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Walking Together: Partnering with Corporations to Support Development Goals

“If you want to walk fast, walk alone–if you want to walk far, walk together,” said Abt’s Mbogo Bunyi, senior private sector advisor, SHOPS Plus. He invoked the African proverb while discussing Abt’s work with Twinings Tea, but the expression captured the spirit of Abt’s April 7th webinar. The panel featured private sector experts from across the company discussing how engaging corporate partners can help countries achieve critical development goals across the health, agriculture, and economic growth sectors. The webinar welcomed over 100 participants from more than 20 countries.

Joining Bunyi were Dr. Walid Sallam, Abt’s chief of party for the Feed the Future Egypt Rural Agribusiness Strengthening Project, and Dr. Julia Newton-Howes, chief executive officer, Investing in Women, Abt Australia. The session was moderated by Susan Mitchell, principal associate/vice president, International Development, Abt Associates.

Each presenter spoke about partnerships from different country and sector perspectives while identifying common lessons learned about how to most effectively engage with corporate partners.

Bunyi described how Twinings helped increase access to health services for female tea farmers in Kenya. Sallam shared how partnerships with PepsiCo and other private sector actors led to increased sourcing from smallholder farmers in Egypt. Newon-Howes explained how Abt uses corporate partnerships to fuel inclusive economic growth through women’s economic empowerment in South East Asia.

In all three examples, pilot projects served as an effective strategy to demonstrate success and build trust. As Sallam noted, “Seeing is believing” when it comes to proving the impact an intervention can have. Demonstrating the feasibility of the partnership is a critical first step, he said; once that has been established, partners can look to scale their efforts.

Newton-Howes noted that there are many different business cases for the private sector to partner with a donor-funded project, depending on industry and clientele. Understanding that motivation and being flexible in adapting an intervention to fit a corporation’s priorities is key. 

The panelists also cited the critical role that donor-funded projects play in helping to build the bridge between corporate partners and the ultimate beneficiaries. These lessons are important to keep in mind as donor-funded projects seek to unlock the potential of the private sector to help further development goals.

To watch the full webinar recording, click here.

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