The Nature of NGO-Private Sector
Collaborations for Development

In Developing Countries

 

RONGEAD

Aldwyn (Wendy) Hamilton

December 14, 1999


The Nature of NGO-Private Sector Collaborations for Development in Developing Countries

 

Table of Contents

 

 

I. Introduction                                                                           

 

A) Objectives                                                                            

 

B) Methods                                                                                

 

 

 

II.  Results and Analysis                                                           

 

A) Initial Contact                                                                       

Networks                                                                                     

Third Parties                                                                                 

Client/Customer Relations                                                                      

Companies in Trouble                                                                   

Government Sponsored Partnerships                                             

 

B) Motivations to form Partnerships                                        

 Compliance with NGO Mission Statements                                  

 Reducing Liability                                                                        

 "External Sustainability"                                                                

 "Internal Sustainability"                                                                 

 “Do Good” Feelings                                                                    

 Social Image andRespect                                                            

 Benefits to Network Membership                                                

 

C) Factors Leading to Success                                                  

Openness and Trust                                                                      

Common Ground                                                                          

Facing Realities                                                                             

Financial and Moral Support                                                        

Shared Resources and Promotional Tools                                     

 

D) Challenges to NGO-Private Sector Partnerhsip                

Different Backgrounds                                                                 

Stereotype                                                                                   

Different Adaptations to Southern Culture                                     

Overemphasis of  Western Values                                                

 

E) How to Encourage NGO-Private Sector Collaboration      

Networks                                                                                     

Using Realities                                                                              

Merging Paths through Globalization                                             

 

 

 

III. Conclusion                                                                           

The Broad Definition of NGO-Private Sector Partnerships            

Complementary Roles                                                                   

The Need for Change and New Systems                                       

Shared Progress                                                                            

 

 

 

IV. Annex :

A) Diagram of Contacts                                                             

B) Questionnaire                                                                        

C) Contact Information                                                              

D) Lists of Members to Networks                                            

The Ethical Trading Initiative

The Clean Clothes Campaign

 

 




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I. Introduction

 

A) Objectives :

 

RONGEAD (Réseau des ONGs européennes sur les questions agro-alimentaires, le commerce, l'environnement et le développement)  is a non-profit organization in France that studies  the international rules and activities concerning trade, agriculture, the environment and development from the developing country's perspective. In examining these questions, RONGEAD also tries to form new partnerships and different methods of collaboration between the North and the South and the West and the East that can contribute to a lasting and shared development.

 

One means of establishing new partnerships for development is by looking at the non-conventional sources as potential actors.  The private sector has traditionally played an economic role in the development process and we want to know if this role can be or has been adapted. And if so, how and under what conditions? A certain number of partnerships between NGOs and Northern companies already exist. Through an analysis of these experiences and the conditions under which they are formed, specific details can be identified that can then be used to encourage further collaborations for development projects.

 

Beginning in June 1999 and ending in November 1999, I have been researching the role played by the private sector in the development process.

 

B) Methods

 

Initially, a list of 133 NGOs was created using the following lists and documents :

 

1) The 1999 NGO Guide of prractical information for development and urgency NGOs in the European Union,

 

2) The European Commission's 1997 list of Funding for NGO actions in developing countries,

 

3) The European Commission's 1997 list  Funding of Public Awareness Campaigns in Europe,

 

4) The list of officers and observers at the 1999 General Assembly of the Liaison Comittee of development NGOs in the European Union (CLONG),

 

5) The guide to the 1999 conference on the Evolution of the roles of NGOs in Development organized by CLONG.

 

An initial letter was sent to the NGOs most apt to express interest in or have experiences with private sector collaborations as well as to the National CLONG Platforms of each European country excluding France (the question in relation to France will be dealt with by Resacoop). This letter was sent by email or fax the 28th of June and served as a means to present our study and ask for either direct experience or contacts. In addition, the initial letter sent to the NGOs in Austria, Finland and Sweden were also asked for direct experience or contacts NGOs concentrating on the World Trade Organization. Out of 133 NGOs contacted, 24 responded with a combinations of either a direct experience, a contact, an interest in our study, reception of our letter, news that they had forwarded our letter to another network or organization and/or general information about their organization. One NGO formed a publications exchange with RONGEAD and as most asked for additional information on RONGEAD, a list of our publications was often sent out as well.

 

At this point either a second initial contact was  made with the NGOs indicated by the first round of contacts or a telephone interview was suggested in order to further discuss the NGO-Private Sector Collaboration in question. In one instance, this second initial contact resulted in a document detailing a seminar on NGO-Private Sector Collaborations that provided 3 new NGO contacts working with the private sector in development collaborations. And interestingly, one NGO who had been contacted during the first round was actually part of an inter-agency group of NGOs in collaboration with Shell. In addition, the NGOs that I contacted who the Danida Development Assistance Fund had claimed to have supported actually reported in their response that I had been misinformed, that they were not at all involved with the Danida Program.

 

Following the identification of an interesting project relative to our study, a telephone interview was held in which a series of questions detailing both the project and it's establishment between the NGO and company in question. In some cases, an interview or series of questions answered through email took place between myself and the company, but this was an exception. It is important to note that the inital contacts were with European NGOs and that the majority of the interviews which form the body of this report are thus based largely on this viewpoint.  However, some cases did involve networks of businesses and these projects can be understood as the private sector's opinion.

 

After an interview was held, a rough report was made detailing the conversation and organizing the information into subsections :

*Description of Project and Companies,

*Initial Stages of Collaboration,

*Motivation for Collaboration,

*Specific Factors Leading to Success,

*Obstacles/Challenges.

The report was then sent to the interviewee for verification of facts and meanings. In nearly all cases, the report was sent back with corrections and additional comments.

While writing this final analysis paper, I sent an additional question out to those who had contributed to the study asking for general opinions on how NGO-Private Sector Partnerships can be encouraged and replicated. I received four extensive answers that are detailed in the final section of this paper.

 

II. Results and Analysis

 

The following case studies were discovered in the course of a three month study :

 

Austria :

A pilot project in Tunisia has been initiated by the Society for Austro-Arab Relations to evaluate the possibility of implementing a more economic and environmentally safe energy system within local hotels through the analysis of six different Austrian companies. The companies are made up of small offices of civil engineers and technicians and medium sized and large producing/selling companies in the fields of solar energy and biogas. This project has been funded by the Austrian Export Guarantee Bank, an institution which supports exports of Austrian companies.

 

Financial support for Private Sector Partnerships in Development Cooperation  is provided to enourage private business partnerships  between Austrian  small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and private companies in developing countries which may be enacted in collaboration with relevant Austrian NGOs.  The Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Austria offers not only financial resources but also assistance with the application procedure and advice during the project implementation phase.

 

Belgium :

The Company Partnership Plan is a project  coordinated by ACT (Technical Cooperation Association), VKW (Association of Christian Employees and Managers) and Roularta Media Group (Trends) to establish partnerships between private companies in Belgium  and small and medium sized companies in the South in order to support the local entrepreneurial dynamic in the Third World and as a motor for social and economic development.

 

The Gazelle Programme and the GO & DO Project are two management transfer schemes sharing the know-how and experience of Flemish  companies with their Southern and Eastern counterparts. The Gazelle Program aims to stimulate the creation of prosperity and welfare in South African companies through the sharing of know-how and experience of Flemish managers and experts. The "Gazelle companies" are so called because of their relative size between a mouse and an elephant. The GO & DO Project, also a management transfer scheme, is able to provide information on a "higher level" as they work with more experienced companies in Central and Eastern European companies. The GO & DO is more of a "company coaching" project that works with individuals who are already highly placed within their company.

 

Denmark :

CARE Denamark  has enacted a forest management scheme in Ghana in collaboration with a Danish timber importer, Dalhoff Larsen & Hornemazn (DLH). CARE focuses on agriculture  and the development of agreed land use management guidelines and DLH on forestry with increased production of sustainably managed timber resources. Funding is provided by the Danida Private Sector Development Program.

