Cases and Early Lessons from the Hybrid Partnerships for Impact Working Group

September 7, 2017

Corporations, social ventures, NGOs, and government agencies that aim to scale up market based solutions in BoP markets often struggle with the fact that they are not sufficiently integrated to address the multitude of challenges – such as marketing, distribution, and finance - that often characterize these markets. Consequently, developing a robust portfolio of partners is increasingly acknowledged as a critical path to enabling mutual value creation and developing sustainable, scalable business models. Nevertheless, practitioners struggle to successfully enable and grow hybrid collaborations. For this reason, in 2017, PIA members convened a working group that aims to distill best practices and lessons learned on how to best engage and enable multi-stakeholder partnerships.

For the last three months, the PIA working group on “Hybrid Partnerships for Impact” has examined the growing body of knowledge generated around this topic, and analyzed half a dozen cases of successful and failed partnerships involving these four types of organizations. 

The cases selected thus far focus on channel partnerships in the agriculture, health and waste sectors, and touch upon the challenges that arise when different players attempt to connect value chains to improve distribution, financing, and marketing of various products. Through these sessions, PIA members have been exploring the relationship dynamics and collaboration pitfalls that should be avoided when building partnerships with actors with different mindsets and different capabilities.

Working group cases presented to date

  • Wecyclers & Coca-Cola: Improving waste management, CSR, and government regulation in Nigeria. 
  • World Vision, Royal DSM & Africa Improved Foods (AIF): Increasing the availability and consumption of nutritionally improved foods in Rwanda. 
  • Tulaa, Syngenta & Musoni: Powering a mobile commerce to better link farmers to inputs, finance and buyers through a virtual marketplace in Kenya. 
  • BRAC & VisionSpring: Working at the village level to provide access to radically affordable eye glasses through a distribution network of trained community health workers in Bangladesh.
  • Embrace & GE Healthcare: Distributing low-cost infant warmers through GE Healthcare distribution channel in India. 

Early lessons learned so far

Partnership champions play a key role in the outcome of the collaboration. Key roles to be put in place include advocates (passion for impact), negotiators (that make the business case), and high level support (to provide ongoing legitimacy and partnership continuity). Having the right individuals involved, and having continuity plans for employee turnover has been especially important for the case presenters.

Long-term funding for partnerships is a common challenge. Following the pilot, a major question has been on how to fund the project moving forward and/or how to make the initiative more sustainable.

Partners need to accomplish both impact and financial goals for the collaborations to thrive. For this reason, understanding partner’s metrics is necessary. In many cases explored common goals tend to be considered, but going deeper into understanding partner’s metrics for success is frequently left for later.

In the next three months, the working group will explore six additional cases. Collaborators from Blood Orange and Intellecap have partnered with MIT D-Lab to work towards aggregating the knowledge of these online learning sessions and to produce a relevant, modular, and practical dialogue facilitation framework that can help inclusive business practitioners better assess and initiate hybrid partnership. The framework will help bring forth goals, resources, capabilities, and processes that partners need to address to initiate these relationships on solid foundations and maximize their effectiveness.

List of upcoming cases
September 14th – SC Johnson & Solar Kiosk
October 18th – UPS & Zipline
November 2nd – D-Light and Total
November 16th – Envirofit & Gov. of Honduras
November 29th – Fenix & MTN
Dec 14th – TBD

We look forward to working with our PIA member on the next cases and on developing another practical PIA tool that helps development practitioners in establishing effective and lasting hybrid partnerships!

Jona Repishti, MIT D-Lab