Bonus question


Congratulations, you’re an expert on what it takes to work with governments now. For tips and tricks suited to your situation, check the below:

If continuity is your challenge, do you want to know how to build resilience towards political, legal and institutional change and spread risk?

If reliability and accountability are your challenge, do you want to ensure commitment and build political momentum with government?

If partnering capacity is your challenge, do you want to increase potential for (vertical) scaling and sustainability?

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Repertoire of practices by other partnerships dealing with challenges


Do you want to know how to build resilience towards political, legal and institutional change and spread risk? Check practices on identifying multiple entry points in institutions you want to work with.


How to build resilience to political change

Mitigating risks is one approach to building resilience to changes in the political and institutional context. This is in order to deal with the unpredictable developments that affect (collaboration with) the Public P, which can either be related to the complexity of the public sector with its different levels, or new institutional structures (as in Kenya), or new counterparts following elections or government shuffles. Partnerships following this approach link to the Public P’s interests, such as leveraging resources for development, strengthening policy design and implementation, and enhancing service provision.


These practices demonstrate an ability to maintain multiple entry points in institutions and to deepen local networks. In the design of their programmes they take local context as a starting point. While such flexible design works well to mitigate the risks of an unpredictable environment, it remains important for lead partners to monitor a localized approach closely in order to avoid making the project dependent on certain local personalities. This approach should therefore be based on adaptive programming with a solid risk-monitoring component.


While most partnerships do not want to engage in politics, many are well aware of the political economy around the institutions in their sectors, which allows them to respond swiftly when opportune or needed. Timing is key: when to engage with a public partner also depends on the development of the political and institutional context—for example, as a result of elections or the introduction of new institutional structures.


In the food sector, some PPPs were not properly prepared for the political realities of the context or failed to build in sufficient contingencies. This necessitated diplomatic intervention and the trust factor provided by the Dutch Embassies. In spite of the increased dealings of governments with the international companies (as well as INGOs), government-to-government relations are still viewed in Ghana and Kenya as the backbone of partnerships.


Practices for identifying multiple entry points to institutions

Engage higher decision-making levels

Lead partner Agrico was confronted with the complexity of different levels of the Public P and with the substantial delays in certification by the government agency KEPHIS. It opted for another entry point to the Public P: the ministerial level. The 2016 visit of the Dutch Secretary of Economic Affairs expedited the process, which demonstrated that high-level engagement and policy influencing can be an effective approach to mitigating such challenges. As the lead partner advised:

For other companies willing to do business in Kenya, I would advise to always work in close cooperation with the Kenyan government and the Dutch Embassies, because in Kenya you will encounter things you could have never have envisioned

Go local

In its earlier food security project in Kenya, lead partner Solidaridad had been confronted with the devolution of structures: it now had to engage with the counties. The partnership decided to invest in collaboration. In this process, Solidaridad’s Kenya office had deepened its local networks with the counties. The 2014 Solidaridad project, Food for All, was led by the Kenya office, rather than the Netherlands office, as it was better able to navigate the local political context.

Engage informal leaders

In Ghana, lead partner IWAD and its partner Wienco, having been in the area for decades, knew that the rules and regulations do not reflect the reality on the ground—that it is the local chiefs who are in charge. They were well prepared for the territorial issue of land ownership, which complicates projects all over Ghana. As the lead partner noted:

Collaboration with the public partner in Ghana involves not only dealing with formal government institutions, but also with the chiefs in our region: sitting under trees together and negotiating land issues. Such preparations are crucial for the success of the PPP.



Do you want to increase potential for (vertical) scaling and sustainability? Check practices to invest in partnering and collaborative capacity of your government partner



 Increase potential for scaling and sustainability

One approach to promoting institutional sustainability is to work on increasing the potential for scaling at the level of the Public P. This addresses the challenge of limited capacities, not only on the technical level, but also with regard to partnering which, if not in place, can negatively affect the PPP’s contribution to system change. What incentivizes the Public P to work with partnerships following this approach is not only strengthening its own capacity, but also leveraging resources for development. As such, the capacity its builds through partnering and negotiating with the partnership can provide a plank for new partnerships to come in. Whereas training can be useful for technical capacity in conventional aid projects, one effective approach to building capacity and developing partnering capacities is to offer the in-country Public P a full-fledged, responsible role in the partnership, based on the principle of equity in partnership.


Practices for investing in partnering capacity

Many partnerships deal with the limited capacities of the Public P, while they need them to play their roles properly in the project; in this sense they are dependent on them. The practices for dealing with this range from ad hoc capacity in exchange for cash, to investing in the Public P’s partnering and negotiation capacity beyond the traditional training approach.


Arrange ad hoc capacity

An example of ad hoc exchange between the partnership and the Public P is the approach taken by Solidaridad in Ghana in its promotion of sustainable maize in northern Ghana. Whenever the PPP requires Public P engagement, public officials are hired on a consultancy basis. Whereas this is not an investment in reinforced capacity, it does provide the basic capacity that the project needs.