 

The Danida Private Sector Development Programme is a fund allocated to the establishment of commercially based partnerships between Danish  companies and companies in Bangladesh, Egypt, Ghana, Uganda, Vietnam and Zimbabwe that involes NGOs in the identification of companies in the South. The Programme is open to all lines of business and industry provided that these eligible companies can demonstrate that they have the skills and experience needed to carry out the project.

 

England :

The Ethical Trade Initiave  is an alliance of English  companies, NGOs, trade union organizations and the UK governement working together to identify and promote good practice in the implementation of codes of labour practice for overseas suppliers in China, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Companies are large including Anchor Seafood, Asda, Co-operative Wholesale Society, J Sainsbury, Levi Strauss & Co, Littlewoods, Marks & Spencer, Monsoon, Pentland Group, Premier Brands, Safeway, Somerfield, Tea Sourcing Partnership, Tesco and the Body Shop.

 

An inter-agency group of British NGOs including Oxfam, Save the Children Fund UK, the Catholic Institute for International Relations, Christian Aid and Cafod  is working with British Petroleum to improve the human rights situation in Colombia through negotiations with their army concerning the state's contract for oil companies.

 

The Business Links Initiative is a project using  the internal resources of multinationals to provide a core of training materials to  small businesses and income generation activities in Indonesia, China and Vietnam with the input of NGOs in the identification of suitable small and medium sized local enterprises.  The multinationals involved in this initiative are members of the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum which also works in collaboration with the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme.

 

The Living Earth Environmental Action Project consists of fourteen community development projects set up in the Niger Delta of Nigeria by Shell and Living Earth with the communities setting their own targets for what they want to achieve. The project is supported financially by the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria.

 

Germany :

The Senior Experts Service  is a non-profit organization that mobilizes retired professionals for voluntary activities in the frame of international cooperation. Their activities are oriented towards quick and pragmatic assistance predominantly in technical and economic sectors.

 

Holland :

Timber and Forest Products Marketing Consultations were organized by ICCO (Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation) in Papua New Guinea and in Brazil with  local producers, NGOs, local governments and representatives from the Dutch  private sector as participants.

 

Luxembourg :

Donations from the companies in Luxembourg providing services to Action Solidarité Tiers Monde contributed to their development projects.

 

Sweden :

The Clean Clothes Campaign is a network of NGOs, trade unions and Swedish  retailors attempting to implement an independent monitoring system   aimed at improving working conditions worlwide in the garment industry.  The retailors involved represent large companies including Adidas, Benneton, C&A, Disney, Phillips-Van Heusen, GAP, H&M, Levi Strauss, Nike and Otto.

 

The companies involved in partnerships with NGOs are both large and small to medium sized in size. The code of conduct programs initiated by networks of NGOs, companies and other actors as well as the social investment projects concerning Shell and BP work with large companies. Small to medium sized companies are generally active in the know-how exchange programs though large companies are not excluded from this category. The Society for Austro-Arab Relations that is currently conducting an energy evaluation project in Tunisia works with both large and small to medium sized companies. They find that large companies are sometimes not flexible enough to address new demands. Small companies and engineers are thus relied upon to adjust to the local knowledge and to incorporate a flexible approach while the large companies are given the choice to respond or not to the new demands.

 

Nearly all of the cases attest to a general widening of views and an advance in terms of internal goals and missions after having worked in NGO-Private Sector partnerships. By adding a different viewpoint and approaching a problem in a new way, a step is made forward in terms of overall comprehension of a given situation and in the establishment of different possible methods for the future. Even if the private sector is looking for a humanitarian image and the NGO is giving advice, the two are working together. This shows that there is an individual need from both parties for the others' contribution and that one is not simply providing a service to the other. The two have shared goals in that they are both looking to improve a certain situation in collaboration with a second party - a partner.

 

But how are these partnerships formed? What particular motivations exist for each group? What makes NGO-Private Sector partnerships work? What challenges and obstacles exist? And finally, how can they be encouraged and replicated? These are the questions that I have been asking and that I will try to answer in this report.

 

A) Initial Contact

 

One of the questions I discussed with NGOs who had enacted collaborated projects with the private sector was that of how the partnership was initially formed - who contacted whom first? Initial contacts vary in terms of the initiator and the particular context. Most relationships are initiated by NGOs, though some are also fostered by large networking bodies of NGOs and companies or by an interested third party. Industry and NGO board memberships as well as client/customer relations can also be opportunities for contact. And in some cases, an industry may be seeking NGO support or collaboration to deal with a growing problem in their country of operation. Government sponsored NGO-Private Sector collaborations are a bit less defined in terms of initial contact.

 

Networks

 

The large majority of initial contacts involve the NGO or a larger networking body being responsible for the first contact and that at a high level within the company. The people who will then take over the project and ensure its continuation are the employees directly related to the goals of the partnership (environment or quality issues officials, technical assistants, local representatives, etc). However, the head executives of smaller companies tend to remain more directly active in the collaboration effort. It is also important to have the company's board behind the project whereas the company's public relations or legal departments are generally not the place to look for strong or positive leadership within the partnership. A larger networking body is often responsible for making initial contacts and implementing partnerships. These networks are made up of different partners and have different ways of conceiving projects, but are generally interested in forming know-how exchange programs between European countries and developing countries with NGO assistance. Some examples include: a German group called Senior Expert Services that is composed of retired executives and specialists and owned by four German industries, the Association of Christian Employers and Managers (VKW) which is made up of Flemish companies and NGOs, the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum, a registered charity in the UK supported by multinational corporations all over the world, and the Ethical Trade Initiative forming an alliance of companies, NGOs and trade unions in England.  As a result of these forums for exchange, NGO-Private Sector partnerships are formed almost naturally based on mutual interests in a developing country's society, economy and range of possibilities.

 

Third Parties

 

When a comprehensive networking body is not present, a third party may be responisble for the initial introduction and implementation of a possible joint project. This third party may be a civil engineer friend in the case of an Austria/Tunisia energy system exchange, a trade union for code of conduct campaigns in Sweden and England or a consultant who had come up with a plan for an agro-forestry and land use planning project in Ghana who knew both the timber company, Dalhoff Larsen & Horneman (DLH), and CARE Denmark. The Austria/Tunisia energy system exchange project concerned two rather specialized fields - sustainable energy and the Arab world. Because of their specialization, this circle of experts came together naturally. The Society for Austro-Arab Relations had been working with Arab countries for the past 25 years and it turned out that the final group had already worked together in the past.  Similarly in Holland, the small circle of Dutch companies, NGOs and other actors who are interested in certified eco-timber helped establish additional contacts rather quickly once the first few interested parties had been identified. This word-of-mouth technique can work in finding contacts through campaigns and cold calling as well. Even if there is no existing relationship between the NGOs and companies in question, the company that is interested will quickly bring his colleagues into the partnership through this traditional word-of-mouth network. VKW, the association behind the GO & DO and Gazelle Programs hinted at the importance of appealing to structures that share a working space, fax machine, secretary, etc with other companies in terms of making additional connections. Using a third party or creating contacts even when it might not seem directly relevant can be very useful in terms of establishing an indirect network of possible partners.

 

Client/Customer Relations

 

Partners can also be found through shared participation on boards or simply through extended relations between clients and donors. The NGO-Private Sector relationship based on financial support does still exist  and should not be ruled out as a sort of inferior form of joint work. Action Solidarité Tiers Monde (ASTM) of Luxembourg receives an annual "gift" from their Bank, Insurance Company and Printing Company. Though these contributions are not made directly towards any specific project nor do they entail any additional future collaboration, these financial "gifts" are a means of thanking a client for their business throughout the year and constitute a series of defined NGO-Private Sector relationships that lay the foundation for possible shared work in the future.

