Public-private partnerships are not new, but governments are increasingly collaborating with small and mid-sized philanthropies like GHR Foundation to incubate new approaches that may be too risky to pursue without a partner. As an entrepreneurial grant maker, we see partnerships as a critical component of achieving our strategic objectives in health, education and global development.
What do we mean when we talk about public-private partnerships? They are a collaborative working relationship between government, the private sector and/or philanthropy. It is in the intersection between diverse organizations that we see shared value. GHR Foundation, like many philanthropies, is focused on addressing systemic challenges. These tough issues require others—government, other donors and the private sector—to have a tangible investment in order to ensure lasting change.
We know government agencies are looking to partner with others to achieve impact. For example, a recent briefing from the Brookings Institute noted the amount of USAID resources put toward public-private partnerships has gone from 8 percent to 46 percent under the leadership of outgoing Administrator Rajiv Shah.
Our Alzheimer’s work is a key example of how foundations can scale investment through partnership. Currently our $17 million in grant commitments is helping to fund more than $450 million in ground-breaking prevention research. If successful, this research has the potential to compound GHR’s impact and turn the tide on Alzheimer’s – a goal that is brought much closer when industry, government, academia and philanthropy partner to accelerate results.
There’s an African proverb that says, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. This explains our primary motivation for engaging in public-private partnerships. Benefits for leveraging partnership in our grant making include:
- Impact. Achieving something that would be impossible independently.
- Scale. Expanding models that are successful for larger impact.
- Sustainability & local ownership. Building local stakeholders into the process to generate genuine partnership which leads to long-term viability.
- Systems change. Transforming the context within which we are working, incorporating diverse actors, to achieve lasting solutions.
- Efficiency & efficacy. Improving coordination among distinct players for faster and more lasting results.
- Credibility. Ensuring a seat at the table and building a meaningful reputation on critical issues.
Public-private partnerships require foundations work to cultivate trust and invest staff time to achieve mutual success. However, tangible and intangible investments in partnerships pay considerable dividends over the long term.