In November 2011, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published a report on Seizing the Opportunity in Public-Private Partnerships: Strengthening Capacity at the State Department, USAID, and MCC. This report represented the beginnings of a long-term commitment to understand and shape policy and approaches with respect to public-private partnerships (PPPs) and global development within a broader initiative to help strengthen the U.S. government’s development capabilities. As part of these efforts, CSIS has in the past two years convened a number of events with NGOs and for-profits in both public and off-the-record sessions. In December 2011, CSIS released the report Sharing Risk in a World of Dangers and Opportunities: U.S. Development Finance Tools, followed by Our Shared Opportunity: A Vision for Global Prosperityin March 2013.
Currently, the term “public-private partnership” is used to describe a broad and varied spectrum of arrangements, many of which are perhaps incorrectly placed in this category. In its 2011 Seizing the Opportunity report, CSIS defined partnerships as “an approach to solving development problems through a coordinated and concerted effort between government and nongovernment actors, including companies and civil society, leveraging the resources, expertise, or market efforts to achieve greater impact and sustainability in development outcomes.” In addition, it identified three models of partnerships: financial partnerships, partnerships based on expertise, and partnerships based on market.
Public-private partnerships offer official donors, private sector actors, and recipient governments an approach to development solutions at a time when traditional sources of funding and energy for development are under strain, while also offering synergies among partners leveraging their talents, technologies, expertise, and convening power. The idea of tri-sector partnerships, for the most part, connotes an alliance among an international NGO, a for-profit company or private foundation, and a bilateral donor. Partnerships, however, do not have to conform to this model; consulting firms, universities, the World Bank Group, and the United Nations system, among other actors, are often attractive and capable partners as well.