 

Companies in Trouble

 

The majority of NGO-Private Sector collaborations are initiated by the NGO when a third party or network is not present but there are some situations in which a company who is experiencing problems makes it known that they are looking for NGO support. Both Shell and British Petroleum (BP) experienced great difficulties with the communities in Nigeria and Colombia where they were producing oil. In BP's case, an official was sent directly to English NGOs Oxfam, Save the Children Fund UK, the Catholic Institute for International Relations, Christian Aid and Cafod because these NGOs had already expressed interest in the human rights situation in this country. BP originally saw themselves as clients to the NGO group  and had wanted to simply fund their elaboration of a project. The result was radical in its direct opposition to BP’s original conception of the partnership. The inter-agency group convinced BP to work with them and to talk about the impact of BP's investments on the conflicts in Colombia (companies are obliged to pay a war tax in order to drill oil in Colombia). Another oil company drilling in the Niger Delta region, Shell, had also been looking for NGO collaboration to redirect their community investment projects. However, it was England's Living Earth, an NGO, who approached Shell. After carrying out a study of Shell's operations in Nigeria, a two year dialogue was implemented aimed at the establishment of a memorandum of understanding for an Environmental Education Project in Bayesla State.

 

Governement  Sponsored Partnerships

 

Government sponsored European/developing world business partnerships constitute an additional means of forming NGO-Private Sector collaborations based on the inclusion of NGOs in private sector development efforts. Though these projects were identified in Austria, Denmark and Germany, little information was found concerning initial contacts between the NGOs and the respective companies. Based on the information available and my assumptions, let us conclude that government sponsored partnerships are initiated by the proposal of a company for funding.

 

 

B) Motivations to form Partnerships

 

As NGO-Private Sector partnerships have been largely initiated by NGOs, the motivations of the private sector were more closely examined in this study as a sort of 'marketing target'.  NGOs are interested in forming partnerships with the private sector in order to further fulfill their various mission statements. Companies were found to be largely motivated to form partnerships with NGOs in order to avoid risks and negative campaigns, to appeal to consumer interests and to achieve a certain degree of sustainability both externally and internally. Some companies also reported wanting to 'do good' and receive social respect. The motivations of the companies that are parts of the larger networks are based on certain membership benefits that can be seen as indirect components to fostering NGO-Private Sector collaborations. And the motivations of the NGOs and industries involved in joint research projects are based on a series of specific factors related to the field of agriculture research.

 

Compliance with NGO Mission Statements

 

NGOs are generally incited by a set of motivations directly related to their mission statement.  Mission statements may focus on sustainable development, human rights or the ratification of a whole host of other social and environmental problems. In most cases, the NGO-Private Sector partnership is the natural next step for the NGO when complementary goals can be identified. For instance, the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation's (ICCO) mission is to fight poverty and in so doing, to promote economic activities in the South. The timber consultations between Dutch importers and local producers organized by ICCO provided partners for producers in the South and thus supported them in finding access to markets. Dutch importers gained access to a new market as well as to experience in a different part of the world. Similarly, the Ethical Trade Initiative gives NGOs that have been studying issues of development, poverty eradication and improvement of working conditions the opportunity to act and to try to achieve changes through ETI's negotiated process in which companies are able to improve their practices based on NGO guidelines. Oxfam, one of an inter-agency group of NGOs, worked with BP to negotiate with the Colombian army over the addition of a human rights clause to the state oil company's contract. Oxfam wanted to work with the private sector because of their feeling that foreign direct investment can have negative impacts as great as the positive potential for poverty eradication. And BP was able to negotiate with the Colombian army and establish an internal code of condcut based on their joint efforts with the inter-agency group of NGOs. In a final example, let us look at the objectives of CARE Denmark to increase the capacity of individual farmers and local institutions to implement economically, ecologically and socially sustainable land use practices. The Danish timber company, DLH, had already initiated a social forestry and income generation project in Ghana which was a good starting point for CARE. DLH, through their partnerships with CARE, also moves further towards their goals of expanded trading activities with local companies based on sustainable management of wood resources and receives "green" certification. Partnerships with the private sector helped ICCO, Oxfam, and CARE to fulfill their mission statements based on the overlapping of their goals with those of the private sector and of the project.

 

Reducing Liability

 

The private sector's motivations tend to be more oriented towards reducing liability. This vulnerability can be avoided by eliminating risky practices and ensuring against negative campaigning. Companies have to protect themselves internally in terms of social standards or externally in response to threats or concerns in a foreign country of operation. Both Shell and BP were trying to produce oil amidst social and political crises in Nigeria and Colombia. Shell had been trying since the 1950s to work in harmony with the Nigerians and had concluded a series of social investment projects in local infrastructure. However, these projects were not well thought out, in one instance investing only in the communities at the bases of pipelines rather than in all whose land supported the line.  This produced conflict among the different Nigerian communities as well as directly with Shell. Shell's motivation was thus not to please consumers but rather to seek partners to promote sustainable development in the communities where they are operating. Shell wanted to ensure the safety of their 5 000 employees in Nigeria and establish a sort of peace between themselves and the Nigerians - they wanted to avoid risk and negative campaigning within Nigeria. BP, on the other hand, was largely concerned with the brand reputation of their Colombian-produced oil among  as a result of consumer pressure in the North. BP wanted to avoid campaigns directed against them and thus appealed to a group of English NGOs who then tried to focus BP on the civil, political, and economic rights of the people of Casanare, Colombia. As can be evidenced by BP's intentions, consumer interest is one factor that motivates companies to make changes. European campaigns against abuses of various social and environmental standards by retailers and importers have been growing. And as consumer awareness rises in Europe, companies are taking an active role to prevent negative images of their brand in the media. They are trying to protect themselves by changing their internal practices to comply with social standards. Andunderstandably so, companies prefer that NGOs directly approach them with examples of labour abuses or other social or environemental wrongs rather than going to the press. This inevitably leads to a lower press profile. Ironically, in order to create consumer interest and awareness, campaigning against companies is seen by some NGOs as necessary. In Sweden, however, a different kind of campaign is being implemented. A network of NGOs, trade unions, and Swedish garment retailers are forming an independent monitoring system called "The Clean Clothes Campaign."  In this case, the retailers are motivated by the opportunity for positive media attention rather than the need to avoid negative effects of the media. Among the retailers involved in this project there is one Swedish family-owned company that has bought their products directly from India for thirty years and is thus also very concerned with the human rights situations in India in addition to the positive benefits of the campaign. The family-owned company's personal interest in the social standards in India is an exception to the typical concerns of companies to reduce liability or threats.

 

"External Sustainability"

 

Another way for importers to please consumers is by offering a product that has been sustainably produced in terms of the respect given to the natural resources and the people of the region. ICCO in Holland has organized a series of consultations with Dutch importers and local producers in Papua New Guinea and Brazil on certified eco-timber and other forest products. The importers are interested in attending these consultations in hopes of finding new sustainable sources for their products. Sustainability is a motivating theme that began as a means to please consumers with an eco-brand. Now, however, sustainability has become intrinsically important to Northern companies that want to expand to or work with companies in developing countries. The Business Links Initiative attests to the fact that if developing economies are built on a firm foundation of good business practice, prospects for long-term sustainability as well as the better use of the invested capital will be realized. The Business Links Initiative is one NGO-Multinational Corporation (MNC) Project in which the MNCs recognize that by contributing to the creation of sustained growth and recovery in Asia, business advantages will result for both the North and the South. The Vietnam project, for example, aims to improve working conditions in local factories through training and risk management. International sportswear companies such as Pentland, Nike and Reebok are supporting this program in hopes that their products can continue to be sourced. As the NGOs are familiar with community based initiatives in the areas in question, the two actors can naturally complement one another.

