Cross Post: Is the Private Sector Misunderstood in Development?

By Lorea Russell – This originally appears on the Tomorrow Global blog.

David McGuire, President and CEO of The QED Group LLC, wrote a piece on Devex Impact last week about how the private sector was a critical but misused partner in development. Mr. McGuire talks about the “give us your money and we’ll do good things” attitude that a lot of NGOs have. Guilty as charged.

For a long time I saw PPPs as a way of getting a company to put in some money to kick in the USAID contribution, and not as a real partner. As I’ve started to work in the social enterprise sector, I’ve had to re-think and re-frame how I feel about business models being used to further development goals. That led to a rethink of my previous interactions with the private sector.

I have mixed feelings – I’m kicking myself for all the missed opportunities to engage the private sector in a meaningful way. I would never treat a donor or another partner like a check, so why would I treat a private sector partner that way? Mostly because I just assumed they didn’t actually “care” about the communities the way I did. I thought they just wanted to throw money at the problem so I could fix it and they could say they were making a difference.  In retrospect, these partnerships might have produced a lot more if I’d taken a different approach to communicating with partners – language, process, and definitions of success can make or break successful partnerships between the private sector and NGO partners.

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