October 23, 2015

Georgetown Anti-Poverty Society Conference

The Georgetown Anti-Poverty Society (GAPS), with support from the Office of the Vice President for Global Engagement and the Masters of Science in Foreign Service program, hosted a conference on the role of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in international development on October 23, 2015.

The event was keynoted by Dr. Rajiv Shah, former administrator of USAID (2010-2015) and current distinguished fellow in residence at Georgetown, who highlighted the importance of cross-sector collaboration as development practitioners work to create a “baseline of opportunity” for every person on the planet. Dr. Shah shared his own lessons about working with the private sector during USAID’s response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa earlier this year.

The conference brought together professionals from the public, private, and multilateral sectors who participated in lively dialogue about the benefits and challenges that emerge when governments and the private sector work together to tackle some of the world’s most urgent challenges. Participants on each of three panels—focused on energy, technology, and health—discussed opportunities for PPPs to create shared value by joining strengths across sectors.

The energy panel, moderated by George Ingram of the Brookings Institution, discussed the elements that make up a successful partnership. Panelists pointed out the importance of identifying projects that are appropriate for a PPP format, as well as equitably allocating risk and expertise across participants. They also noted the challenges of executing PPPs in countries with reputations for corruption or otherwise poor climates for investment.

Kristi Ragan from development contractor DAI and the Center for Development Innovation at USAID facilitated a dynamic conversation between Raelyn Campbell of the UN Foundation’s Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action and Wayan Vota of FHI 360 about PPPs in the tech sector. They pointed out that technology used for development does not have to be fancy or brand new—sometimes the simplest solutions are the most scalable. Vota also warned against fixating on scalability; PPPs should have a clearly defined target population and may not be suitable at a broader scale.

The final panel was constituted of representatives who have worked on health-related PPPs from the angle of multinational corporations, including Procter & Gamble and Tata & Sons, as well as non-profits and international financial institutions. Panelists, moderated by Maureen Lewis of Aceso Global, discussed the difference between corporate social responsibility and “shared value,” as well as the diverse forms that PPPs can take.

Peter Raymond, PWC’s leader for capital projects and infrastructure, gave closing remarks summarizing themes from the day for the audience of over 200, including development practitioners as well as graduate and undergraduate students from Georgetown, George Washington, American, and Johns Hopkins universities. Participants had the opportunity to network with one another and the panelists during a reception following the event.