Another relevant example can be found in Shell and Living Earth’s social investment project in Nigeria. Shell saw that their approach to social investment was not working and Living Earth helped them to form a different community development strategy. As the collaborated project was formed during the two-year planning period, Shell began to formulate long-term business prospects that would ensure the continued fucntioning and success of their oil company based on the state of the Nigerian communities. Sustainability is also an important factor for the Danida Private Sector Development Program's selection process. To qualify for support, proposed North/South cooperations must have, among other things, a long-term perspective.

 

"Internal Sustainability"

 

Sustainability is a difficult term to define because it is currently so widely used. In general, this term relates to long-term development or prospects but can vary as to its external or internal focus. In the preceding paragraph, the term 'sustainability' was used to define the conditions under which a product or a business was developed. This definition refers to the external sustainability of a region. Long-term development can also apply to the internal structure of a company. And this internal sustainability is another important motivator for the private sector to engage in collaboration projects with NGOs in developing countries. By collaborating with NGOs, different practices and methods are acquired which can be beneficial to the long-term functioning of a company. In addition, experience gained in a different part of the world adds a new area of expertise or simply a new possible market. There are a series of partnerships that aim at providing a European partner to a developing country's enterprise.

The Gazelle Program, the GO & DO Project and the Company Partnership Plan are know-how exchange programs between Flemish experts and South African, Latin American and Eastern European companies organized and run under VKW, a large networking body of NGOs and companies. The Flemish companies are motivated to form partnerships within developing countries based on their own needs for experience and hands-on involvement in different areas of the world. By gaining this experience, they are improving the internal structure of their company and ensuring a long-term strength that can be defined as 'internal sustainability.'

 

“Do Good” Feelings

 

There are also several different projects that simply refer to the "do good" motivations of companies and governments to participate in NGO-Private Sector development efforts. The Flemish companies participating in the Company Partnership Plan (CPP) are motivated to form partnerships in the South by this "good feeling" they get from helping others and by the sense of respect earned in the social environment. The CPP partners also reported wanting to "do something concrete in the developing world," rather than serving as financial contributors. The retired German experts of the Senior Experts Service that give voluntary assistance to their counterparts in Asia, Africa and Latin America are pleased to volunteer their time based on the opportunity for them to activate and transmit their long-standing experience and skill. And the Austrian Federal Ministry Fund for Private Sector Partnerships in Development Cooperation seeks to combat unemployment and poverty, to develop viable economies while using natural resources sparingly, and to provide new sources of income - particularly for disadvantaged population groups and women in order to help them reduce their dependence on other structures. This does not sight a "good feeling", but does give a list of goals that fall into the do good category rather than that of the avoidance of risks or achievement of sustainability. It is important to remember, however, that the travel costs are covered for the retired SES experts, that though the CPP participants pay for their travel costs, they are  given good publicity in an entrepreneurial magazine and given a series of benefits based on their membership with the CPP and that the Austrian Ministry is also aiming to encourage long-term cooperation between Austrian small and medium-sized enterprises and businesses in developing countries. Excluding the CPP case, the other two examples seem to give generous returns while requiring few efforts. The sacrifices are coming from the client companies of the SES project who are responsbile for the SES partner's travel costs and the Austrian people who essentially support the government programs. The "good feeling" may exist, but it does not always imply any real bending or sacrifice.

 

Social Image and Respect

 

This final point is also a key motivation: social respect - and not just in the form of a safety against negative consumer campaigns. Participants in the Company Partnership Plan receive publicity in the widely read Flemish entrepreneurial magazine, 'Trends,' which publishes pieces detailing the CPP's collaboration efforts. This reporting technique allows companies to earn a certain social respect based on the readers’ approval. The Business Links Initiative is appealing to MNCs in the sense that through collective action they can also enhance the reputation of the private sector and of the other participants in the program. By collaborating within the private sector based on mutual interests and objectives, companies show that they have the capacity to work together on non-competitive issues. And finally, in the case of the Luxembourg Bank, Insurance Company and Printing Company that financially support ASTM, there is also a certain importance attached to the positive image and sense of social respect that these supporters gain in working indirectly with ASTM's development efforts.

 

Benefits to Network Membership

 

An additional motivation that merits examination refers to the companies and NGOs who are members of the large non-profit networks that initiate development projects with the assistance of both parties. By identifying these motivations, we can see how a networking tool can be used to promote NGO-Private Sector Collaborations and how this sort of tool can be replicated. To begin, let us start with the Association of Christian Employees (VKW) in Beligum. The VKW  is a Flemish network behind three of the projects sited in this report (The Company Partnership Plan, the GO & DO Project and the Gazelle Program) with the common goal among members of stimulating entrepreneurship and a social economy.  In addition to their commitment to this social view, companies are also motivated to join the VKW by a large range of personal and expert services available at low costs to members. VKW also defends the rights of the private sector.  Besides the promotion of interests, other key features include the provision of legal and socio-economic information, mediation, personal advice and access to a friendly climate of other managers and owners of companies. Companies are able to benefit from this wide range of services to enjoy a sense of unity that promotes partnerships and trust.

 

This tendency towards a natural solidarity among members is also important to the companies that make up the Ethical Trading Initiative. This organization is a bit different in that it’s members are obliged to go beyond the payment of membership dues and must also respect the ETI's code of conduct for corporate behavior. This code is basically a means to monitor working conditions and to work with suppliers for their improvement. The aim is to help make substantial improvements in the lives of poor working people by obliging companies to go beyond improvements of their sourcing policies and adhering to a common code. As members of the ETI, companies also avoid risks associated with negative campaigns and benefit from the opportunity to exchange ideas, to receive personal recognition and to enjoy a sense of common purpose. In addition, there is also the opportunity to share information among members for 'soft risk analysis.' One company can share with another what they think a certain country 'feels like' and whether they would recommend buying stocks there.

 

This access to inside information is also an incentive for members of the Society for Austro-Arab Relations (SAAR). SAAR is made up of 500 members - only 15% of which are companies. The companies are principally interested in making contact with Arab countries through interactions with other SAAR members. There is also an economic value for members based on their gained access to an expertise that often exceeds their own in Austro-Arab relations. A certain degree of internal sustainability, of improvement to their own company based on added experience and long-term relationships, is achieved through membership. All of these organizations serve as a means to make contacts and benefit from certain incentives among a group of like-minded people. They are essentially networking tools that have a social view.

 

C) Factors Leading to Success

 

Once the partners have established both the particular project and the desire to work together, there are a number of factors identified by both parties that can help smooth the road and lead to a successful outcome. These factors include openness and trust in the other partner, the establishment of common goals, the ability of each party to admit certain realities, outside financial and moral support, a sharing of resources and good promotional tools.

 

Openness and Trust

 

In the initial stages of the project, the most important factor needed to work together is openness - openness to different possibilities and to the different backgrounds and situations of each partner. By understanding each other's respective missions, strengths and markets, a division of labor and various duties should then be instituted accordingly. Key to this openness and dialogue is trust. Living Earth and Shell spent two years developing their community development projects which included one month working together in Nigeria. Trust was built through time and shared actions. In England, the New Economic Foundation, one of the founders of the Ethical Trade Initiative, talked to companies considering joining the ETI before it’s formation. This initial dialogue established an open dialogue based on trust and helped the companies to feel that they were entering a relationship rather than following a procedure. Once openness is established between the two parties, they can proceed into the project with fewer ambitions and with a greater understanding of both the project's and the other partner's possibilities.

 

Common Ground

 

In coalitions, the desires of each party must be clear and they must work together to find a common ground. The two parties can then  establish a defined project and measurable outcomes early on. It has been recognized by those behind the Business Link Initiative that for any partnership to be effective, all parties need to identify common goals and have a set of common values within the specific project on which they are working.  CARE also made this realization while working with the timber business DLH on a social forestry program in Ghana. The agreed land use guidelines facilitated by CARE permitted the development of on-farm extension and advice as well as the production of timber from new species, increased overall timber production and the obtention of the "green" certification for DLH. Similarly, the marketing of three new timber species proposed by DLH increased the funds accruing to the community development fund. These links between CARE and DLH's roles were fundamental to the success of their project.  Once the two entities saw that they had a lot more in common than they had each thought, they no longer saw each other as separate parties and were able to concentrate on what their joint efforts could do for the project.

