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Building strategic private sector relationships to boost humanitarian impact

Building strategic private sector relationships to boost humanitarian impact

Humanitarian aid - focused on preventing disasters and responding to emergencies - is a complex and challenging field of work. Aid workers need to be able to mobilise rapidly and flexibly in times of crisis and have the capacity to harness innovative methods to build effective disaster resilience for at-risk communities. 

As the global climate of crises evolve and complicate, the humanitarian sector must evolve with it. Bolstering the sector’s adaptability, scope, funding and reach is key to improving its ability to anticipate and meet the challenges thrown up in disasters today. 

Enter the private sector. With significantly developed agility, scale and financial resources, the private sector is in a strong position to be an impactful partner for the humanitarian sector. Strategic partnerships with the private sector have the potential to empower the humanitarian sector to increase the impact of their work and positively benefit people in need.

The private sector plays and increasingly important role in emergencies. We need strong partnerships with strong coordination to work as equals, innovating to deliver better outcomes for people in need in times of crisis 
-Dr Syed Hasnain Ali Abbas, Regional Urban Humanitarian and Public Health Co-ordinator-Asia, OXFAM 

The Challenge 

Understanding the opportunity that private sector partnerships represent, Oxfam sought to develop an Asia Humanitarian Private Sector Strategy to leverage effective partnerships to deliver a stronger model of humanitarian preparedness and response. 

Oxfam identified that the best way to make sure this strategy was realistic and effective was to work with private sector actors to develop it. 

 As the global climate of crises evolve and complicate, the humanitarian sector must evolve with it.

Our Response 

ThinkPlace worked with Oxfam and private sector representatives to take a deep dive into the key issues, focuses, and shared value opportunities in private sector partnerships, to ultimately co-design a strategy that would lay the path for a network of high-impact partnerships in the future. 

We facilitated a 3 day co-design Airlab bringing together participants from Oxfam, private sector organisations, and other International Non-Government Organisations (INGOs) working in the humanitarian aid sector. 

The first day of the workshop focused on building a shared understanding of the current state of play across the humanitarian and private sectors. We unpacked the context in which partnerships would operate from and used this as a basis to begin developing a collective vision of what partnerships could ideally aim to achieve. 

Capture of the OXFAM Airlab

On the second day we zoomed in on the specifics of how Oxfam and the private sector could work together. After hearing the perspectives of private sector organisations, participants ideated on what collaboration could look like between the sectors, interrogating how we could maximise shared value for all parties. 

The insights generated across these days were synthesised on the final day, as participants collectively refined the key takeaways of the sessions and then mapped the path forward. 

ThinkPlace then worked with Oxfam to harness the discussion and outputs of the workshop, and transform them into a concrete and effective partnership strategy outline that would be useable and useful. 


The Impact 

The workshop was a fantastic success in building understanding between the humanitarian aid and private sectors about roadblocks and opportunities that partnerships represent. Not only were participants able to share their different perspectives, but they were also able to deeply explore different methods of collaboration and begin to build working relationships even within the workshop itself. 

The methodology was excellent and learning the broader perspective of the private sector was really value adding - workshop participant 

The Airlabs format of the workshop brought added benefit to the project, as participants were able to connect from across the world, and upskilled in digital collaboration technologies. 

The workshop helped us to learn new technology tools for meetings (MURAL). It was a good example of how we can work better remotely, which is particularly useful in the current context. The objectives of the workshop are met to a large extent, and we have made good progress. -workshop participant 

Overall, co-design proved its merits once again, as the project illuminated the path forward towards impactful and sustainable private sector partnerships for the humanitarian sector. 

Inspiring and a lot of opportunities; we need to change quickly and be bold. - workshop participant

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Oxfam International

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