February 20, 2020

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Global Problem-Solving: 11 Ways to Build Effective Corporate-NGO Partnerships

Building a better world is good for business, and the mission of NGOs/nonprofits. Everybody wins.


By Alice Korngold

Part of the A Better World, Inc. series

Companies that are successful in finding solutions to global problems work in partnership with each other and with NGOs. Through the right partnerships, companies can leverage valuable access and expertise to achieve their business objectives—including building regional capacity, enhancing community relationships, and gaining knowledge of markets where the company seeks to expand its presence.

By understanding and helping improve communities, multinational corporations are best positioned to invest in facilities, infrastructure and workforces, and create and sell products and services that people want.

So how do you ensure the partnerships you invest in are worthy of your time and resources, and focus on impact? Here are a few best practices:

1. Set the mission and goals

Determine the purpose of the NGO/nonprofit partnership—the problem you seek to solve—and how it advances the company’s missionsustainability-mission-statement and sustainability goals. Decide how success will be measured.

2. Decide on the resources that the company will bring to bear

Consider the resources that the company can offer in helping to solve the problem; this might include human and financial capital, technology, credibility, relationships, and possibly supply chain or distribution networks. Then identify the gaps that you’d like to see the right NGO/nonprofit partner(s) bring to bear.

3. Identify the initiative's lead person

Choose a person to be the lead with suitable qualifications and commitment. Clearly define the person’s role. Identify additional parties within the company who will be consulted, and articulate their roles with regard to the initiative. Ensure that each person understands what’s expected of him or her.

4. Identify one or more NGO/nonprofit partners

Consider the expertise, relationships, and credibility that will be vital for success. Research several NGOs that could potentially bring value to the partnership with your company. Be highly strategic in creating your list.

5. Explore potential partnership relationships

As you approach each NGO, consider how your corporate resources and the objectives of your initiative might help the organization achieve its mission. This will have to be a win-win in order for the partnership to be successful.

6. Choose the right NGO/nonprofit partner(s)

Select a partner, or several, whom your company feels confident can deliver the expertise and access that will be critical for success. Be certain that the company initiative and sustainability goals align with the mission of each NGO partner. Considering the limits of NGO capacities, be sure that your company is providing the resources—human and financial capital, and technology—that will ensure the initiative’s success. And be clear about the roles and expectationsmeasuring-tape of each partner.

7. Know the NGO/nonprofit's lead person for the initiative

Be clear about the person at the NGO who has primary responsibility for the initiative, and make sure that their role is clear. Also know any additional individuals at the NGO who will be consulted and their roles with regard to the initiative. Ensure that each person understands what’s expected of them.

8. Establish clear, measurable goals

Create a clear plan that is mutually agreeable and mutually beneficial to the company and NGO/nonprofit and that will ultimately solve an economic, social, or environmental problem. Establish a process for regular reports and discussions—perhaps quarterly, but at least semi-annually—to continuously assess and potentially refine planning as needed.

9. Consider a committee

Depending on the size and scope of the initiative, and the stakeholders involved, consider establishing an advisory committee or council. If you do set up a committee, articulate its role clearly, choose its members purposefully and create agendas thoughtfully with the initiative’s purpose and the committee’s role in mind.

10. Provide progress reports

Provide clear, accurate and timely reports to key stakeholders about the initiative's progress, showing measurable outcomes and any adjustments in plans. Offer ample opportunities for interested parties to provide input and respond accordingly.

11. Recognize and appreciate supporters

In A Better World, Inc.: How Companies Profit by Solving Global Problems…Where Governments Cannot, there are several examples about how these business-women-shaking-handspartnerships come to fruition For example, Dow Chemical and Acumen joined hands to scale social enterprises in East and West Africa and Hewlett Packard collaborated with Partners in Health to establish a leading hospital in Haiti. In each of these examples, while important goals are achieved in advancing economic development, protecting our natural resources, and providing access to healthcare, companies benefit as well.

Partnerships are proving to be an effective approach for corporations and NGOs/nonprofits to invest their complementary expertise, experiences, resources, relationships, and credibility in solving some of the world’s most daunting economic, social, and environmental challenges.

Building a better world is good for business, and the mission of NGOs/nonprofits. Everybody wins.

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