Best Practice Report


Public-private collaboration

Public-private collaboration

Public-private collaboration (PPC) can be a powerful means for achieving green growth outcomes. It enables the knowledge, resources, and creativity of diverse stakeholders to be harnessed to create outcomes which none could achieve on their own.

At the same time, experience shows that creating effective partnerships is not easy, and efforts may fail to achieve their objectives or deliver public value for money. Partners and collaborations should be selected strategically, designed with care, and applied when appropriate.

Roles of public and private collaboration

In this chapter, PPC is used as a broad term covering a range of possible forms of collaborations between public and private entities that can be driven either by the private sector or by the public sector, or through collaboratively governed initiatives where public and private participants engage in collective decision-making to solve a common problem. Collaborations range from formal contracts between public and private entities to loose forms of mutual support. The scope of this chapter includes but also goes beyond ‘public-private partnerships’ (PPPs) in which a consortium of companies bids to operate assets or services traditionally provided by the public sector.

The role of public sector entities in collaborations can be as a resource provider, information source, or regulator, providing an environment where the private sector can develop and deploy solutions which generate green growth. The private sector can provide knowledge, finance and innovation, and the ability to deliver products and services at scale, allowing governments to achieve broader social and economic objectives. The appropriate pairing of these capabilities can result in powerful outcomes.

This chapter looks at the experience of public-private collaborations aimed at:
green innovation and market development, natural resource management and the development of green and resilient infrastructure.

Best practice for public private collaboration

Collaborations to support green R&D and innovation work by providing greater market certainty for innovators and building research and innovation capacity. During the early stages of innovation processes, most of the resources generally come from public efforts, while later innovation stages are mainly supported by private development. In order to support the transition from mainly public to private sector efforts, the public sector can provide long-term and stable financial support, regulations, price signals, and other mechanisms so that businesses will invest in innovative solutions and the private sector can become increasingly engaged in further developing and deploying these solutions.

Collaboration has proven effective in management of natural resources, especially where co-operation starts early in resource management planning and strengthens resource valuation and enforcement. Many of the natural resources that underpin economies are overexploited, and policies have often failed to enable their sustainable management. Collaboration can create a shared understanding of the value of natural resources, enable the development of more effective management practices, and support buy-in and help overcome compliance challenges. Ecosystem valuation and related resource management measures (such as payment for ecosystem services) are promising approaches.

Appropriate collaboration can enable development of large-scale green infrastructure as well as distributed systems. Traditional PPP approaches that have proven to work well in areas such as energy, water, transport, and telecommunications can be applied in other green growth areas where large ‘public good’ infrastructure is needed but cannot be provided cost effectively by governments alone. Infrastructure investments which have a less strong ‘public good’ character can be initiated by both public and private entities. In particular for small-scale distributed infrastructure investments, collaboration can help to bundle these to overcome financing and weakest link problems, such as for technology deployment by smallholder farmers. Collaboration can also be used to unleash entrepreneurial innovation in new growth areas led by the private sector, as in the case of e-commerce services in the agriculture sector.

The PPC examples reviewed in this chapter have identified several critical factors. Common features that have contributed to success include:

•  The establishment of a process or forum that brings actors together in a way that builds trust and enables innovation;
•  The development of a shared vision, supported by clear and articulated goals, a clear definition of roles, and responsibilities between collaborators;
•  Transparency and accountability within the partnership and of its outcomes; and
•  Deep and thorough stakeholder engagement at all stages.

At the same time, stakeholders should consider and balance the risks, costs, and benefits of any collaboration. Setting up and governing effective collaborations can require long-term human and financial resource commitments; the cost of negotiating a fair and transparent arrangement can be high; and the implementation costs can be considerable. These factors should be carefully balanced to ensure sustainability of any potential initiative.

Figure 1:
Examples of green growth outcomes achievable through public-private collaboration