 

Facing Realities

 

Even with openness between both parties and the establishment of a set of common goals, there are certain realities that both parties should try to accept in order to continue.  For example, NGOs need to accept and work with the fact that in order to work with the private sector, they have to work with the private sector’s profit-based culture. The economics of business are still the most important element of the private sector’s mission. Therefore, projects need to be formed that can assure long term profit for the private sector while serving a positive role in the developing country.  This point tends to disturb NGOs but it is the reality and must be faced if joint projects are to be begun and to bear fruit. Once a project has been established aiming at benefiting each partner, it’s success is ensured. Quite simply put by Fritz Edlinger of the Society for Austro-Arab Relations' response to what factors lead to success, "Each group must gain something." Pentland, one of the companies involved in the Ethical Trade Initiative, proclaimed the simple fact that where a business is not profitable, there will be no chance of undertaking projects. The Danida Private Sector Development Program recognizes that while NGOs' long-term cooperation with local organizations and acceptance in certain circles is a huge advantage to the partnership, the approach to private sector development is still a businesslike one and cooperations must be aimed at being commercially viable and profitable.  There is also work to be done on the private sector’s side if healthy relationships are to be formed. Companies need to accept the fact that they may have done something wrong and move forward. As Pentland explained, the greatest difficulty for companies in starting projects is admitting that there is a problem. Though businesses recognize that learning from mistakes is important, they still have a hard time getting to the point where they can admit that they might have made an error. Though this is not an easy hurdle for businesses to pass, there are cases where they have gotten beyond this hesitation. British Petroleum was surprisingly willing to look at all possible perspectives with the inter-agency group of NGOs and had a genuine interest in the political problems in Colombia. They wanted to see what they had possibly done wrong within this context and fix it. Once this reality had been accepted, the problem faced could be dealt with and the project could advance.

 

Financial and Moral Support

 

Once the project has been put into practice, a combination of financial and moral support helps the shared project turn out well. Funding support eases the possible frustrations that NGO-Private Sector partnerships may meet. The Ethical Trade Initiative, for example, is supported financially by the Department for International Development and the Department for Trade and Industry of the British Government.  This support is also important for the trade unions and business partners of the ETI in terms of name value and prestige. The voluntary "Senior Experts" of the Senior Experts Exchange in Germany are reimbursed for their costs and given pocket money for small, personal expenses. These funds are usually supplied by the client company but can be procured from limited government funds if the client does not have the necessary means. And the six Austrian companies involved in the energy system analysis project in Tunisia were paid for their services by a SAAR fund provided by the Austrian Export Guarantee Bank, an institution which supports exports of Austrian companies. These financial supports are a great facilitator and can also hinder the success of the project when they are lacking. The Company Partnership Plan, which is given little support from the Belgian government, experiences some difficulty recruiting Flemish companies to work with third world companies because of the fact that they are obliged to pay for their trip and must often do so during their vacation time. Without outside funding, there are simply more difficulties to surmount.

 

Support also comes in the form of information or consultation bases - a sort of moral support. CGIAR, for example, has a Private Sector Committee (PSC) and NGO Committee in order to provide their perspectives and to serve as links. Some of the PSC's activities include the promotion of CGIAR within the private sector as well as the establishment of an information base on contacts within the private sector including identification of certain individuals for CGIAR Center boards. The Clean Clothes Campaign of Sweden engages in Monitoring Meetings with other networks working to improve working conditions through partnerships with retailers and importers. In particular, the CCC has shared ideas and consulted with the Ethical Trade Initiative in England, the Council of Economic Priorities Accreditation Agency in the U.S. and different Clean Clothes Campaigns in Europe such as the French campaign conducted in partnership with Auchan. And the Danida Private Sector Development Program’s office is available to offer companies valuable information for further project planning, to assist in making contacts with Danish companies and to help prepare project proposals. Through the experiences of companies and NGOs in the Business Links Initiative in Asian countries, it was found that programs should have the support and appropriate participation of national and local government and take their priorities into account as well. Oxfam, working directly through an inter-agency group of NGOs, said that this collaboration and support was one of the keys to the success of the reform project for oil companies in Colombia. In addition, the inter-agency group mentioned that management support and honest, independent criticism are also important and that they are most useful coming from local field partners who can tell you whether your work is making a real difference. 

 

Shared Resources and Promotional Tools

 

The next factor that can help NGO-Private Sector collaboration projects prevail

is the establishment of shared resources and good promotional tools. As partners, CARE and DLH enforce jointly implemented activities (training, services, etc), a transparent sharing of budgets, a harmonization of staff benefits and administration procedures and a general sharing of resources including an office and guest house in Ghana. By sharing resources, trust is further promoted and the projects becomes areas of even greater vested interest for both parties. The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) is planning on creating a web site detailing their code of conduct campaign for improved working conditions and also providing profiles on the Swedish companies involved. A web page serves the double function of acting as a shared resource and also creating a good promotional tool. Still thinking along these lines, a special name or approval seal for the retailer’s final product is also being considered. This sort of information campaign is more appealing than the campaigns being waged against retailers in other European countries and produces positive publicity for the companies involved. The retailers involved with the CCC are less likely to withdrawl from the campaign once they have made a joint investment of time and energy before their partners with the press and consumers as witnesses. The Company Partnership Plan’s media partner, “Trends,” is another good promotional tool. The weekly entrepreneurial magazine has had a huge positive impact on the CPP project. Belgian companies have been pleased to see their efforts detailed in reports on CPP's progress and in interviews with the companies who have made partnerships in the third world. The CPP has also recently made 5 video flashes in Tanzania of 5 small enterprises (two with CPP partners in Flanders and three without partners). These flashes were done in order to stimulate Flemish companies to form  partnership with  Southern entrpreneurs. These promotional tools help keep the CPP's efforts alive while the sharing of resources gives a real meaning to the partnership.

 

D) Challenges to NGO-Private Sector Partnerships

 

Despite a number of factors that can lead to success, there is an equally large set of challenges that stem from the different cultures of NGOs and the private sector, the stereotypes of each of these cultures, the differences in their adaptability to the cultures of developing countries and a tendency to overemphasize Western or industry values.

 

Different Backgrounds

 

 NGOs and the private sector have different backgrounds. This fact has been outlined earlier in this report and will not change. As was realized through the GO & DO and Gazelle Programs, these different viewpoints exist with NGOs being by nature less commercial. The operation of these two cultures wil thus also rely on different methods and timescales. Pentland, a company member of the Ethical Trade Initiative, explained that companies run through a process of problem / decision / action, while NGOs follow a pattern of problem /consultation / consensus /  action. Companies find it very difficult to compromise this process. NGOs have also been criticized by the private sector for lacking both a real understanding of what it is that companies are trying to get out of them as well as a professional business attitude. For example, based on Living Earth's experiences with Shell, the conclusion was made that NGOs need to change their reporting techniques in order to meet corporate needs for brevity. Living Earth learned very quickly that most senior executives will not read more than two and usually only one side of bullet points. Reports should contain no more than two pages of bullet points which express what has been achieved (outputs) since the last report and the impact of these outputs. Living Earth submits quarterly reports to Shell with a bullet pointed summary specifically designed for use at a board presentation as well as supporting information to be used as speaker notes.  All of their institutional donors require less frequent and more detailed reports which refer to specific project activities, outputs and impacts as agreed in the project proposal. It is important for NGOs to be able to change their reporting techniques in order to adapt to the corporate culture. NGOs also need to have a good understanding of the corporate issues as well as their own. Living Earth reported this clash of cultures as the greatest obstacle to successful NGO-Private Sector Collaboration Projects. On the private sector's side, Shell is essentially a business aiming for the highest possible productivity and would thus frequently move personnel around making it difficult for Living Earth to establish long term people to people relationships with Shell employees in Nigeria. Shell, on the other hand, had initially found this people-to-people process too slow as they were used to working with machines rather than people. It was also difficult to convince Shell's middle managers, who tend to jealously protect territory and jobs, to support the role of NGOs on “Shell territory” and to appreciate the need for community led development initiatives. Shell had brought an engineering blueprint approach based on standardized systems and accountability to the social development project while Living Earth had a more value led process. Following negotiations, Shell produced a 'general' terms and conditions contract that covered their business principles, safety standards and security procedures. Living Earth, however, couldn’t proceed on service delivery details alone. Living Earth and Shell then together produced a memorandum on articles of partnership which outlined in greater detail the day to day nature of the partnership as well as the envisioned joint project and it's goals. Coming from different backgrounds, both parties need to bend to the other and find a way to meet halfway if the project is going to function properly.

