Cooperation with the private sector is an explicit strategy of the ICCO Alliance. In the past years considerable experience is gained. For the ICCO Alliance intensifying cooperation with the private sector (in economic programmes, but also in other thematic areas) is the challenge for the coming years. This requires capacity building of staff, as NGO staff is not naturally used to work with the business sector. For this reason ICCO has initiated a Learning Community (LC) on Private Sector Cooperation (PSC) for ICCO, SharePeople and Yente. The Learning community will address issues as e.g. strategy (how to get started), tools to use (e.g. the ICCO company scan), linkages with resource mobilisation. Angelica Senders of FSAS was requested by Nelleke van der Vleuten, ICCO specialist on this theme, to assist the start-up of this LC based on the following guiding principles:
• Learning has to lead to an improved practice and a better understanding of this practice in its context. For this it is important that learning takes practice as a starting point; learning should have an action perspective and should preferably start with asking the right questions, not with knowledge.
• A Learning Community fosters horizontal interaction between practitioners; not all questions are to be answered by ‘experts’; in an effective learning network practitioners assist each other.
• Networked learning can take place within one organisation, but learning is most effective if synergy is created with learning in other organisations and in other networks.
1. Start a Dgroup as communication channel, invite potential members and ask them to present themselves and their experiences; 27 people registered.
2. Based on the outcome of an e-survey and 3 Skype conversations (with selected members) agreement was reached on first steps to take in the Learning Community.
3. Subsequently 4 subgroups were formed around cases selected from the experiences of the members. Each group analyzed a case; communication took place by means of Skype and e-mail.
4. Establishment of a wiki (an internet-based platform) named ‘Private Sector Cooperation and Corporate Social Responsibility’ for the ICCO Alliance. The 4 case descriptions are uploaded on the wiki.
5. In September a ‘plenary discussion’ will take place on the cases with the objective to identify shared lessons and common issues. This will be the basis for further work in the PSC Learning Community.
This Learning Community will be closely linked to the LC on Fair Economic Development (FED) and external networks, e.g resulting from the PSO CSO-Biz event.