TechnoServe CEO Speaks at Harvard on New Models of Partnerships

April 14, 2011

On April 2, TechnoServe President and CEO Bruce McNamer gave the keynote address at the 17th Annual International Development Conference at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The theme of the conference was “New Partnerships in Development,” and Bruce used a number of examples from TechnoServe’s work to illuminate the way partnerships are evolving.

On April 2, TechnoServe President and CEO Bruce McNamer gave the keynote address at the 17th Annual International Development Conference at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The theme of the conference was “New Partnerships in Development,” and Bruce used a number of examples from TechnoServe’s work to illuminate the way partnerships are evolving. Below are some excerpts from his talk:

On the problems and challenges of global poverty:  “The numbers are staggering, and of such a scale that it’s not going to be government that solves the problem, and it’s not going to be civil society, and it’s not going to be well-intentioned NGOs, and it’s not going to be an  enlightened and progressive private sector that addresses those problems. It will take collaboration among all of these. And it’s not going to be foreign direct investment that gets it right, or harnessing the power of remittances. It’s not going to be aid but not trade, or trade but not aid. It’s going to be aid and trade, and it’s going to be remittances, and it’s going to be foreign direct investment. It’s going to be development. And the actors involved in all of those things have to find ways to collaborate.”

On globalization: “Globalization, particularly in private sector development, drives a lot of new thinking about ways of collaborating and partnering. From the perspective of a multinational corporation, there is an emerging set of real business opportunities in geographies where they never imagined working before…It’s an increasingly competitive world, and if you’re not thinking about emerging markets, particularly for some businesses, you may not be in business 10 years from now.”

On the changing perspective of corporate partnerships: “It’s moving beyond traditional corporate social responsibility – which thinks about PR and marketing the corporation – to the real strategic interests that might be served by thinking about a broader set of stakeholders, by thinking about social good, and by thinking about harnessing the capabilities, the resources, the skills, the interests of corporations in a set of economic actions that can create value and do that in parts of the world where that hasn’t actually been the case before.”

On the challenges of partnerships: “Partnerships are hard, and you better understand why you’re doing them. Partnerships are not an end in and of themselves. Partnerships are a usually necessary means to an end. And so they should be entered into seriously.”

On the role of corporate partners: “The corporation does more than bring money to the table. They bring skills. They bring the market, very often, which is the most important thing you can bring to this. They bring a kind of commercial sensibility to the undertaking.”

On the most important partners: “The most essential partners in all of this are the entrepreneurs, the smallholder farmers, the co-ops, the small business owners. They are the essential participants in this, and not as the kind of passive recipients of our skills and our largesse and our knowledge, but as really active and engaged and knowledgeable partners in what we’re trying to do. If you don’t start there, none of this stuff actually works. But if you can do that, I think getting these models right has such promise for accomplishing what we’d all like to get done.”