 

Stereotypes

 

Because of this opposing nature of NGOs and the Private Sector, there are a series of stereotypes that have made these partnerships difficult to initiate.  The Business Links Initiative finds that many NGOs hesitate to work individually with businesses. They find it difficult to reconcile their role as pressure groups, often campaigning against businesses, with working directly with “the enemy” and making use of what they have to offer. The Ethical Trade Initiative, too, is aware that press profile for NGOs drops as you move from campaigning on an 'obvious' platform to more complex engagements where a slogan such as 'drop the debt' becomes 'amend the definition of debt service sustainability to take into account commodity price variations'. Once NGOs engage in dialogue with the private sector, they have to engage in details. Campaigners, who do want to affect the real world but have limited time and energy, are restrained by this added complexity. Opportunities for political education of supporters are thus reduced when negotations are done behind closed doors. Outside opinion is an important factor for both NGOs and the private sector despite the fact that they may also see certain benefits from working on collaborated projects, though complex, with the other party. And this outside opinion can be directed actively against NGO-Private Sector collaboration. Living Earth experienced skepticism and criticism from international and Nigerian NGOs upon announcement of their plans to work with the private sector. Pentland, too was not immediately accepted and even severely criticized by NGOs at the outset of their participation in the Ethical Trade Initiative. As was discussed at BOND's Seminar on "NGO Futures - Partnerships with the Private Sector," NGOs still see the private sector as the "devil incarnate" while companies characterize NGO activities as hippie movements of the sixties.

 

Different Adaptations to Southern Cultures

 

The two particular processes within NGOs and companies also make them adapt differently to the particularities of other national or regional cultures. The Northern and Southern conceptions of time and agreement and general mentalities are very different. As was learned through the GO & DO and the Gazelle Programs, local small and medium sized enterprises have different bookkeeping systems making it difficult for Flemish managers to apply their Northern based explanations of business plans, financial planning, accounting systems, etc. The Danida Private Sector Development Programme also recognizes that cooperation between companies from two different cultural environments can place heavy demands on the companies that may cost time and money before the potential of the cooperation bears fruit. This is where NGOs become essential to the success of the project as they are able to understand both Western and Southern mentalities. As the Danida Programme remarks again, the greatest advantage of NGOs is their often long-term cooperation with local organizations. Some members of the private sector are beginning to adapt to Southern cultures and incorporate NGO strategies into their functioning. The Business Links Initiative works on the premise that all initiatives should be tailored to suit local priorities and use local language and people wherever possible.

 

Overemphasis of Western Values

 

Another possible flaw to NGO-Private Sector Collaborations is the creation of an overemphasis on the private sector's and the West's values. This is a concern for all development projects in the developing world. The Ethical Trade Initiative is making efforts to involve civil society in the South in order to ensure that the programs are not driven solely by the North and inappropriately imposed. The Dutch NGO, ICCO, also struggles with the choice of Westernizing or not the local populations they are trying to help through consultations with Northern industries. ICCO focuses first on local markets which are community oriented and can thus use the cultural values and perceptions of their surroundings to succeed. A Western system is not enforced here because it is generally unstable from a different cultural view point and does not correspond to the possibilities and needs of the community in question. However, if a product is being established for export, then the indigenous system must be adapted to the largely Western world market.

 

E) How to Encourage NGO-Private Sector Collaboration

 

First of all, NGOs and the private sector need to be aware of what is happening and of why these sorts of joint development projects may be beneficial for them. There are numerous examples of constructive, complementary partnerships where both sides have found common ground that need to be widely publicized and talked about. One way of distributing information is through the networks of NGOs and companies mentioned in this report. It is important for these groups to encourage NGO-Private Sector activities, to point out the subtleties of making contacts with the private sector, to point out that the private sector wants to make changes in terms of sustainability and show what others have gained from these collaborations.

 

Networks

 

Networks of all kinds can directly promote NGO-Private Sector partnerships. In the words of Fritz Edlinger from the Society of Austro-Arab Relations, the formation of inter-sectoral teams and working-pools would be positive from both sides. Living Earth of England suggests encouraging NGO-Private Sector collaborations by legally requiring stakeholder reporting at shareholder meetings. By including the employees, government officials, community leaders, youth organizations, and foreign and local NGOs at these shareholder meetings, a network is formed. In addition, the complete situation is more clearly presented and shareholders are influenced to seek changes and to improve company performance in areas of social and environmental responsibility. This realization also favors partnership with NGOs in order to gain different perspectives and make plans for change. Living Earth is currently working with INTRAC, a UK based charity which carries out training and research on overseas development issues, to develop a learning history of their work with Shell. This history is being created to serve as an example of the benefits of partnerships to the company, the NGO and to the communities located in the company’s sphere of influence. BOND, the umbrella organization of British NGOs for Overseas Development mentioned at the beginning of this report, is also thinking about how they can become a more efficient information source and match maker for NGO-Private Sector collaborations. They are planning on holding regular information sharing forums meant to help NGOs reach and work with corporate audiences. The forums will be aimed at giving legal training to build partnership-making capacity and  explaining the power structure within businesses as well as their motivations in development work. NGOs who have engaged in development projects in partnership with different members of the private sector should  be present at these meetings and be able to speak on the problems encountered in their joint projects. In terms of establishing contacts, BOND and other networks should also serve as a means to put NGOs and companies in touch with one another as well as with other existing networks. This information could be provided through links on the networks’ web sites to an online database listing country and sectoral issues and interests for both parties. Business and trade associations as well as international organizations such as the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), who already work with the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum, can also act as intermediaries between NGOs and corporations. More resources need to be allocated to NGO-Private Sector collaborations within NGOs and companies as well. Departments and mechanisms should be formed with the specific task of making connections with the other party. Within NGOs, staff needs to be recruited that has direct experience with and understanding of business issues. NGOs also need to work transparently and in partnership with other NGOs. Informal as well as formal, government as well as non-government - networks need to be used.

 

Using Realities

 

As has been widely proclaimed within this paper, the individual motivations of each party as well as their common interests need to be recognized and taken advantage of to create partnerships. This brings us back to the acceptance of each party’s different backgrounds and the need to find common ground. We know that businesses operate on a gains and profit mentality and should encourage NGOs to use this accepted fact to design their proposal and joint project in order to appeal to  corporations. We also know that both parties gain if they can give something - if they can actively participate in the project. NGOs will increasingly score if they can use the strengths which the company already has to build the project. As also mentioned before in terms of making contacts, this financial contributions should also be valued as a means to establish contact and develop trust. By initially working together even on a superficial level, possibilities for a future collaboration become possible. Shell's previous experiences consisted of philanthropy to NGO projects and Shell-NGO partnerships for specific projects working through normal Shell procedures. Institutional donor programs, such as Danida and the Austrian Fund can also be useful in enabling partnerships. As suggested by CARE Denmark, these donor programs can establish forums for discussion and trust building and explicitly encourage partnerships by capitalizing on the commonalties between private enterprises and NGOs. Once a commonality or relationship exists, future collaboration is made possible.

