Government, Private Sector and Civil Society for Sustainable Development: Toward a Collaborative Synergy in Latin America

RCLA and the AVINA Foundation, which partners with civil society and business leaders on sustainable development initiatives, have conducted a comparative research initiative to identify, study and support the dynamics of collaboration among nongovernmental organizations, businesses, and the public sector.

This bi-national, participatory initiative has had the unique features of combining action, collaborative inquiry and more traditional research as well as including both academics and practitioners as formal members of a network around the common goal of learning about and promoting inter-sectoral collaboration.

Based on this work with independent scholars in Colombia and Brazil, RCLA has developed practical recommendations on building sustainable cross-sector collaborations in Latin America. Critical components of developing and sustaining these collaborations include:

  • a commitment to a common cause and mobilization to advance it in the public agenda;
  • the pivotal role of the convening leader;
  • recognition and respect of differences in ideologies, values, interests and practices among partners; and
  • the design and implementation of governance structures.

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Practical Guidelines for Constructing Trust and Commitment for Sustainable Cross-sector Collaborations

 

These guidelines for developing sustainable partnerships among the public, private and nonprofit sectors emerged from the research:

 

  • Remember that partnerships are built partnering. These relationships are dynamic in nature and are in permanent development, with instances in which partners leave and others in which they move closer, depending on contextual factors. These changes in the level of commitment by partners are not necessarily bad for the collaboration, if they are addressed with careful attention.
  • Make sure that there is clarity about the common cause and spend time to formulate it in a way that has visibility within and outside the collaboration.
  • Dedicate effort to creating a public agenda that makes the social problem visible and mobilizes resources, efforts and interest in the three sectors beyond participants in the partnership.
  • Ensure the presence of the State in the collaborative effort to provide legitimacy to the initiative and the presence of the beneficiary communities to ensure sustainability and ownership.
  • Value and respect diversity; recognize singularities, logics, values and rationales of various partners; and understand different actors' interests and the associated benefits and disadvantages for them of engaging in the collaboration.
  • Spend time during the collaborative effort to conduct a systematic dialogue about partners' motivations, their assumptions on the social problem to be addressed and its solutions, their resource needs and their expectations.
  • Propose to create a governance structure with clear and explicit rules to achieve consensus, make decisions, plan collective actions and define unambiguous responsibilities and roles among partners. The fulfillment of these agreements is an essential factor to improve trust, coordination and accountability in the initiative.
  • If there are diverse logics of actions in the collaborative effort, consider the possibility of creating or hiring a "neutral" organization committed to the goals of the partnership to manage the relationships between the partnering sectors.
  • Develop communications mechanisms both within the initiative to partners and outside it to communities.
  • Contribute time, resources and attention to producing new knowledge about the problems to be addressed by the partnership, and use this knowledge to construct a public agenda.
  • Inquire constantly about the impact of the collaboration on the beneficiaries and use this information to guide actions and as a focal point to resolve conflicts among participants.
  • Begin developing evaluation efforts that go beyond efficiency and efficacy criteria to include effectiveness and impact on the beneficiary populations.

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