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Author Picture By - Oct 29, 2015

Cookstoves Photo credit - Alex Kamweru for UN Foundation

This post is authored by Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, and R. Venkataramanan, Executive Trustee of the Tata Trusts.

Last month, world leaders gathered at the United Nations to adopt a new set of global development goals that aim to end extreme poverty, promote inclusive economic growth, and protect the planet. The result is an ambitious yet achievable agenda for the 21st century, if we harness 21st century development practices.

To reach these new global development goals, we need to focus on how we invest in development – not just how much.

Many of today’s challenges are too complex and big for government or business alone to solve.  Public-private partnerships will play a key role in driving progress on the new global development agenda.

Take the issue of cooking, for example. Right now, 3 billion people around the world rely on open fires and traditional cookstoves and fuels to cook their meals. The smoke from this way of cooking is responsible for more than 4 million premature deaths a year, with women and children especially affected.

Transforming how 3 billion people cook so cooking no longer kills is no simple task: clean cooking is an energy issue, a health issue, an environmental issue, a women’s empowerment issue, and in many countries, it is also a social and cultural issue. Addressing this challenge requires numerous steps, such as conducting research, developing grading standards, educating households, building demand, creating new distribution models, and changing harmful behaviors that have been ingrained over centuries. To achieve change on this scale, we need the strengths and expertise of all sectors and communities at the table.

The United Nations Foundation and Tata Trusts, along with numerous partners and donors, are working with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves – a public-private partnership working to create a thriving global market for clean cookstoves and fuels. The Alliance serves as a conductor of a diverse orchestra of 1,300 actors – from governments to businesses to academic institutions and women’s cooperatives – while pooling varied financial resources from the public and private sectors.

The Alliance has helped create a cohesive ecosystem to tackle the cookstoves challenge, providing a platform to share information and knowledge, leverage financial and human resources, and strengthen cooperation, among other benefits. Since its founding in late 2010, the Alliance has helped spur the adoption of cleaner, more efficient cooking solutions in nearly 30 million homes, putting it on target to reach its goal of 100 million homes by 2020.

As the international community looks ahead to implementing the new global goals, many of the lessons from the Alliance’s operating model could help strengthen public-private partnerships that will work on the next development agenda. Specifically, here are four recommendations from our experience and that of the Alliance:

Engage early and often with the people and communities that you aim to reach.

This is where the market-based approach of “know your customer” is critical and vastly different from approaches of traditional aid, as research in the cookstoves and fuels sector has shown. For example, the cookstoves and fuels sector has found that because women are primarily responsible for fuel collection and cooking, putting them at the center of the value chain – from product development to marketing and sales – can lead to more consistent and correct stove usage and can also boost sales. Engaging with existing community institutions, specifically for understanding their needs and getting regular feedback, helps design a comprehensive technology-based solution for both at the product as well as business model level which is managed in synergies with the local economy. This approach helps generate bottom up feedback from the communities and in turn also sensitizes them on the benefits of using such cookstoves.

Go local.

Effective organization models don’t just focus on the global, but have clearly defined roles and strong and long-lasting local footprints. It is critical to build local capacity to support current and future collaborative engagement among a set of local actors to ensure sustainability.

Make financing flexible and accessible.

Development interventions need multi-year, flexible financing initially, followed by longer-term results based financing. Organizations can be more effective if they can plan beyond fiscal year to fiscal year. They also need to be able to adapt to conditions on the ground and as they measure progress. We have seen the importance of this flexibility with the Alliance, with Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, and with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Furthermore, while official development assistance is important, we must tap into the more creative range of private and public resources that can and should be leveraged. Results-based financing is an important tool that gives the opportunity to enhance financing while ensuring accountability. Blending public and private capital can create a multiplier effect that is more sustainable in the long-term.

Define priorities. Create metrics. Measure effectiveness.

To deliver on our next set of global development goals, we must hold ourselves accountable. That requires that we set clearly defined priorities, make room for innovation in technology, business models, and community engagements, and develop appropriate metrics to measure whether we are meeting our goals. This will also allow us to know when and how to scale a particular approach and whether we need to make course corrections.

We are in a new era of development that recognizes the need for fresh approaches and engagement from all sectors. These lessons can help the international community move beyond traditional models and strengthen public-private partnerships so we can translate our next set of global goals from words to lasting change.

Photo credit – Alex Kamweru for UN Foundation

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