Building and strengthening public private engagement for nutrition.
The global nutrition landscape is shifting and increasingly we hear calls for more and better multisector collaboration and public private action. But what do we mean by this, who is involved, and where do we start?
How do public bodies – government representatives, policymakers, UN bodies, civil society, academia, and consumer interest groups – know how to define effective cooperation with a hugely diverse private sector, from farmers to multinationals? How do private sector actors – farmers, fishers, processors, formal and informal food traders, logistics and transport companies, marketing agencies, corner stores, grocery stores – decide who to partner with to produce, distribute, sell, and market nutritious products?
The priorities of public and private sectors are often framed as oppositional, but there are plenty of common goals that would be better tackled together. So how do we maximise the skills, expertise and resources of both sectors to make safe and nutritious foods more affordable, available and desirable? What is the best way to promote this kind of public private engagement (PPE) for nutrition?
The initiatives, case studies, and resources below help answer these questions and provide some examples of good practice on selecting partners, managing conflict of interest, tracking and measuring impact, and reporting results.
Top resources we think matter
In November 2018, the Dutch PPP lab published a strategy paper based on a four-year assessment of Dutch Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in food security and water. While the initiatives do not explicitly address nutrition, food security and safe water are integral to good nutrition, and there are lessons for anyone who wants to do more to maximise impact of PPPs.
The Dutch government began investing in PPPs in the early 2000s and they are now a core element of its foreign policy (see Investing in Global Prospects for more info), and important way the Dutch are working to unlock finances needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
PPP Lab identified several positive outcomes from PPPs within the Sustainable Water Fund (FDW) and the Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security (FDOV), noting they do particularly well in:
- pioneering innovate approaches
- aligning interests
- influencing the rules of the game
- leveraging actors’ strengths
- developing inclusive partnerships
The report highlights the success of the Sevia horticulture project - Seeds of Expertise for the Vegetable Sector of Africa - in Tanzania. Sevia aims contribute to the development of the vegetable industry in Africa, which helps improve food security (and nutrition). Built around a solid and long-term business case with committed partners, the project was able to successfully scale up because it combined high-quality private technical capacities with large-scale agricultural national extension services.
Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) is a non-profit organisation that aims to improve food security, nutrition and economic development through business-to-business knowledge exchange, supported by non-profit and government partners. Through this platform, almost 1,000 volunteers from six of the world’s largest food companies have shared their expertise with 1,559 small food companies and 1 million smallholder farmers from nine African countries.
This initiative was conceived by Kofi Annan (Former United Nations Secretary-General) and Kendall J. Powell (then CEO of General Mills) at the 2008 World Economic Forum. General Mills employee volunteers worked remotely with clients on specific questions and challenges. TechnoServe was brought on board to assist with on the ground knowledge transfer, and USAID provided additional funding to help scale up the programme. After three years as an employee volunteer programme, Partners in Food Solutions was created.
Ten years after its inception, PFS truly embodies the spirit of PPE. There are six corporate partners – General Mills, Cargill, Royal DSM, Bühler, Hershey and Ardent Mills – four collaborating partners – TechnoServe, Root Capital, USAID, Small Foundation and Grassroots Investment Fund – and one champion partner – Corteva Agriscience. One of the elements that makes P.F.S. successful is that partners consider their work in Africa as pre-competitive, so they can focus their efforts on helping companies make the most impact through milling and processing. By focusing on the middle of the food value chain (which is often overlooked), PFS hopes to help create a more robust food economy across Africa that will strengthen markets for smallholder farmers and bring more nutritious food to consumers.
In 2018, Bain & Company conducted a pro-bono impact assessment of PFS’s first ten years of work. The lessons learned from that report will help drive future strategy and better identify the companies with the most potential for impact. In its next phase, PFS is hoping to scale up from supporting about 40 to more than 150. They see their work as an important part of feeding a growing global population, and contributing to the SDGs.
There are a lot of inspiring stories of both volunteer and client experiences. Going forward, it would be great to see more emphasis on supporting companies across Africa that are working to produce, market and sell nutritious foods.