On Tuesday, June 10, Devex hosted its first-ever Partnerships Forum in Manila. As part of the event, representatives from some of the world’s largest foreign aid donors converged in the Philippine capital to discuss the latest business trends and opportunities with top government officials, corporate leaders and civil society representatives, strike up new partnerships and map out the future of Asia-Pacific’s development.
The region is booming, of course, but it also remains one of the biggest recipients of official development assistance as countries here are particularly prone to the impacts of climate change and continue to grapple with infrastructure and governance issues, among many other challenges.
Watch out for much more coverage — including exclusive video interviews and business analysis — on the Devex website in the coming days. Meanwhile, here’s some of the buzz from the Devex Partnerships Forum, which is supported by our executive partner RTI International as well as partnership engagement sponsors Cardno, Engility, ICM, the Asia Foundation and World Vision, local engagement sponsors AsianNGO and One Meralco Foundation and supporting organization DAI.
9:15 AM UTC: Stephen Groff, vice president of operations at the Asian Development Bank, shares his outlook for the Asia-Pacific region’s growth with Devex President and Editor-in-Chief Raj Kumar as we kick off today’s video interview series. Groff, who formerly worked with the Millennium Challenge Corp. and OECD, also discusses development in Myanmar and the Philippines specifically, and cites Asia’s immense infrastructure needs — without mentioning China’s plans to create a new Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank that would fill some of the financing gaps left on the continent.
11:45 AM UTC: In a video conversation with Devex President and Editor-in-Chief Raj Kumar, Paul Weisenfeld stressed the need for aid agencies, as they increasingly "go local," to also push science and innovation in the countries they work in, too. At this point, Weisenfeld suggested, many international aid groups don't do enough yet to invest in the same kinds of technology — like geomapping — that they invest in at home. If we truly want to go local, he said, we have to share those innovations, too. Weisenfeld also stressed the need for local organizations which want to win foreign aid funding to not just have good intentions but to also focus on data and metrics — international investors expect it of their partners.
Throughout the day, we spoke with many more leaders from the Asia-Pacific region, including top officials from the International Monetary Fund, European Union, Millennium Challenge Corp., just to name a few. Subscribe to the Devex YouTube channel to stay up-to-date as we roll out video coverage in the days ahead!
The Partnerships Forum commenced with a high-level panel that will set the stage for the day's discussion. The panel addressed the issue of localization of global development and how all stakeholders are changing the way they do business.
10:00 AM UTC: Local partnerships are not just the future, they are the present of international development. But how do organizations find their local partners and what will come out of this strategy in 10 years?
“The role of donors is to help strengthen the social contract between government and citizens.”— Stephen Groff, ADB's vice president of operations
11:15 AM UTC: At this morning’s session on cultivating sustainable partnerships, a consensus emerged that mutually beneficial engagement — not one-sided capacity building — should underpin how international groups work with their local partners. Panelist Robin Bush pointed out that international groups and their local partners have very different but nonetheless complementary strengths and advantages. For international groups, those include best practice models, relationships with donors, and financial and management capacity. Local organizations, meanwhile, can leverage their on-the-ground knowledge and ties to local stakeholders.
11:20 AM UTC: The private sector sees a lot of opportunities to work in climate change mitigation and adaptation activities in the Philippines, but it wants more tax incentives, government transparency, intellectual property protection and effective market analysis, said Glen Anderson, senior climate change expert at Engility, during a panel discussion on the role of public-private partnerships in addressing climate change. But for projects to be sustainable, government and businesses should look for “community champions,” Engility’s Diwata de Castro-Paredes stressed.
11: 30 AM UTC: According to Joseph Foltz, acting director of the Office of Environment, Energy & Climate Change at USAID Philippines, partners can avoid many potential risks and conflicts during the upfront negotiation of a public-private partnership. Having a strong sense of who your partner is — either through a rigorous due diligence process or the trust that has been built in a previous relationship — is the most important starting point, he said. There is also a delicate balance to strike between being overly legalistic, and being flexible to be resilient to the changes that are bound to happen over years of partnership.
