New Special Report on Private Sector Engagement Marks Another Milestone in CGIAR-Netherlands Partnership

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A new special report “Open for Business – Pathways to Strengthen CGIAR’s Responsible Private Sector Engagement,” commissioned by the NL-CGIAR Strategic Partnership brings together experts from CGIAR and the Netherlands to develop actionable ways for CGIAR to strengthen collaboration with the private sector, especially in innovation and scaling.

The special report finds that CGIAR already has vast experience working with many different types of private sector actors in global, regional and national contexts and that the One CGIAR transition provides opportunities to mainstream procedures and strategies for future engagement with the private sector. The special report also includes both risks and opportunities in embarking on private sector partnership.

The special report puts in place cornerstones for what could become CGIAR’s private sector engagement strategy, and provides a starting point for broader stakeholder consultation within CGIAR and with private sector stakeholders,” said co-lead author Marc Schut, Strategic Advisor Innovation, Scaling and Stage-Gating at CGIAR, and Senior Innovation and Scaling Scientist at Wageningen University & Research. “Though centralized CGIAR principles and backstopping is important, the special report emphasizes that real private sector engagement happens on the ground, by staff and partners, in the countries where CGIAR is working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

The special report contains five main themes: benefits, challenges and risks, key principles, mechanisms and institutional actions. When it comes to benefits, the private sector can contribute as fundraising, learning, demand innovation and scaling partners especially when CGIAR and private sector have a shared vision and clear goals and complementary roles and responsibilities. Alignment is again highlighted in key principles as partnerships should be in line with private sector approaches and demand, be based on transparency, and both sides should mutually benefit. The authors recommend that CGIAR develops a set of System-wide private sector engagement principles focused around transparency and accountability, mutual respect and agreement, quality and ethics and risk management.

On the other side, there are challenges and risks when engaging with the private sector, namely ensuring CGIAR’s independence in science and advice. The authors note that engagements should be diverse and innovative with priority given to private sector actors that protect the needs and interests of marginalized societal groups, and contribute to global public goods and the SDGs.

The special report recommends to explore a “one-stop-shop” for CGIAR private sector engagements. Such a one-stop-shop could host various support roles and functions, including think tank and advisory board, provide legal and contracting support, facilitate a community of practice, lead capacity development, and monitoring, evaluation and learning. They suggest that CGIAR should explore novel engagement mechanisms, such as innovation hubs, scaling accelerators, and co-investment arrangements, but also ensure the mechanisms can be tailored to different types of private sector in a range of contexts and regions.

In addition to their findings, the special report included three next steps that CGIAR can immediately take to start tapping into the enormous potential and opportunities available with private sector engagement:

  • Step 1. An organizational approach: Identify how the roles, responsibilities, mandates, resources and facilities for private sector engagement are distributed across CGIAR to take the process forward. The Private Partnerships for Impact Department under the Global Engagement and Innovation Division will lead this work.
  • Step 2. Mandated task force: Develop a temporary but clearly mandated task force and consultation process within CGIAR, and with external stakeholders, to discuss the recommendations of this report and receive wider inputs.
  • Step 3. Strategic action plan: Develop a strategic action plan covering phased, planned and funded activities for the different support functions of what could become a one-stop-shop for CGIAR’s private sector engagement.

Memorandum of Understanding and launch event

To celebrate the launch of the special report, an event was held at The Hague on April 12, which included the signing of an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between CGIAR and the Netherlands, an expert panel discussion and a session designed for deeper exploration of the report’s findings and suggestions.

The MoU not only underlines the importance of working with private and public sectors, which is highlighted in the special report, but also declares the intention of strengthening the long-standing partnership between the Netherlands and CGIAR, particularly in areas where the two have complementary expertise. Common priorities for the two include engagement on nutrition and health, coordinated climate change research, and the development of innovations and technologies that are relevant and useful for stakeholders.

Watch a replay of the event:

Interested in learning more? Please visit the the Dutch Research Council (NWO) website, and read the interview with one of the lead authors of the special report, Sarah Cummings: ‘We don’t give a recipe, we supply ingredients for CGIAR-private sector engagement’.

Header photo by CGIAR.

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