Strengthening Public-Private Partnerships: A Marketplace for New Ideas

On March 26, 2014, Meridian, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Partnerships and FleishmanHillard, hosted a roundtable discussion on Strengthening Public-Private Partnerships: A Marketplace for New Ideas, as part of the broader Global Partnerships Week. This high-level discussion aimed to bring together people from across sectors to work together on issues of common interest with a goal of creating new partnerships that may strengthen diplomacy and further development outcomes and impact.

Salvatore Pappalardo, Meridian’s Executive Vice President & COO, opened the event with welcome remarks and Maria Pica Karp, Vice President & General Manager, Government Affairs, Chevron, and Meridian Trustee then framed and chaired the discussion. The event featured remarks by Andrew O’Brien, the Special Representative for Global Partnerships, Office of the Secretary of State’s Global Partnership Initiative and Kris Balderston, General Manager and Senior Partner, FleishmanHillard Washington DC, who shared their insights on the critical role public-private partnerships play in promoting diplomacy and development around the world.

The roundtable brought together leaders from the public, private and NGO sectors, and included representation from the U.S. Department of State, FleishmanHillard, IBM, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Hewlett-Packard, The Coca Cola Company, Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte Consulting, Turkish Airlines, Gallup, PATH, Omidyar Network, The Avascent Group, Wise Solutions, WeConnect International, Global Giving Foundation, Council on Foundations, International Youth Foundation, Taproot Foundation and Meridian’s Global Service Leaders and Global Leadership Institute.

Discussion Highlights

Participants briefly introduced their work and shared their respective challenges and opportunities in working cross-sectorally. In reviewing the best practices and lessons learned from partners, participants highlighted their core areas of engagement in public-private partnerships, which includes education, health, environment, economic development, community development, women and girls, women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship, capacity building, STEM, impact investing, veterans, mental health, water, waste management, recycling, food security, and financial literacy among others.

The discussion centered around two primary questions:

  • What does the U.S. Department of State need to hear from the corporate, NGO and foundation communities about opportunities and challenges of working together?
  • What do corporate, NGO and foundation communities need to know about the U.S. Department of State/Office of Global partnership’s priorities?

There was a general consensus that innovative public-private partnerships are essential to invest in opportunities and solutions that deliver the utmost benefits to those in need. Such partnerships not only drive economic growth, they serve as effective tools for civic engagement and citizen diplomacy. While there is considerable interest in public-private partnerships, a large number of private and non-profit sector entities are not taking advantage of such opportunities. Participants were in agreement that there is an important need to mainstream public-private partnerships for greater impact, and to bring together representatives from diverse sectors in dialogues, so that people gain a better understanding of the challenges and the opportunities. Meridian’s pioneering role in bringing together multi-sector leaders in a dialogue on public-private partnerships was unanimously acknowledged.

In discussing the work of the Office of Global Partnership, Mr. O’Brien highlighted his priorities and initiatives in public-private partnerships, and underscored the vital role of raising awareness and creating opportunities for collaboration. He emphasized the importance of investing in ideas and dialogue. “There is remarkable power in putting people together to find solutions to problems and to promote development efforts,” he said. As part of the 2014 Global Partnership Week, the Secretary’s Office of Global Partnership is releasing its first ever State of Global Partnerships Report featuring the most innovative public-private partnerships that aim to promote development and diplomacy around the world.

Mr. Balderston, who previously served as the Secretary's Special Representative for Global Partnerships and managed the Global Partnership Initiative in the Office of the Secretary of State, shared the eight lessons he learnt from his experience in public-private partnerships: 1) Use the power to convene for cross-collaborative ideas; 2) Solve the problems through innovation; 3) Find the constellation of activists both in public and private sectors; 4) Build trusted relationships and networks; 5) Create a portfolio and bring clients together; 6) Generate shared values; 7) Tell the stories right; and 8) Activate and engage the diaspora communities.

With enthusiasm and momentum behind this discussion, Meridian hopes to create an ongoing dialogue series that will continue the conversation—with sessions dedicated to specific topics and perhaps focusing on particular sectors invested in public-private partnerships.

Project summary

Strengthening Public-Private Partnerships: A Marketplace for New Ideas
Number of Attendees: 29
Impact Areas: Business and Trade, Empowering Women and Girls, Entrepreneurship
Program Areas: Forums
Partners: Public Sector, Private Sector, Individuals/Donors
(L to R) Salvatore Pappalardo, Meridian; Kris Balderston, FleishmannHillard; Maria Pica Karp, Chevron and Special Representative for Global Partnerships, Andrew O'Brien