Platforms for Private Sector - Humanitarian Collaboration
Ground-breaking research into private sector-humanitarian engagement
By Joanne Burke, HFP Partnerships Manager
A study by HFP identifies new ways in which the private sector can play a wider and more effective role in humanitarian action, identifying platforms – entities that foster strategic commercial and humanitarian alliances – as having the potential to greatly improve crisis prevention, preparedness, response and recovery for more complex and diverse risk challenges facing humankind.
Under its work stream on ‘new and emerging actors’ HFP continues to explore different themes around the evolving role of the private sector and its contribution to humanitarian action, now and in the future. The “Platforms for Private Sector-Humanitarian Collaboration” study examined 15 platforms which represent a sampling of types of humanitarian-private sector platform models that operate at global, regional and national level. The research consists of desk-based research and 57 interviews with representatives of the platform secretariats, member organisations, donors and other external partner. It draws together information that was previously not available or accessible.
Our study provides a snapshot of what platforms at global, regional and national levels are doing and not doing, identifying the factors that help as well as hinder the ability of platforms to support members to address both current but also future humanitarian challenges they may face.
The study finds that, “The trigger for the creation of a majority of platforms was a specific ‘game changing’ disaster. Platforms arise as a result of an extraordinary occurrence, something that jolts organisations and communities out of their normal mode of operation. Faced with a challenge that overwhelms the capacity of one organisation, or an NGO-private sector partnership, platforms have emerged to help diverse actors jointly understand the gaps and identify ways to address them.”
The research shows that platforms facilitate three forms of private sector engagement ranging from philanthropic, to using its core competencies as partner with a humanitarian actor, to contributing to transformative change initiatives in the way that humanitarian action is conceived and delivered. One of the main added values of platforms is they provide a clear access point for the private sector to engage, helping to overcome common challenges to engagement. Platforms are also seen to increase the scale of efforts, making it easier for potential partners to access a number of organisations simultaneously rather than having to make numerous individual connections. Yet, platforms also struggle to define and measure their impact.
Fifteen recommendations emerged from the research, directed at platform secretariats as well as donors, the private sector and the wider humanitarian community. The findings postulate that the skills, capacities and innovative practices of the private sector are needed to deal with the demands of increasingly complex humanitarian futures along with the increasing politicisation of crises and the assertiveness of national authorities. Yet, in order to be ‘fit for the future’ the study advocates that platforms will need to assume a stronger information, research and analysis role, make better and greater use of technology and social media, increase their emphasis on supporting members to identify and access innovation and innovative practices, engage more broadly with a wider set of actors and other platforms and strengthen their convening and facilitating role and capacity. Private sector actors looking to begin or increase their engagement in humanitarian action should consider whether engagement through platforms, in addition to or instead of, individual partnerships with humanitarian actors provides a way to achieve their aims.
In the absence of any commonly accepted definition for platforms, HFP defines platforms as intermediary mechanisms which support and promote the engagement of the private sector in humanitarian action, either engaging in partnership with humanitarian agencies or as an actor in its own right.
The Aidmatrix Foundation (USA); Business Civic Leadership Center, USA; Business in the Community, UK; Business for Peace Alliance, Sri Lanka; CiYuan, China; Corporate Network for Disaster Response, Philippines; Disaster Management Alliance, USA; Disaster Resource Network, India; Fleet Forum, Switzerland; Global Hand, UK; Kenyans for Kenya, Kenya; NetHope, USA; Pacific Humanitarian Team, Fiji; Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management, Fiji; Partnerships for Quality Medical Donations, USA; World Economic Forum Logistics Emergency Team, Switzerland.