Workshop Summary Report

 June 23, 2015

Ottawa, Canada

The practice of cross-sector NGO-business partnerships have reached an important milestone. Today, with an increasingly sophisticated body of practice established around the NGO-business partnership landscape, the conversation has further, toward asking “How else” and “How better” can the two sectors engage one another. This was the theme of a workshop convened by the Devonshire Initiative on June 23 in Ottawa, Canada, with a focused day of discussion amongst more than 40 representatives from the private sector, Government, and civil society.

Despite the multiplicity of reasons for organizations to engage in partnerships, only one-third of participants identified a formal approach to evaluating the effectiveness and result of these partnerships; more than two-thirds indicated they had encountered barriers to effectively evaluating partnerships.

The workshop opened with a panel discussion that focused on various perspectives around the emerging practice of conducting partnership evaluations. Acknowledging the multitude of underlying goals and objectives of the partnership participants is only the beginning. It is important that partnerships be regularly ‘health checked’, ‘stress tested,’ and assessed from the inside out. Sustaining the partnership evaluation throughout the lifecycle of the collaboration will allow for course corrections as challenges and opportunities emerge, and will allow the partners to individually and collectively show progression along key milestones.

Workshop participants heard from Accenture Development Partners on the accelerated movement toward the businesses increasingly pursuing social purpose objectives for commercial reasons, and non-profits engaging in market-oriented approaches. It is envisioned that this new paradigm will see ‘seamless’ collaboration between businesses, NGOs and development investors.

All this presents a changing landscape for different organizations. In the second half of the workshop, partnerships were engaged in a series of small group discussions to probe the common challenges of effective partnership evaluation.

Ultimately, success from appropriately engaging the necessary resources to conduct evaluations should be apparent when there are recognized milestone moments for changing decision-making processes or partnership activities; that is, when it becomes apparent that a learning culture has been embedded in the wider partnership. The value proposition of evaluating and communicating on partnerships should become self evident to participating organizations through these reflective processes. As well, the results of well-resourced partnership evaluations will be reflected in outcomes on the ground.[/fusion_text]