October 2005

MDG 8 overview

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Over recent years, interest in better understanding the Multistakeholder Partnership (MSP) has grown significantly. Multistakeholder Partnership being an approach to address development challenges throughout the world 'has gained much currency in development circles, trouncing the popularity of PPP (Public-Private Partnerships)'. Enormous success of a good number of partnership initiatives across the developing world has encouraged many development practitioners including development agencies, civil society and public sector to take into account MSP approach to address development problems and challenges. Globalisation has also impacted positively to promote collaboration and partnership. MSP allows organisations from diverse sectors to take advantage of innovative synergies and attain outcomes that are not always possible for any one of them to attain acting alone. Some practices in developing countries has already demonstrated that MSP possess significant potentials to put forward an institutional mechanism to strengthen each organisation involved to maximise organisational objectives while at the same time, achieve the common goals set by the partnership to address specific development issues in many important sectors, e.g. Information and Communication Technologies for Development, telecommunications, health, tourism and so on.

Definition and basic elements
MSP denotes to a collaborative process which aims to bring together all major stake-holders in a new form of communication, decision-finding and possibly decision-making on a particular issue. They are based on recognition of the importance of achieving equity and accountability in communication between stakeholders, involving equitable representation of three or more stakeholder groups and their views. They are based on democratic principles of transparency and participation, and aim to develop partnerships and strengthened networks among stakeholders.

MSP can encompass a range of actors from state to non-state entities including business, civil society. All stakeholders involved in the MSP reach to an agreement to work together to realise some common goals through sharing resources and competencies. A true and effective MSP has potential to bring together three distinct elements:

  • Competencies: Resources, roles, responsibilities, or behaviour that are the true strengths of the partner in contributing to the social and environmental objectives of the partnership;
  • Complementary: Resources, roles, responsibilities, and behaviour that add value to the resources, roles, respon-sibilities, or behaviour of other partners for  achieving the social and environ-mental objectives of the partnership;
  • Core: Contributions by each partner that assist the contributing partner to meet its own organisational objectives, for example, competitiveness, poverty reduction, or governance.

MSP activities can be involved in dialogues on policy or grow to include consensus-building, decision making and implementation of practical solutions. The exact nature of any such process will depend on the issues, its objectives, participants, and scope and time lines, among other factors.

Importance of MSP
MSP is not an option but necessity given the complex nature of developmental problems and challenges of the world. Increased collaboration among develop-ment agencies, civil society, governments and businesses around the world to address development issues have enhanced creditability of MSP.

Several factors have contributed to emergence of MSP as a strategy to address development issues, some of which are as follows:

  • Over recent years the number of development issues have significantly increased and no one sector can really address all these issues. MSP encompass more holistic approach to intervene in specific areas. It involves actions by more than one partner and hence, increases chances for success.
  • MSP as a development strategy has the capacity to deal with a number of issues at a time through combining resources, skills and networks of diverse entities.
  • MSP significantly reduces transaction cost and risk linked with alternative institutional engagement. Governmental and/or intergovernmental bodies have opportunity to avoid conflicts and can assist civil society organisations to work together in a more successful way, and to avoid copying of actions.
  • The partnership provides a common platform or forum where they can share resources, skills and can harmonise their tasks in a way agreed by all partners.

Key issues and challenges
While MSP as a strategy has enormous potential, building partnership remains a challenge. A number of factors play vital roles in designing and building MSP.

  • Need assessment and identification of problem are the first step to initiate a MSP;
  • Partners should set up the goals, aims and vision of the partnership.;
  • Each partner should share information among themselves of their weakness and strength;
  • Resources and skills required should be identified at the beginning of the partnership;
  • Selecting appropriate partners are important;
  • Partnership should be based on democratic principles. This may generate required mutual trust and understanding among partners.

The issue of sustainability should be identified at the very begining of the partnership and should be carefully dealt with in the entire planning and implementation process. Capacity building initiatives and continuous learning can impact positively in sustaining partnership. 

Several factors contribute to ensure sustainability of any partnership which are as follows:

  • Trust and mutual understanding among partners are important requisite for sustainable partnership;
  • Respect for each other's cultural context among the partners;
  • Focus on achieving mutual benefit facilitating the partners to meet their own objectives as well as common goals;
  • Effective coordination and strong monitoring and evaluation tools play important roles in creating ground for sustainability of the MSP;
  • Importance of learning in MSP should get priority in the process.

It is an utmost necessary to track progress and performances of the partnership. Systematic learning of the partnership can give valuable information to identify problems during implementation as well can give impetus to sustain partnership.

Opportunity for ICT4D sector
While the concept of bridging the digital divide enjoys high priority in the development agenda of many developing countries, converting good intentions into project finance for ICT4D remains a challenge. Governments are rarely able to initiate sustainable and effective financing for technology projects that focus on poverty. To overcome this constraint, the MSP is increasingly becoming a viable and influential strategy for financing ICT4D projects in developing countries.

Concluding remarks
In order to achieve targets set by MDGs, public, private and civil societies need to combine their resources, strengths and skills. MSP can provide an effective strategy and institutional mechanism for all three sectors to address development problems and challenges. This will not only ensure cost effective use of scarce resources but also create a synergy across the development actors to achieve MDGs.

Village phone programme in Bangladesh: An example of Multistakeholder partnership
The Village Phone Programme in Bangladesh is purely a MSP bringing new information technologies to isolated rural areas while at the same time addressing issues of poverty and women's empowerment. The programme has emerged as a success story in attracting financial involvement and support from diverse stakeholders ranging from international business enterprises to bilateral donor agencies. All of the Village Phone operators are rural women who purchase a cell phone with a loan of about US$350 from Grameen Bank. These operators then sell mobile telephone services to their fellow villagers, both making a living and paying off their loans. The programme now has a subscriber base of about 150,000 and has spread to more than 35,000 villages in 61 out of 64 districts of the country.

A number of studies show that the Village Phone programme has had a positive impact on the rural economy and helped to free rural women from poverty.

The Programme is a partnership between three organisations: Grameen Bank (GB) – a microfinance institution, GrameenPhone Ltd.(GP) – a telecommunication provider and Grameen Telecom (GTC) – a not-for-profit organisation. The management and administration of the programme is taken care by GTC. The success of the Village Phone lies with its business plan and partnership structure has created a 'Win-Win” situation that allows all partners to benefit from the partners. 

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