It’s time for fresh thinking about aid and economic growth, writes David Weiss, president and CEO of CHF International, in a Washington Post article this month called "Social Responsibility and a New World Order." In it, he notes that many developing countries are now positioning themselves as growth markets, rather than “beneficiaries of charity”. At the same time, private companies in Haiti or India are working closely with aid agencies to tackle poverty and unemployment. The result is a new convergence between the private sector and the aid community—and with it, the exciting potential for NGOs to be a powerful link between businesses and those in need.
In particular, Weiss nods to recent accomplishments in the Middle East and North Africa, citing a successful public-private partnership between the U.S. State Department, the Aspen Institute and companies across the region—ranging from beverage leader Coca Cola to small ventures like Souktel.
“We’re deeply honored to be cited as an example of public-private partnering,” says Souktel CEO Jacob Korenblum. “For the past five years, our JobMatch platform has helped link youth who are served by non-profits, like EDC Inc., with work at private sector employers like Ernst & Young or the Yellow Pages. We’re glad to see this approach take root across the aid sector”.
Public-private partnerships were also a key focus of the the USRio+2.0 conference, held earlier this month at the Stanford University Business School. Bringing together tech experts from Silicon Valley firms Intel and Google--as well as US State Department officials and non-profit leaders--the event encouraged these groups to partner on leveraging basic technology to solve pressing development challenges. To kick-start this cooperation, Souktel presented its JobMatch platform alongside organizations like Kiva and Ushahidi during a “speed-geeking" event—think speed-dating, but for NGOs and tech ventures. (watch the video here).
"There's a significant shift in power that's taking place right now," said Alec Ross, Senior Advisor for Innovation at the State Department, in his remarks at the Stanford conference, "and that is a shift of power from hierarchies—including governments and nation states—to citizens and networks of citizens. The challenge for us is to figure out how we can harness this power in a solutions-oriented way."
Korenblum agrees that this “new world order” may pose some challenges at first: “Some partnerships between NGOs and corporations will likely create huge impact; others may risk raising red flags. The key, as in any emerging field, will be to ensure that we have solid standards in place to so that tech ventures and the aid sector can partner on things like job creation, but in a way that truly serves the best interests of local communities”.