• Guest blog by Christy Davis

Multi-stakeholder partnerships and the opportunities for positive social change

Why is it that multi-sector partnerships – collaboration across business, government and the social sector – offer such an opportunity to be a catalyst for positive social change? Grow Asia’s approach to development provides an indication of the innovative potential that can be harnessed when committed and persistent people work together to achieve creative solutions.

I witnessed some of these people – the Country Partnership leads – as they put forward their business development plans and value propositions to a diverse panel of judges at a Grow Asia Secretariat training session on Nov. 22. As I also had the pleasure to support the Secretariat capability training as a judge last year, a year on I observed 3 points in particular:

  1. The Country Partnerships (I heard five of the six) continue to extend their root structures - building strategic relationships, providing needs-driven learning, advisory and partnership support for not just for farmers, but partners and other stakeholders as well. Developing a robust evidence base of impact is receiving excellent attention from leadership.

  2. Farmer and partner pain points were top of mind this year. County leadership is taking a more strategic view, looking at initiatives from a value chain approach to better assess the overall farmer-to-market process, the stakeholders involved, and the critical issues and pain points along the way.

  3. Multi-sector partnerships are essential for impact at scale. The Grow Asia national platforms, supported by a regional Secretariat, provide some ballast to a diverse and complicated region that benefits from both national level depth and a birds-eye view of regional strengths and opportunities to leverage across countries.

A favourite definition of innovation of mine is one by fhi360: Anything different than standard practice that has the potential for radical social, environmental, or economic impact [1]. What is not business as usual is the facilitating of complex partnerships to tackle issues that have beset people for decades. With the boundaries separating government, business and the social sector blurring, there is a need for neutral platforms like Grow Asia that can bring the sectors together and offer expertise in finding ways to work together, and pool resources and strengths in new ways. I’ll look forward to next year, hopefully to enjoy stories of lives changed for the better – not just of farmers, but of the partners who also came alongside to share the risks and rewards of collaboration.

[1] The Atlas of Innovation for Economic Stability

Christy Davis is Executive Director of the Lien Centre for Social Innovation at the Singapore Management University, and Editor in Chief of its flagship publication, Social Space. She brings more than 25 years of experience across the private, public and social sectors. Prior to joining the Centre, Christy founded Asia P3 Hub, a multi-sector partnership hub hosted by World Vision International, whose aim is to tackle effects of poverty and collectively create solutions to benefit families and communities.

Originally from the US, she has made her home across four countries in the Asia Pacific for 30 years. She can be reached at christydavis@smu.edu.sg

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