development Goals and usher in the post-2015 era of the Sustainable Development Goals, the world’s leading companies and international NGOs (INGOs) are reflecting on their contribution and impact, i.e. what worked, what did not, and how to reimagine and retool their collective approach to partnership development. In October 2014, the launch of the INGO Shared Value Working Group will advance a bold, new approach to development partnerships with the world’s leading companies.
As background, FSG published Ahead the Curve: Insights for the International NGO in late 2013 with generous support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. In this report, we explored the challenges facing large, international NGOs in an era of increasing competition and complexity, particularly from smaller and more nimble technical partners, Southern NGOs, individual donors, and companies themselves. Ruth Levine, Global Development and Population Program Director at the Hewlett Foundation, notes, “…contemporary trends are driving international development organizations to confront a crisis of relevance and legitimacy, along with changes in demand for their services and an intensified competitive environment.”
Against this backdrop of increasing competition, we contend in Ahead of the Curve that INGOs should focus future efforts on four areas: 1) enhancing direct implementation; 2) influencing systems change; 3) harnessing the private sector; and 4) leading multi-sector action. Regarding the private sector, shared value— a business concept gaining momentum among leading companies focused on simultaneous business growth and social impact—holds tremendous potential for early adopters in the third area and beyond. To advance adoption and implementation of shared value strategy, the Shared Value Initiative (the “Initiative”) was launched by FSG in 2012 as a platform to support companies, INGOs, government, and other essential development partners.
The Initiative will launch the INGO Shared Value Working Group in October 2014 to accelerate the formation of shared value partnerships. Ten leadership INGOs*—including existing Initiative partners Mercy Corps and PATH—will deepen knowledge on shared value partnership best practice and develop tools to support the growth and expansion of shared value initiatives. In pilot phase during two initial meetings in 2014, the Affinity Group will focus initially on: 1) improving the process for INGOs to develop shared value partnerships with corporations; and 2) expanding opportunities for creating shared value partnerships with corporations by leveraging collaboration among INGOs. During the second meeting, the Group will explore an agenda and action plan for the post-pilot phase in 2015.
Specifically for INGOs, shared value is a means to scale impact, reach new people in new geographies, diversify funding streams, and buttress organizational sustainability. Perhaps most importantly, it provides INGOs with a business-oriented vocabulary to engage companies in ways that move beyond traditional corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility efforts. By working together with fellow leadership organizations, Working Group members will aggregate partnership experience and expertise in a way that expands partnership opportunities while simultaneously embracing new business models.
*Confirmed INGO Shared Value Working Group members include: GOAL (Ireland), Heifer International, Mercy Corps, MSH, Opportunity International, Pact, PATH, Plan International, PSI, and Winrock International. Organizations that are interested in participating should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read part two of this series: "Four New Partnership Priorities for International Nonprofits."
Image Credit: Gareth Bentley & PSI.