Success Factors for Public-Private PartnershipsThe International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), headquartered in Washington DC, produced a discussion paper (pdf) last year that provides helpful findings concerning the success factors for public-private partnerships aimed at achieving agricultural innovation in developing countries.
The authors, Frank Hartwich (IFPRI), Maria Veronica Gottret (International Center for Tropical Agriculture), Suresh Babu (IFPRI), and Jaime Tola (Instituto de Desarroilo Agropecuario del Ecuador), argue that:
Capacities to identify opportunities, develop common interests, and negotiate commitments are prerequisites for successful public-private partnerships. Yet, many public-private partnerships fail due to lack of both skills among the partnering agents and efforts to strengthen these skills.The data underlying the authors' findings concerning how to address this issue of deficient skills come from research conducted in nine Latin American countries, starting in 2002. The discussion paper itself examines
seven cases of public-private partnership-building in which private-sector companies, producer associations, and research organizations engage in collaboration for the purpose of developing innovations in agricultural production and value chains.The seven partnerships studied were located in four countries Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and El Salvador. The authors' main conclusions from their study are (slightly edited):
1. Capacity-strengthening1 in partnership-building is specific to the value chains2 and actors it involves. The value chain is an appropriate context for analyzing opportunities for innovation in areas of common interest that can best be exploited through public–private collaboration.
2. Capacity-strengthening for partnership-building goes beyond traditional training to include horizontal learning among the partners; it is a continuous, customized process in which needs are identified, taking all partners into consideration.
3. Determining when to enter into a partnership depends on the partners’ analytical skills and the information available on technological and market opportunities. Participation in diagnostic exercises strengthens the capacity of partners to enter into present and future partnerships.
4. The choice of appropriate capacity-strengthening measures depends on the existing level of cohesion among the potential partners. For example, awareness building may not be necessary if talks about potential collaboration are already occurring. The possible entry points for partnership-building measures need to be considered to enable common themes and objectives to be identified. One approach is to go through an exercise in which potential partners map out their country's agricultural value chain, noting where there are opportunities for development. This also helps in identifying key stakeholders and suitable partners.
5. Strengthening partnership-building capacity should predominantly focus on identifying and exploring common interests among potential partners. It is necessary to clarify interests in terms of technology development, production, and sales. If partners do not become seriously interested in pursuing the partnership, they will not attach the necessary importance to its planning. Third-party catalyzing agents (brokers) are necessary to bring partners together, motivate them, provide information, and organize space for negotiations.
6. It is important to have at least one visionary leader among the partners. The leader supplies the capacity for sectoral analysis in the partnership and can help to clarify and communicate the advantages the partnership offers. The leader is also important in motivating and attracting potential partners. Through a gradual transfer process, the internal leader may eventually take over the initiative from the external promoter.
1 The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ... defines capacity strengthening as “the process by which individuals, organizations, institutions and societies develop abilities (individually and collectively) to perform functions, solve problems, and set and achieve objectives.” (p. 17) In the IFPRI study, "successful capacity strengthening elements relat[ed] to identifying partner’s interests and motivation, negotiating partner commitments, fostering leadership, and building relationships that enable joint learning and innovation." (p. 10)
2 Agricultural value chain: sectoral arrangement that allows buyers and sellers of a commodity, separated by time and space, to progressively accumulate value as products pass from one member of the chain to the next. Agricultural value chains embrace all the actors dealing with the commodity from the farmer to the final consumer. The value-adding activities that occur along the chain include production, transport, processing, and marketing.