A Crash Course in Conquering the World

The Importance of Tri-Sector Partnerships in Global Problem-Solving 

I left my native Tunisia earlier this year to begin a new adventure working with Atlas Corps in its professional development fellowship program. Atlas Corps offers fellowships to rising nonprofit leaders from around the world to volunteer, network, and develop their skills serving at U.S. nonprofits for 12–18 months. Afterwards, fellows typically return to their home countries to work on related programs and often to develop their own organizations.

Through the fellowship, I am now glad to be working with the interesting Global Pro Bono (GPB) team at PYXERA Global, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C. that is dedicated to “reinventing the way public, private, and social interests engage to solve complex global challenges.” During the first week of orientation and introductions, I participated in an internal workshop on tri-sector partnerships, a signature activity of the organization, which left quite an impression on me.

Although I have a general understanding of partnerships from previous positions leading several organizations in Tunisia, until now I never had the chance to witness how partnerships can be particularly effective in multi-sector environments. Before deciding to launch my own nonprofit in Tunisia, I wasn’t able to conceptualize how the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) would be achieved amidst the pandemonium in which we live—from social unrest to environmental disasters—until I found several reports on the progress and results. I was amazed that we could decrease world poverty from 36 percent in 1990 to 18 percent in 2015. Michael Green, from the Social Progress Imperative, illustrates this achievement well. This accomplishment was due, in large part, to the great partnerships and individual people coming together around a common set of goals.

In 2015, the UN ratified the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), effectively replacing the MDGs with a new set of global aspirations. SDG 17 centers around the need for partnerships at all levels to achieve the other 16 Goals, with a target of developing a more engaged and fruitful collaboration between the public, private, and social sectors. All three sectors are fundamental components of our modern society and the conclusion is that, only together can we achieve a more sustainable future. I believe that focusing on the SDGs is imperative, but learning how to address them in partnership is the first step toward this end. To achieve a sustainable future, we need to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for systems change.

One could say that people coming from different sides of the world bring variety, different ways of thinking, and different approaches to solving problems. Working together is the best way to exchange ideas and knowledge. We certainly believe that we all have benefits from this engagement.
–Andreja Kraljevic, Coordinator, Agency for Investment and Competitiveness

In 2016, the GPB team facilitated the engagement of a diverse cohort of IBM employees with local agencies, nonprofits, and government institutions in Zagreb, Croatia, to help build capacity and thus deepen social impact. One of the corporate volunteer teams worked with the Croatian Agency for Investment and Competitiveness to develop business plan manuals for their clients. This example highlights how IBM, as the corporate partner, PYXERA Global, as the social sector partner, and the Croatian Agency for Investment and Competitiveness, as the local government partner, can unite their complementary strengths for a holistic approach to a better world.     

As my colleagues at the office say, “significant positive change comes from great partnerships.” As a leading organization in the subject matter, PYXERA Global outlines six components for successful tri-sector partnerships: 

  1. Invest time: The first step in every partnership process involves researching and identifying potential partners. A good way to do this is by mapping the stakeholders in the ecosystem and then identifying their respective goals. The goals of different parties may not necessarily be aligned, however the best outcomes originate from different actors with complementary objectives.
  2. Define the Partnership: After identifying the best potential partners across all three sectors, define the needs of each partner, and set the terms of the partnership to reach a mutual understanding.
  3. Develop an Implementation Plan: Once the partners agree to collaborate, it’s time to get down to business! This step relates to the project in question, or the partnership area, where all parties draft a roadmap of their collaboration and define next steps.
  4. Assess Successes and Challenges: As the partnership unfolds, partners need to define key performance indicators and the success factors of their collaboration. This step is crucial for measuring success and an important tool for generating instructive feedback.
  5. Adjust Course: Since many projects and programs do not go as initially planned, this step demands revisiting the charter during implementation. Make any necessary course corrections to improve project outcomes, taking into account any potential risks.
  6. Amplify Success: A partnership’s work is not automatically finished when the desired project outcome is achieved. Communicating the impact of the project often expands its influence and positive benefits.

The process of effective tri-sector partnerships revolves around mutual understanding and respect!  
Feature image courtesy of Nullfy.

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