A new multi sector forum for Nepal “Common Good”: how synergies can help fostering a new understanding to solve the most pressing problems

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Within the development sector, there are so many forums already, you name an issue and you will find some sort of network or alliance. Then if you question the efficiency of these kinds of setups, well you need first to think about how hard is pull together agencies with different objectives and goals and most importantly different egos. Yes it is a hard job indeed. But maybe it is worthy trying something genuinely unusual, something almost impossible: cross sector cooperation.

I am talking about something very loose and light but still powerful. I am not talking of bringing together agencies of one particular sector but rather trying to pull together those interested genuinely in forging new partnerships and collaborations.

Be careful, when I am talking about partnership, I am not referring to fund raising though joint collaborations can bring also to some sort of pooling of fundings.

I am not even necessarily talking about Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR, I am talking about something wider and broader, something that is pulled together by a common interest: the pursuit, by different actors in different capacities, of what I called “’Common Good”.

Hard to define what “Common Good” means but to me is defined by all actions, formal, informal that tries to pursue a positive outcome. Every people can contribute a bit towards the creation of the Common Good. For sure the standard log frame approach can hardly be enough to fully capture the spillover effect of Common Good.

The rationale for this kind of forum is simple and obvious: silos approaches to social and economic issues do not work. We need a tandem approach, new partnerships across the lines to pick and choose the best that each sector can offer.

I am talking about cross cutting and cross sector issues, from health to education, including wide ranging topics like aging, inclusion, and environment.

If we really want to solve the most pressing issues faced by the country, we need a sort of platform where different perspectives are brought forward, discussed and analyzed with no bias and full open mind.

Here some key pre-requisites for making this idea work and succeed :

-Open/unbiased and inquisitive mindset

A company or a not for profit can achieve long lasting change by solving societal problems if they start sharing and discussing about their best practices and lessons learned. A company should in position to pursue its “shared value” in the society by increasing its profit through offering innovative and affordable products and services that can improve people’s living conditions. A not for profit could be part of the value chain or help the for profit partner to achieve its mission by ensuring clients are benefiting from the partnership.

-Readiness to understand different perspectives

An open and inquisitive behavior would try to maximize the best out of each constituent of the forum. In order to engage, we need to be able to listen and win over stereotypes.

-Identification of common problems

Different working groups could be created under the main forum that will act as an umbrella body. Each working group will be focused on well identified challenges. Here some ideas for potential causes:

  • Nutrition,
  • Ageing,
  • Pollution and Climate Change,
  • Gender discrimination and inclusion,
  • Wealth Creation & Livelihoods
  • Human Well Being (that includes access basic and mental health and education)

For each identified cause or issue, the working group will be activated with mixed representation of private, not for profit sectors and independent thinkers including social activists.

-Creation of Ideas and New Thinking

Too often, emphasis has been put only on tangibles. I believe that before reaching sustainable and lasting changes, i.e. tangibles, what is often missing is a strong process of analysis and brainstorming. Given the great diversity of actors involved in different, parallel processes and domains, new approaches like design thinking and creative problem solving could help generate trust, overcome differences and prejudices that currently are impeding cross sector “pollination”. Moreover a strong trust building component will help bridge knowledge gaps among different sectors. At the end, all players and parties to the initiative should understand that they are all indispensible though they are different and diverse.

Traditional external donors could be part of the initiative, possibly by offering some financial leveraging or incentive and expertise in order to facilitate the generation of ideas, some of which, based on clear criteria, could be seed funded through a prototype phase.

After a trial period, what works could be further supported though market dynamics should have a predominant role in making partnerships successful.

Traditional donors could set up a sort of social innovation and cross cooperation facility. They can act a bit like the Clinton Foundation that helps “creating partnerships with a purpose”. For example, the Clinton Global Iniatives bring different agents of changes together and broker well defined, measurable commitments to solve specific problems.

In short the forum can offer the best venue to create innovative public private and civil society partnerships. What do you think? Does it make sense to give a try?

Ask Hillary Clinton…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKZ-jqU5-sU

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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