 

Merging Paths through Globalization

 

It is also important to look at the context we are in, that we are using as a base for our reflections. This base can be termed as one of globalization and within this context the private sector is the leader. The sphere of actors that encompasses the 'development community' is growing. And with multinationals as the key development players and NGOs focusing on development issues in terms of human rights, environment and biodiversity issues, the two actors are destined to cross paths. And if they will be meeting in the same forum, it is advantageous for the two to  form a dialogue and eventually a partnership rather than working against each other at the possible expense of the developing world  Whereas the private sector was once  a source of financial aid to NGO projects, they now have an interest of their own in developing the regions in which they hope to expand  or would like to do business. Development aid has become development cooperation. Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit / German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) of Germany regards this development cooperation as the “fruit of a meaningful maturing process on the part of both development organizations and their partners that has introduced more consensus, transparency, participation and mutual understanding into development work”.  Business has traditionally sought to weaken the influence of other actors in order to make space for itself. But today the private sector is starting to express an interest in being a positive part of the sustainable development process and is ready, in some cases, to work with NGOs. According to the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum (PWBLF), companies are now recognizing that by engaging in public policy dialogue on development issues such as health, education and good governance, they can improve the context for their own work. In a PWBLF publication entitled "Building competitiveness and communities," it is stated that companies are not only having to harness and build their intellecutal capital, but are also having to build, and in some cases rebuild, social capital and trust.

 

As the private sector is growing in power, corporate responsibility is also becoming a bigger issue. One way corporate and NGO paths can be directly merged is through legal requirements for companies to abide by certain rules. David Wheeler, who had worked with the Body Shop and is now the information officer for the Ethcial Trade Initiative, is currently attempting to update England's laws to require companies to have three audits - financial, environmental and social. A legal requirement for triple line audits would result in companies actively seeking to improve their policies. Once the company has decided to change their social or environmental approach because of a company law, NGOs will then more likely be looked to for assistance. And NGOs can follow up by helping to enforce these legal requirements with advice support, training and case studies on these laws done in collaboration with the private sector. Since businesses run essentially on competition policies, those who are playing by the rules will seek increased regulation in order to ensure a level playing field.

 

Countries with highly profiled opinions on environmental protection, workers rights, human rights, etc are also likely to spawn cooperation.  According to CARE Denmark, NGO pressure on these issues may actually drive companies investing in or dealing with developing countries into the arms of NGOs. The common interest policy discussed earlier  should be used to create partnerships. If NGOs and the private sector are already working tin the same  context, contact will be made more naturally and cooperation will be the obvious next step. NGOs should capitalize on the fact that the private sector is beginning to shift some of their priorities and practices.

 

III. Conclusions

 

The Broad Definition of the NGO-Private Sector Partnership

 

In a study produced in September of 1993 on NGOs and corporate community involvement in the third world, the following conclusion was stated: There are two types of collaborations possible - Financial support from the private sector in return for a humanitarian image or NGO advice for a private sector's already established activity. There are indeed many collaborations with the NGO acting as the intermediary between the developed and developing countries or giving advice concerning the company's practices in third world regions. And in fulfillment of the first collaboration type, there is evidence of partnerships based on financial contributions from the private sector that also guarantee a corporate "humanitarian" label. But there are also collaborations that rely on the shared resources of both parties and that benefit them both. There are preliminary consultations and boards being formed with equal representation from both groups and efforts to form positive joint campaigns as opposed to the battles to defend or attack employee or environment treatment. While NGOs do often act as consultants and the private sector is indeed interested in guaranteeing a certain image, there are other motivations behind NGO-Private Sector collaborated projects and additional roles that each partner plays. And these roles and motivations often overlap and intertwine which is essentially what makes the projects work. When two parties establish a partnership based on complementary goals, the project in question is more likely headed towards success and the partners are assured a certain degree of activity and contribution that matches that of their partner. Both groups may make concessions or receive more or fewer gains depending on the nature of the project, but on a whole are both working towards a shared goal.


Complementary Roles

 

There is a general understanding among both groups that they need the other to fulfill their goals. As companies grow, they inevitably cross their national and continental borders. They need to do two things in this expansion: (1) adapt to different cultural rhythms and economic systems and (2) make sure that these new areas are strengthened and fortified for long term business relations. Neither of these challenges comes easy, but they are being attempted with assistance by NGOs. NGOs are both the interpreters and the matchmakers. They smooth the path for the private sector and insure that the developing community or business is protected from environmentally or otherwise negligent practices. NGOs in turn need to work with the private sector for several reasons. Firstly, the private sector is the leader. Their successful functioning is favored by governments and trade policies and the private sector themselves are financially and technologically strong. If NGOs want to have an impact on the current world situation, they need to work in collaboration with those in power, those who are making things happen in terms of job creation, financial capability, and general advances. Having proclaimed this shared necessity for collaboration, there is, nonetheless, an implied adaptation on the part of NGOs to the greater power - to the private sector.  However, the fact that companies are working with NGOs and sometimes going to them first hand for advice also points out that the "stronger" force has some questions or misgivings and that NGOs are being asked to suggest an alternative. It is actually a situation that can effectively empower both groups.

 

The Need for Change and New Systems

 

A questionnaire was sent to all of the Directors of BOND in March 1999 in order to prioritize topics. The questionnaire revealed that the topic which most concerned BOND's directors was that of how to engage with the private sector.

This example is indicative of some  of the NGOs and networks in Europe today. While I found similar trends among the NGOs that responded to my initial letter of interest, I did not officially talk to those who are against these sorts of partnerships. I did, however, come across this opinion at several conferences in Lyon, France on Development Issues. While suggesting the private sector as  a possible actor for development and refuting a comment on the threat of corporations, I was met with much resistance. Participants were quick to point out that the private sector is motivated by profit and that this principle goes against what NGOs stand for. The basic claim was that the NGOs and corporations are too different and that their principles can never be reconciled.  Development Conferences and NGO Networks are lacking in the fact that they seldom incorporate those that think differently from them. It seems to be difficult for NGOs, as well as corporations, to admit that they may need the other. One of the seminars at the Hague Appeal for Peace in May 1999 laid out the evils of globalization and put the blaim on the private sector. During the question and answer period, an investment banker asked the question of what he and others like him could do to change this cycle. The banker who intervened here had spent a week, as had I, participating in a series of seminars and cultural events aimed at achieving peace in the world. If this banker and I were at the same forum, can we not try to work together? Forums like these exist, but the two groups may not always find a way to make the most of them. They need to start doing so. My personal feeling, as is surely evidenced by this report, is that dialogue and attempts to work together as opposed to against one another is the better route to take in the development process. I think that the private sector is already an actor whether NGOs may like this or not.  However, this doesn't mean that all the concessions must be made by the NGOs in order to coax the private sector into partnership and generally sustainable forms of development. A situation needs to be put into place that can be profitable to all parties. This rather lofty goal will not be met without additional support systems between NGOs and networks and the creation of new job positions for those qualifed to act as an interface with the other party. Another possible means of assuring shared success in development projects could be in the establishment of obervatories designed to monitor the partnerships's actions  and attempt to alert the actors before a wrong turn or failure becomes possible. The next stages in the PWBLF - World Bank - UNDP programme will be focused on analysing in more detail the impacts of about 20 major multinational companies and interviewing some 150 stakeholders including politicians, local authorities, business leaders, academics, community activists, development professionals and youth. They plan to then carry out a series of roundtables and consultations in different countries around the world. These post-project analyses are good ways to understand the given situations surrounding their projects, but should be elaborated to examine the impacts of NGO-private sector initiatives as well. It is also important to consider the major impacts of changes made within NGOs and the private sector in order to see if real, positive and lasting change is being made within corporations for the benefit of the Third World and to see if NGOs are sufficiently equipped to continue taking on the task of making these changes.

