Working through 'sticky issues' to improve PPPs

Where are partnerships headed? Jim Thompson of the U.S. State Department assesses current challenges in building partnerships.

A decade ago, only the U.S. Agency for International Development leveraged public-private partnerships as a business model, as part of the mandate of then-Administrator Andrew Natsios.

But Jim Thompson, director of innovation at the U.S. Department of State, told Devex Impact Associate Editor Adva Saldinger that there are now 23 federal agencies involved in some way in PPPs — a testament to how the last two administrations valued “working with and through others” to accomplish development goals and objectives.

And while Thompson expressed optimism about the future of PPPs and interagency participation, he admitted there remain “sticky issues” that still need to be resolved, such as the question of procurement versus partnerships, for example.

Legal authority is a gray area as well.

“No one has explicit authority to do public-private partnerships in their authorizing language except for the [U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief],” he said, noting the need for policies, guidelines and best practices to clear such ambiguities.

“We are an open door,” Jim Thompson, director of innovation at the U.S. State Department, tells Devex Impact Associate Editor Adva Saldinger.

While the department is drafting a new strategy that will clearly lay out partnership goals and objectives, Thompson stressed that his office is not the only venue for partnerships.

“We are an open door to the [State] department,” the innovation director said, adding that his office strives to find the right venue within the department for partners — public, private, nongovernmental organizations, civil society and universities — to connect with.

Watch the clips above to know in which areas the State Department are focusing on, what they are looking for in partners, and to learn more about the Global Partnership Week.

Devex, in partnership with Abt Associates, is examining lessons learned through partnership development, what scale means in the post-2015 agenda and how to create an enabling environment for partnerships in this special three-week series “Collaboration Post-2015: Where Can Partnerships Take Development?

Join Devex to network with peers, discover talent and forge new partnerships in international development — it’s free. Then sign up for the Devex Impact newsletter to receive cutting-edge news and analysis at the intersection of business and development.

About the author

  • 013 devex%2520aug2015  pamstacruzphotography jacques

    Jacques Jimeno

    Jacques is a copy editor at Devex’s news production team. Previously, he worked with the Philippine Department of Tourism and the World Wide Fund for Nature. He is currently taking his master’s degree in communication from the University of the Philippines Diliman.