• 10 tips for building resiliency in a post-disaster community
• Country ownership in disasters — MCC's Philippine experience
• Six months later, (still) mixed feelings on post-Haiyan recovery
11:30 AM UTC: Following the devastation Typhoon Haiyan brought to parts of the Philippines, the next challenge for the development community is how to build resilience. Panelists from the disaster risk management and resilience workshop shared some tips and advice for communities and leaders in post-disaster situations, including building a vibrant business climate through policies as well as a large network of support for the affected communities.
1:00 PM UTC: Everybody is hoping to foster inclusive growth in Mindanao, but Amina Rasul-Bernardo, president of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy, emphasized that certain pressing issues — particularly lack of education and illiteracy — have to be addressed immediately if economic development is to be inclusive when businesses and investments come pouring into the Bangsamoro region.
1:30 PM UTC: If donors want their funds to have an impact in Mindanao, Amina Rasul-Bernardo, president of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy, believes they should take into account what the Bangsamoro people need and want instead of focusing on what the central government in Manila think they want. There are currently three urgent needs that have to be met in Mindanao — access to water, power and education, she said.
2:00 PM UTC: Social entrepreneurship has been gaining traction as a new way to do both business and development. Panelists at the social enterprise workshop agreed that challenges remain in supporting social entrepreneurship, including the lack of a conducive business climate and streamlined processes in countries as well as the overwhelming focus on ideas. While CSR is a part of doing business, social entrepreneurship is a way of doing business that is socially conscious and more inclusive, explained RTI International Asia Director. Development partners could address these challenges by instituting appropriate policies and focusing on the people working on social entrepreneurship.
“We need the genius of the rich to unleash the genius of the poor.”— Tony Meloto, founder and chairman of Gawad Kalinga on development and philanthropy
3:30 PM UTC: David Sutherland, chairman of the board of the International Care Ministries, began his presentation by emphasizing the importance of putting a face into the discussion on poverty to understand how poor people really live. “Events like this tend to be dehumanized,” he said. “We don't want to leave the human face out of the conversation.”
ICM recipients, whose stories and photos Sutherland shared with the audience, are from the ultrapoor — or those who live on less than $1.25 a day. The ultrapoor also have a day-to-day mindset. This means that the foremost challenge is to instill hope in them, according to Sutherland. This should come before teaching them how to be more entrepreneurial, for example.
On how NGOs could scale up, Sutherland said that they could take a cue from business and consider four things: market analysis, strategy, innovation and past performance. Someone from the audience also asked about how ICM, which was founded in 1992, decided that it was time to expand its scale.
"The skill set needed to start an NGO is not necessarily the one needed to scale it up," Sutherland said, adding that this is one of the biggest issues for NGOs. "But we've tried to work very hard with the founder."
The result is an organization that has grown to serve more than 100,000 Filipinos.
3:00 PM UTC: NGOs and the private sector are helping fill the gaps health workers face in several developing countries in Asia where health systems are weak. But these partnerships need careful discussions. World Vision expert Kyi Minn, who is based in Myanmar, called on institutions to “negotiate the non-negotiable.” Allen Salvatierra from a municipality in Agusan Del Sur, Philippines, meanwhile, suggested that institutions engaged in partnerships negotiations put an agreement on paper so that they have a clear understanding of responsibilities and can be held accountable on their commitments.
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The U.K. and Australian aid programs as well as other key donor agencies are increasingly eager to support new market-system approaches to improve livelihoods and reduce poverty. Cardno Emerging Markets uses the Making Markets Work for the Poor approach to poverty reduction across a variety of programs in Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Pacific. In this session, Renee Crossley shared best practices on the use of Donor Committee on Enterprise Development standard as part of the company’s Cambodian Agriculture Value Chain program. A lively discussion ensued on how these standards can be applied to monitor and evaluate other value chain projects.
During these informal and off-the-record small table discussions, participants had the chance to engage key bilateral and multilateral officials to learn about their regional priorities and the best ways to engage with them.