Medinilla, A., Karaki, K. 2016. CSO-business partnerships for development: Key insights. (Briefing Note 94). Maastricht: ECDPM.
Multi-stakeholder partnerships, particularly those involving the private sector and civil society organisations (CSO), are gaining increasing attention. This is even more so in view of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (2015), which emphasise the importance of the private sector in implementing the 2030 Agenda.
At the same time there is no uniform understanding between and even within the partnership community as to what constitutes a CSO-business partnership, why and how these forms of cross-sector cooperation may be beneficial for development, or even what it means to support or promote CSO-business cooperation. Depending on who you talk to, a CSO-business partnership can mean anything ranging from the smallest private charity to a global network for transforming business operations.
The main appeal is that certain varieties of CSO-business partnerships can offer potential benefits for promoting economic transformation on a critical or even sector-level scale, primarily when they link commercially, market-driven investment projects and private sector know-how that can contribute to creating more and better jobs, with socially-grounded, networked approaches of CSOs whose primary aim is to promote inclusive development within a given location.
Brokering, promoting, supporting and maintaining effective partnerships, however is a complex and iterative process that requires considerable financial resources, knowledge and time. Without such investment, the developmental impact of this trend may well remain wishful thinking.