Forge strategic deal exchanging capacity support for policy influence

Water and sanitation partnerships, such as those led by the WASTE foundation in Kenya, go one step further and are based on strategic ‘deals’ that exchange strengthened capacity for policy influence, such as nurturing the Public P’s capacities via platforms, investing in partners while influencing the new rules of the game for the sector through vertical scaling. Lead partner Vitens Evidens International, a joint venture of Dutch water companies, is deliberately trying to achieve system change beyond the boundaries of their own project by engaging many of the Kenyan water utilities while also gradually influencing the regulatory body (WASREB).


Build partnering capacity with the private sector

The most common method mentioned for reinforcing the capacity of the Public P is training. Lead partner Pharmaccess involved county governments by letting officials participate in the training for small and medium health enterprises, thereby supporting the counties in effectively managing their new task of public health service delivery. This project also invests in longer-term relations with the Public P by working closely with the public sector opportunities that arise for the private health (SME) sector to engage in public health service delivery, including through engagement in the National Hospital Insurance Scheme. Trust is a crucial issue in this regard. According to Pharmacess, which has been working in Kenya for over a decade:

Once you show that it worked, you can build on that together


The ultimate way to build partnering capacity is to allow the Public P to take up a full-fledged and responsible role in the partnership, striving for equity in partnership. In a public–private partnership,[1] this is not a linear process, though some partnerships try. This is the case in the water management partnership in Ghana, where the government agency Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) is in a cofinancing and codecision position. Having matured in this role, the empowered SADA is keen to have more responsibility in the partnership, particularly in the governance structure. However, it is also keen not to risk its good relationship with the lead partner with a view to future projects with (or scaling via) the lead partner. As SADA, which is the government agency responsible for the development of northern Ghana, notes:


In the beginning, SADA—as a new institution—did not have the capacity to negotiate good deals with the private sector. Our partnerships were based on trust. Over the years, and through our project with IWAD, this capacity has grown and we are now able to negotiate new partnerships and better deals with private sector

(Government of Ghana)


Do you want to ensure commitment and build political momentum with government? Check practices on getting early buy-in and co-design the partnership with government.



How to get early buy-in to ensure commitment

Early involvement is one approach to securing continuous commitment from the Public P with partnerships, as well as within partnerships. This also helps avoid the challenge of the Public P using its bargaining power at a later stage to negotiate the terms of the partnership or a higher price for access to assets such as land and water. Partnerships applying this approach demonstrate synergies with various Public P motivations: to strengthen their political mandate, leverage resources for development, and strengthen their capacity. Joint design of the project ensures a degree of commitment and responsibility, but also builds in an element of monitoring the role of the public partner. Such early engagement can make the Public P more reliable, but requires from the start good management of expectations regarding the benefits of the project: transparent communication and the consistent application of rules.


Even if involving the Pubic P is a formal requirement, as with FDW, most water and sanitation partnerships are well connected to public partners at the earliest stages, even before the project because, as lead partner Vitens Evidens International notes:

we think like public sector ourselves


Practices to build political momentum with the Public P

Joint project design

For SmarterWash, a project in Ghana, lead partner IRC jointly designed the proposal with the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) of the Ghanaian government, which played a key role from the start. A good working relationship had already been built prior to the project. The project seeks to calibrate data with regard to nonfunctioning water points, as well as an effective response system for District Authorities and Ghanaian government using the internet and mobile phones. In this way, the government can effectively budget and plan investments. The project has enjoyed good cooperation with the government staff of the district assemblies and with regional and national agencies in the capacity development efforts. However, private sector involvement was relatively small and the sustainability of the activity depends largely on the likely government uptake of data calibration mechanisms.[2]


Strengthen political mandate

In Kenya, while other partnerships were struggling in their relationship with the new counties, WASTE was introduced by its locally based partner AMREF to the Busia Governor, as well as to the local Member of Parliament. They decided to coinvest in water and sanitation business opportunities for youth and women groups in this poor region bordering Uganda, where employment opportunities are few. Through the partner’s good ‘intelligence’ on local decision makers, the partnership was able to seize momentum, create political will for the PPP, and obtain a local license to operate, while linking to the public partner’s incentive of strengthening its political mandate.

Facilitate exposure visits

Creating political will and buy-in was also the approach of lead partner Vitens Evidens International when dealing with an individual public manager that used it bargaining power to negotiate the terms of the partnership. In an earlier project, the organization had been confronted with high expectations by a particular county governor. As this county was key to the PPP, the governor was invited on an exposure visit to the Netherlands, which smoothed collaboration with this public actor on an individual level. These exposure visits are a common practice in the utility sector to ensure commitment of partners.


[1]see MTR FDW, which questions the private-sector nature of a number of private partners, mainly those in drinking water partnerships.

[2]MTR FDW, November 2016


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