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Sustainable rural employment or corporate social responsibility? An analysis of dairy partnerships between business and civil society organisations in Tanzania and Kenya

Discussion Paper 190

May 2016

Karaki, K., Byiers, B. 2016. Sustainable rural employment or corporate social responsibility? An analysis of dairy partnerships between business and civil society organisations in Tanzania and Kenya. (Discussion Paper 190). Maastricht: ECDPM.

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In a context where the development community aims to engage and work with the private sector for development, and given the decline of aid as a finance flow to developing countries and finance to civil society organisations (CSOs), CSO-business partnerships are gaining increasing attention as part of the development agenda. They offer a range of potential benefits for promoting economic transformation and addressing other development challenges. However these expectations stand in contrast to the literature on CSO-business partnerships results, which demonstrates the need to better understand of the drivers and key constraints to effective strategic CSO-Business partnerships for development.

Starting from the view that partnerships are often a challenge to form, initiate and implement in practice, and building on a mapping study that highlights the four key dimensions to understand partnerships (Byiers et al., 2015), this paper looks in particular at two CSO-business case studies in the dairy sector.


Key messages


  • To avoid partnerships becoming a catch-all term with little use for policy-makers, there is a clear need for an in-depth understanding of the drivers and key constraints to effective strategic CSO-business partnerships. In particular, more emphasis needs to be placed on understanding process and context.
  • This paper presents two CSO-business partnerships in the dairy sector in East Africa. While in the same sector and with similar overall goals, they differ strongly in terms of objectives and approach – one has philanthropic origins but is holistic in a specific place; the other is market based, building on existing firm efforts to promote system reform.
  • The analysis suggests that the strength of partnerships lies in their ability to exploit opportunities that evolve throughout their development, rather than following a strict
    planning. This in turn has implications for donors who wish to support partnerships, who need to adopt a differentiated approach to partnerships.
  • Above all, to be sustainable and effective, partnerships need to be embedded and developed within the local market and institutional environment. This suggests that donors’ support to partnerships should be well coordinated with other business environment improvement measures, including spatial or territorial approaches.

Read Discussion Paper 190


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Photo courtesy by Karim Karaki.


In addition to structural support by ECDPM’s institutional partners Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland, this publication also benefits from funding from the Department for International Development (DFID), United Kingdom.

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Economic Transformation and TradeBusiness and DevelopmentDiscussion Papers (series)Civil societyCorporate Social Responsibility (CSR)EmploymentRural developmentKenyaTanzania