Developing conducive partnership between various actors of international development, is the key to trigger long lasting sustainable change process in the targeted communities. The concept of partnership is not alien to NGO world, we have come across the term Public-Private Partnership that engage government and civil society organizations to address social and economic development challenges and concerns. However, the concept of Tri-Sector partnership is gaining more credibility because it involves development players across various sectors to contribute their share.
A tri-sector partnership is normally between companies, government and civil society organization for the purpose of development. Since many for-profit companies for instance oil & gas companies, are now becoming more and more concerned about the welfare of their communities and are implementing successful projects for the development of the communities that they are frequently engaging with. Keeping this in context, a question does certainly arises that what is the need of partnerships if companies/implementing partners are able to implement projects of their own. One answer to this question is that it involves various risks to implement project autonomously. First, development is not the core competency of many companies and they may lack the relevant expertise to implement the project. A project that fails to meet community expectation can inflict considerable damage to the reputation of the company in the community. Second, even the well-equipped and optimally motivated companies might lacks the expertise to sustain the development process that has been initiated. Third, by implementing project independently, companies take away the opportunity from the community to take responsibility of their own development.
Companies including government, community and civil society/community based organizations, are the major actor that contribute to the development equation of tri-sector partnership. Furthermore, these partnerships between industry, government and the community, can build the strength and capability of each other and contribute in a more holistic sense to community development. Partnerships also avoids duplication of efforts and pool talents and skills in order to address complex social challenges and issues. Partnership is certainly more than consultation, it involves sharing of responsibility regarding the implementation of the project activities.All Partnerships, whether they are formal or informal, grow and manifest themselves in a cycle.
Above is the representation of the partnership and its various phases of development as per my understanding. These divisions and distinctions may vary from one scenario to another scenario and different people might have a completely different understanding of it. A classic example of tri-sector partnership might be a CSR department of a reputable corporation engaging with the civil society organization along with the government, to enhance agriculture value chain development or a bilateral organization working with a local organization and also involving the government for policy reforms.
This concept might sound fascinating but it has certain constraints. The predominant issue, is of power and control in the three different sectors involved. As we all know, those with the most money almost always have the most power. Thus, how can organizations like CSO’s or NGO’s ever hope to wield any kind of authority over corporate partners? A major point in tri-sector partnerships for sustainable social development includes minimizing corporate authority so that it balances out with the rest of the partners involved. Secondly, it is not a new phenomenon that corporation always have their own ways of getting things done. As a primary protocol, bottom up strategies should be employed in order to minimize the dominance effect of one implementing partner.
Engagement of various development actors in the development arena is transforming and tri-sector partnership has certainly turned out to be an important navigation mechanism to influence with greater force. However, this concept is still in the process of refinement and evolution, in turn providing more meaningful action points for the development actors.