 

Shared Progress

 

Despite the difficulties in culture clash and stereotypes between NGOs and the private sector, there is an increasing body of opinion that believes in the true value of partnership between all participants in the economic and social development of the world. The Association of Technical Cooperation (ACT), a Belgian NGO working with the Company Partnership Plan (CPP), is convinced that a structural partner in the private sector can offer more to small enterprises in the South than NGOs can alone. As an NGO, ACT can help to improve difficult circumstances, but with a partner in the private sector, services (training, bookkeeping, saving and credit facilities) can be shared and thus real changes made. The CPP's transfer of know-how project often results in the formation of community banks, service centers and the like by the enterprise in the South. They learn how to develop sustainable systems based on the initiatives of the NGOs and enterprises involved in the CPP. Successful NGO-Private Sector partnerships do exist. As was experienced by ICCO through their  consultations in Papua New Guinea and  Brazil on sustainably produced forest products, the fact that there are many different parties present means that they will all learn more about the business of the product in question, trade chains and the local communities involved. The producers in the South need the expertise of the Northern partners in order to establish access to the international market. The expertise needed refers mainly to the high requirements of the international market concerning size, quality, volume of goods, deliveries, etc. Local producers are often lacking this information and an overview from someone who already knows this market can help the local communities build and make changes in their marketing strategies.  On an aside note, it is not always clear whether or not gaining access to the world market will be good for local communities. ICCO mentioned that they try to help communities adapt to the international market or improve their current local markets depending on the particular community and situation. ICCO has severl different ways of supporting projects : facilitating acces to the international (Dutch) market; assistance in the acquisition and application of the sawmilling technology, the certification of the sustainability of their operations and in the collection, purchase, upgrading and export of the timber.

More importantly, ICCO's intitial consultations and general interest in the community in question also attracts other possible partners. During the eco-timber consultations in Papua New Guinea, mainstream institutions such as local banks and regular traders participated actively and seriously, looking for a role to play. And the interest of these institutions was validated and reinforced by the acknowledgement of the local prducers, local NGOs and memebers of the environmental movement that these institutions can play a role. Adding more partners assures a more thought-out approach that is not based on one school of thought alone.

 

In the case of the NGOs involved with the Ethical Trade Initiative, their collaboration efforts with importing companies give them the chance to change something concrete and work with people from the inside rather than fighting campaigns against them. This combination of different views, of mutual benefit and growth, and of possible improvement to the environment and to existing social conditions makes these collaborations successful. Cross-cultural relations on all levels are made to the benefit of both parties. It is also worth noting the real changes that Shell and Living Earth achieved in the lives of the communities in Nigeria. At the outset of the project, the Nigerians had no sense of agency in their own lives and felt that Shell, the government, external NGOs - anyone but them - could change their situation. At the end of the day, it was indeed the individuals and communities of Nigeria who took ownership of their own projects with Shell acting merely as assistant. Southern NGOs have also now started approaching Living Earth on how to engage with Shell and they have raised their expectations of what can be achieved. During a small group session at BOND’s seminar on NGO Partnerships with the Private Sector, it wa pointed out that success should be measured in terms of long-term impact on the poor. No matter how success  is measured, it is won when there is positive change. In the words of Jane Nelson of the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum, "Partnerships are ultimately about individuals coming together to achieve something new."

 


Diagram of Contacts :

 

Austria : 22 NGOs contacted / 4 Inital Responses / 1 Additional Response

 

*AGEZ / National Platform -> Ministry for Foreign Affairs Contact

                                                  -> contact with an NGO concerned with the WTO

*Society for Austro-Arab Relations (SAAR) "Energy Consultations in Tunisia"

*Hope 87 - No Information, Description of their activities

*Austrian Latin America Institute - Interest in study, no direct information,                                                                        established a publication exchange

 

*Ministry for Foreign Affairs - "Austrian Development Programme"

 

Belgium : 10 NGOs contacted / 2 Initial Responses / 1 Additional Response

 

*National Platform - Interest in Study

*ACT - "Company Partnership Plan" done in coordination with the Association of Christian Employees (VKW)

 

*VKW  - "GO & DO Project"

            - "Gazelle Program"

 

Denmark : 4 NGOs contacted / 1 Initial Response / 1 Additional Response

 

*CARE - "Social Forestry Project" funding originating from the Danida Private Sector Development Program

 

*The Danida Private Sector Development Program  - General Information

 

England : 17 NGOs contacted / 5 Initial Responses / 4 Additional Responses

 

*UK Platform EC NGO Network - No Information

*Cafod - Direct Example "The Ethical Trade Initiative"

*Christian Aid-> BOND contact

*Common Wealth Trade Council (CTUC) -> BOND contact

*Africa Now -> BOND contact

 

*BOND -> The Prince of Whales Business Forum "The Business Links Initiative"

              -> Living Earth "The Living Earth Environmental Action Project"

              -> Oxfam "Inter-Agency Recovery Program in Colombia"

 

Finland : 13 NGOs contacted / 1 Response

 

*Finland-Nepal Friendship Association - No information, description of their activities

 

Germany : 10 NGOs contacted / 2 Initial Responses / 3 Additional Responses

 

*Brot für die Welt - No Information

*VENRO / National Platform - GTZ, SEQUA, DGRV, DSGV, CDG, SES contacts

 

*SES - "The Senior Experts Service"

*GTZ - state-owned company financing public-private partnerships

 

Contact from GRAIN  (Spain) :

*German NGO Forum Environment and Development - Report on Public-                                                        Private Partnerships for Global Food Security

 

Greece : 2 NGOs contacted / 0 responses

 

Ireland : 4 NGOs contacted / 1 Response

 

* National Platform - No Information

 

Italy : 16 NGOs contacted / 0 responses

 

Holland : 6 NGOs contacted / 2 Responses

 

*Novib - No information, curious about RONGEAD and about our study

*Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO)

                                                "Consultations on Sustainable Forest Use"

 

Luxembourg : 4 NGOs contacted / 2 Initial Responses / 1 additional response

 

*ASTM "Example of Funding Partnership"

*National Platform -> SOS Faim contact

 

*SOS Faim - Project to build partnerships between North/South's microenterprises to begin in January 2000

 

Portugal : 4 NGOs contacted / 2 Responese

 

*National Platform - No information

*Cultivar - No information, General Description, interest in RONGEAD


Spain : 11 NGOs contacted / 2 Responses

 

*Atelier - works with the private sector - not available for further discussion

*GRAIN -> contact with the German NGO on Environment and Development

 

Sweden : 10 NGOs contacted / 1 Response / 1 additional response

 

*National Platform -> Clean Clothes Campaign contact, interest in study

 

*Clean Clothes Campaign - "Clean Clothes Campaign"

 

 


QUESTIONNAIRE FOR INTERVIEWS

 

ORGANIZATION :

PROJECT:

CONTACT:

COUNTRY:

PHONE NUMBER:

DATE:

 

Brief Description of the project:

- What kind of project? In what country?

- In what particuler area?

- How did the enterprise intervene/contribute?

(To do what?)

 

Description of the enterprise:

-Size (number of employees)

- Sector : industrial enterprise (agriculture, mecanic production...)

                commerical enterprise (distributer, supermarket...)

                consultants

                 banks

 

How were these collaborations begun?

- Who took the intiative to contact the other partner?

- Who was the first contact in the enterprise (executive, staff, committee,...)

- Were there already established relations between the partners (family, friends,                    past business,etc)?

-Why / in what context : planned proposal or result of chance encounter

 

Motivations for collaboration/ value of collaboration

NGOs:

Companies:

Other:

 

Faults / Benefits of this type of collaboration:

 

Specific Factors leading to success / what obstacles to avoid :