Good Reads on NGOs in Inclusive Business

To come right to the point: there’s not much literature on NGOs in Inclusive Business (IB) out there. This only confirms that it is long overdue to push NGOs from the backstage into the limelight and give their engagement in IB more visibility. Nonetheless, there are some very relevant publications that are interesting reads for both NGOs and other stakeholders in the IB ecosystem:

NGOs partnering with businesses: Examples

“CSOs & Business: Joint agents for change” (2012)

The report is the product of a learning event on CSO-business partnerships for NGOs and businesses hosted by PSO, ICCO, Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation and the Partnership Resource Centre at Erasmus University Rotterdam in 2011. Documenting reflections and experiences of the workshop participants, the publication shares five insights on the cooperation between private sector and civil society. They cover all phases of a partnership from identifying potential and agreeing on common objectives to managing the collaboration, evaluating its success and deciding on continuation or exit.

“Sunrise Azerbaijan” (2014)

This case study on “Sunrise”, a partnership project of Oxfam and Unilever, authored by Reos Partners, provides a balanced perspective. It gives a detailed account of the partnering organisations’ motivations and objectives, the partnership set up, and the challenges the partners encountered with the implementation of the project and with each other. The report derives valuable lessons learned. The presentation “How can NGOs work effectively with companies?” (2014) provides a summary for the less avid reader.

“Take your partners: large companies and collaboration in the Business Innovation Facility portfolio” (2013)

This edition of the series “Inside Inclusive Business” by Business Innovation Facility (BIF) summarises the outcomes of a survey on the reasons and extents of IB partnerships. Large companies in particular partner with other organisations, and cross-sector partnerships with NGOs or public entities are the most frequently used type. The “Insider” further explores why and to what extent large companies collaborate with other organisations to advance their IB projects, providing helpful insights into the company perspective on NGO-business partnerships.

“Creating alliances to accelerate commercially viable sanitation” (2015)

Hystra highlights lessons learnt from the Toilet Board Coalition (TBC) and its scalable market-based initiatives to improve access to sanitation for millions. A global alliance of companies, government agencies, multilateral institutions and non-profit organisations, each with individual motivations, TBC provides insights on various partnership dynamics and lessons learned for multi-stakeholder partnerships for development. The report derives lessons on co-creating collaborative projects and on making coalitions possible, efficient and impactful.  

NGOs partnering with businesses: Tools

“The MSP Guide. How to design and facilitate multi-stakeholder partnerships” (2015)

Compiled by the Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation, this extensive guide to multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development covers the why, the what and the how of partnering across sectors. It advises on the rationale, design, key success factors, effective facilitation and enabling tools for multi-stakeholder partnerships, complemented by experience reports from different perspectives. It was Editor’s Choice in May 2016. The official companion to the guide is “The MSP Tool Guide: Sixty tools to facilitate multi-stakeholder partnerships” (2016). The name tells the story: it contains sixty useful tools to support processes in multi-stakeholder partnerships, grouped by six purposes – connection, issue exploration and shared language, divergence, co-creation, convergence and commitment.

“How to do Public-Private-Producer Partnerships (4Ps) in Agricultural Value Chains. Sustainable inclusion of smallholders in agricultural value chains” (2016)

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) adds a fourth P to the traditional PPP (public-private partnership). The 4P approach seeks to ensure that smallholder producers are respected partners rather than passive beneficiaries in PPPs. A third party – IFAD, or an NGO – acts as honest broker and facilitator. Earlier this year, SNV explained the “4P approach on the Hub”.

“The Partnering Toolbook” (2011)

The manual compiled by The Partnering Initiative (TPI) gives an overview of the essential elements that make for effective cross-sector partnering. A comprehensive and detailed, yet basic guide to successful partnering, complemented by tool templates, the Toolbook can support various types of multi-stakeholder partnerships.

The Hub has also developed several checklists, useful tools specifically designed for partnering for inclusive business, in partnership with The Partnering Initiative (TPI).  “Assessing Partnerships for IB” gives eight criteria to help you take a go/no go decision before entering into a partnership and “The Partnering Agreement Checklist” supports organisations to develop a partnering agreement.

NGOs engaging in impact investing

“Amplify”:The INGO Value Proposition for Impact Investing” (2016)

Based on data from a survey with 31 respondents, the INGO Impact Investing Network compiled a graphic “state of play” of NGO engagement in impact investing. It examines NGOs’ activities as investors and investees, TA providers and ecosystem facilitators, as well as the associated challenges, such as internal capacity, organizational culture, measurement, and partnerships.

“Impact Investing: Who are we serving? A case of mismatch between supply and demand” (2017)

This discussion paper by Oxfam takes the perspective of the demand side in impact investing, that is, enterprises in need of capital. It seeks to make their voice heard and give the impact investing field a reality check, arguing that expectations about market-rate financial returns on impact investments represent a risk of mission drift. The report is a reminder to focus on pursuing impact, not financial gains.

NGOs setting up inclusive businesses

“Initial Learning and Guidance: Embarking on Social Enterprise Initiatives” (2013)

A guide drawing on CARE’s extensive experience with setting up social enterprises and illustrated by short case studies from CARE’s portfolio of social enterprises, it explains CARE’s rationale and market-based approach to reducing poverty, provides answers to frequently asked questions and a roadmap to setting up social enterprises.



This blog is a part of the October 2017 series on NGOs in inclusive business, in partnership with endeva.

Read the full series for insights on what kind of roles NGOs have carved out for themselves, either as partners of companies, as intermediaries, investors, or even as entrepreneurs and their lessons learnt in doing so.

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