On April 5 and 6, 80 and 35 people respectively, representing Dutch NGOs, learning facilitators and CSOs from the South, discussed success factors and challenges in partnerships between Southern Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Businesses. The event, in short called: ‘CSO-BiZ’, was organized by PSO together with ICCO, the Partnership Resource Centre (PrC) and CDI/WUR. PrC in Rotterdam at RSM, hosted the event.
Nelleke van der Vleuten (ICCO) and Angelica Senders (FSAS) were members the organizing committee. Central issues in the discussions were the needs and capacities of Southern CSOs to effectively engage with business and how Northern development NGOs can assist them in that. The programme on the first day was organized around 4 learning experiences -from Kenya, India, Peru and South Africa– that reflect different ways of private sector cooperation. Of each case an in-depth description is available (check link).
Three cases were presented by ICCO partners. Inputs (click on the links for the Powerpoints) from Rob van Tulder and Shankar Venkateswaran presented a critical mirror to NGOs, the need to develop a clear stance on the issue and act upon if they wish to remain relevant. During the second day participants identified specific interests to develop joint learning.
In sum, the following key issues emerged:
- CSOs will have to integrate a vision on cooperation with businesses in their policy, in their Theory of Change;
- If they wish to engage, CSOs will actively have to learn to understand a business perspective, both parties will have to develop a common language and establish communication;
- CSOs and business will have to find common ground: what are businesses looking for in CSOs and how can CSOs add value to business processes?
- Management of power dynamics is particularly important for CSOs, how can they create an effective good bargaining position?
- After having formulated a common goal, the management of the partnership remains a challenge: both parties will have to come out of their comfort zone, requiring new ways of doing ánd monitoring things.
The overall feeling was that there is still a lot to be learned and the need for ‘exchanging of experiences’ and ‘sharing lessons learned’ was generally expressed. Please click this link for an impression by PSO of the workshop. You can find all workshop material, including a video impression on the PSO website. This 2 day workshop provided a lot of input to Nelleke and Angelica to further shape the ICCO Alliance Learning Community on Private Sector Cooperation, a Learning community which will actively be linked up with learning initiatives resulting from this CSO-BiZ event.