Public Private Partnership [noun]: a government service or private business venture that is funded and operated through a partnership of government and one or more private sector companies.
Whether in Washington or around the world, many are justifiably weary of the term. We hear it frequently. It is thrown around as a “catch all” term, but has no intrinsic value; it is simply a descriptor. The marker of a public private partnership is attached to all manner of initiatives from the electric grid to highways and job training. PPPs, as they are dubbed in the alphabet soup of Washington, can also vary in scope from a local effort to clean up neighborhood parks to a financial literacy program for over 5 million farmers in China.
At Meridian, we are focused on how public private partnerships can connect to smart power and public diplomacy specifically. Meridian connects and educates global leaders through public private partnerships. Successful global leaders also see the wisdom in PPPs to advance their own outcomes. They understand the importance of context, culture, and collaboration in achieving sustainable growth, profitability, and leadership in global markets. These initiatives, no matter the challenge they seek to address, must be approached in the right way.
Public Private Partnerships are most effective when they are:
1. A Collaboration between the Right Partners
We are in an era of collaboration, where cross-sector engagement and partnerships are critical to sustainable growth, profit, and development – for governments and businesses alike. In a successful partnership, the sum must be greater than the parts themselves and equally invested for the right reasons. The WiSci STEAM camp was a perfect example combining the program management expertise of Meridian with training from Intel and Microsoft as well as the curriculum support from Girl Up.
2. A Win-Win Alignment of Values for a Common Purpose
As public private partnerships are an effort to provide a government service, PPPs must align with the needs and aspirations of the people they will affect. United by the common goal of empowering women as drivers of economic development, Meridian works with the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Goldman Sachs on an international exchange and training program for woman entrepreneurs.
3. About Knowledge and Resource Sharing not Money
Effective public private partnerships are those which provide initiatives with the resources, expertise, and markets to grow in ways they could not have grown alone. These partnerships provide organizations with the benefit of mitigating their risks, without losing or compromising their competitive advantage and unique value proposition (in terms of service, product quality, competitive advantage). As a part of the Meridian Social Innovation Fellowship program, Rosetta Stone provided mentorship for Fellow Rowinda Appelman on the Amsterdam Language Café, which seeks to breakdown barriers for the integration of refugees and ex-patriots in the Netherlands. The program has worked with over 2,000 people in the last year to improve new language skills.
4. Sustainable for Ongoing Impact
By combining the strengths of government and business, PPPs are incredibly resilient for increased sustainable impact. They can supplement limited public sector capabilities to meet growing demands on infrastructure and other resources; drive research for global health or climate change solutions; and leverage cutting edge technology to combat violent extremism. Meridian works with the House of Genius to equip emerging entrepreneurs with the tools to hone their business plan, pitch their venture to potential funders, and scale to profitability. As the old adage goes: if you give a man a fish, he will be full for one night, but if you teach a man to fish, he will never go hungry again.
5. Inclusive of all Stakeholders
PPPs must go beyond the organizations and government entities that create them. In order to be truly effective, they must include the people and communities that hope to be the beneficiaries. The IBM Corporate Service Corps does a great job of this. Volunteers from the program work in conjunction with local communities to identify their needs, provide the necessary resources and lend the technical expertise to solve their challenges.
Meridian believes that partnerships are essential to effective global leadership. For more than 50 years, we have facilitated PPPs by bringing together the public and privates sector – though our forums, cultural programs, training, and exchange. Meridian is proud to partner with the U.S. Department of State, not just during Global Partnerships Week, but every day of the year to advance effective global leadership and promote a more prosperous and secure world.