Humanitarian crises are occurring with greater frequency within the global landscape. These crises are becoming long lasting and require long-term solutions. Simultaneously, NGOs and humanitarian agencies are experiencing declining donor funding. This development—coupled with an increasing pressure on crisis-affected communities—calls for innovative solutions to tackle protracted crises by involving new actors.
The United Nations World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), taking place in Istanbul this coming May, will advocate for a global humanitarian innovation alliance. There is a need for government, and indeed business and humanitarian actors to develop new partnerships that will leverage the capabilities of all sectors.
Partnering to break new ground
Solutions must to a greater extent incorporate sustainability and resiliency perspectives – for individuals and communities affected, as well as the countries burdened by the task of sheltering displaced populations. Types of collaborative arrangements between donors, NGOs, and private business need to be reconfigured into a business-based approach where partners jointly identify market-based needs and co-develop innovative solutions.
The rationale for each of the parties to work in partnership is clear. Companies will make money. This is a condition for their participation. Refugee communities will free themselves from being recipients of humanitarian gifts and instead seek entrepreneurial and sustainable solutions. NGOs will create added value both financially, through optimized service delivery and through new partnership accomplishments, all of which can be reinvested in the search for durable solutions for the displaced. The role of donors will be that of facilitators enabling the development of business-based efforts into sustainable solutions.
Shared Value Initiative Consulting Affiliate KJAER ADVICE has brokered an innovative cross-sector partnership agreement between the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) – one of the world’s leading humanitarian organizations – and Grundfos – a world leader in water system solutions.
Partnering with the humanitarian sector will supply Grundfos with unique access to- and knowledge about the needs of displaced populations. DRC’s strong presence in the global humanitarian landscape provides market knowledge that will enable Grundfos to seize new market opportunities in crisis-affected areas, as well as surrounding developing markets. The reward for DRC lies in ensuring better service delivery and product innovations for target communities. Grundfos’ unique knowledge of water technology and sustainable business models will enable DRC to better respond to identified local needs and with the help of Grundfos to co-develop technical solutions.
Pilot testing this new cross-sector approach will kick-off during field visits firstly to countries in the MENA-region followed by one or two African countries. The fact-finding missions—in which technical university scholars are also invited to join—will visit not only campsites but broader refugee communities within the host countries to explore WASH-related needs and unmet business opportunities (e.g. water utility services, raw water pumping solutions, drinking water treatment, sanitation, waste water treatment). The aim is for the partnership to jointly identify commercial value and aid efficiency gains in the invention of new products and service development solutions.
It is envisioned that these joint efforts may enhance an environment of local entrepreneurship, job creation and microeconomic improvements for the benefit of refugees and the host countries. The partnership is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Denmark (DANIDA).
To embark on transformative partnerships is not an easy task. Previous experiences suggest that value and good intentions are often ‘lost in translation’ between multiple sectors working together. Only when partners begin to understand and appreciate the different contributions that each sector is capable of bringing to the table, will cross-sector partnerships lead to meaningful and sustainable solutions. It will take a paradigmatic shift to realise the UN Sustainable Development Goal 17 of utilizing global partnerships for sustainable development.
The initiative has been submitted for presentation at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016.