IBM, USAID and CDC Development Solutions Spearhead a New Approach to Public-Private Partnership

With a growing proportion of Ghana’s GDP devoted to health care, and with the cost associated with the delivery of medicines and other health services on the rise, The Ghanaian Ministry of Health had a problem. Actually, a few:

Supply of suitable quality medical products is limited, a deficit that is amplified by uneven planning and coordination across the Ministry. This, paired with a lack of sufficient visibility and insight into medical data, led to frequent misalignment of health objectives and incentives. Together, these challenges made it difficult for the Ministry to provide for the healthcare needs of Ghana’s citizens.

Working with USAID, the Ministry agreed it was time to set a new course and tackle its challenges head-on. To revamp key health care services, the Ministry turned to an international team of skilled corporate volunteers from IBM for assistance in forging its new path to the future.

A global team of 12 of some of IBM’s most talented employees arrived in Accra, Ghana, to assist in the development of a comprehensive and coordinated strategic plan to strengthen the public sector’s health care supply-chain management system. The Ministry also received assistance from the usual suspects—government aid agencies, multilateral banks, and other international organizations—who all played key roles in the Ministry’s plans for charting a new path. But the involvement of the private sector in the form of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps is part of a significant shift in the way global stakeholders work together to address development challenges. This team was part of a broader partnership among USAID, IBM, and CDS that allows USAID Missions and beneficiaries to receive pro-bono business and technical expertise from multinational corporations through collaborative public-private partnership (PPP).

Together they created the Center of Excellence for International Corporate Volunteerism (CEICV) in early 2011. The CEICV enables companies to start and expand International Corporate Volunteer (ICV) programs and direct the talents of their employee to improve the performance capacity of USAID-beneficiary organizations. It also serves as a resource center that assists companies in starting ICV programs, and provides resources for best practices with regards to ICV program design, delivery, and measurement.

Public-private partnership is a collaboration model most commonly known for its use in the financing, building, and operation of public works projects. Increasingly, however, PPPs are being utilized to tackle international development challenges. No longer are governments, international organizations, and multilateral development banks the only assistance donors. Rather, over the past thirty years, NGOs, cooperatives, faith-based organizations, foundations, corporations, and even individuals, have provided a greater portion of the total resources that contribute to development.

PPPs leverage the resources of the private sector to advance development and drive economic growth in emerging and frontier markets. Recognizing this, the U.S. government is now increasingly eager to enhance the impact of development assistance by improving and extending collaboration through PPPs. The importance of this is evident by USAID’s Global Development Alliance model of PPPs, which seeks to enhance partnerships that achieve significant results for USAID’s key initiatives while also achieving results for the private sector.

The CEICV is a resource for USAID Missions around the world, linking a growing number of ICV programs to USAID development projects. In so doing, corporate volunteers accelerate the impact of development funds in target countries by providing consulting solutions to tough problems, improving the efficiency and performance of USAID beneficiaries. The best part of all this is that it comes at no cost to beneficiary organizations for which access to this caliber of technical skill would be financially out of reach. Further, corporations benefit from ICV programs, too. Their employees gain knowledge about emerging industries and markets, while also gaining essential leadership development experience.

In less than four weeks, the IBM team was able to develop a high-level blueprint for the delivery of medicines within Ghana’s healthcare system, which you can read more about here. It is truly an exciting time in the field of ICV, and we are seeing firsthand the importance of these programs in an increasingly global community where complex development challenges require new types of capacity building and technical assistance and in which the business leaders of tomorrow need to have an in depth understanding of the critical markets of tomorrow.

Last week, Deirdre White, CDS’ CEO championed a new approach to global engagement, fueled by ICV on the Council on Foreign Relations’ Development Channel:

“At the end of his recent tour in Africa, President Barack Obama remarked, ‘I believe that the purpose of development should be to build capacity and to help other countries actually to stand on their own feet. Instead of perpetual aid, development has to fuel investment and economic growth so that assistance is no longer necessary.’ Innovative programs led by private sector actors, in partnership with NGOs, governments, and individuals can bring the world closer to this vision.”

Her comments were spurred by a State Department Forum on ICV, at which Drew O’Brien, the new Special Representative for Global Partnerships in his closing remarks framed the opportunities ahead:

“We are fortunate to work in a field where there is no such thing as a bad idea. For every problem or issue that’s out there, there are solutions and partners that are waiting.”

The CEICV serves as proof of concept for the benefits that corporate volunteerism plays in building collaborative partnerships to address complex development challenges. One of the greatest pleasures of managing the CEICV is the opportunity to be involved in projects that consistently deliver real and actionable results to the benefit of the local partners we work with. Having completed more than 20 projects across eight different countries, we recognize the enormous value of leveraging corporate volunteers to advance U.S. development assistance and public diplomacy efforts in emerging markets.

Through CEICV, corporations interested in corporate volunteer programs can easily and efficiently assess their opportunities and needs. In this way, private sector priorities can work hand in hand with USAID’s development approach to deliver social value.

Brandon Soloski

Brandon Soloski is a Senior Program Coordinator at PYXERA Global where he coordinates and manages global pro bono programs, most recently working to launch PYXERA Global’s first pro bono team in China. Additionally, he is the Program Manager of a partnership between PYXERA Global, IBM, and USAID known as the Center for Excellence for International Corporate Volunteerism. Through this partnership, he works with both the public and private sector to create projects that direct skills-based employee resources to USAID-beneficiary organizations in emerging markets.

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