There is a famous African Proverb that says "To go fast you must alone, but to go far you need to go with others" there is need to the add a modern twist to this adage which is "go with others who are like minded and have the same desire to achieve cohesion". This article is intended to look at the importance of like minded individuals or entities coming together for the singular purpose of achieving economic growth and human development. Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MSPs), have taken on a new life line in Zimbabwe, both negative and positive, there is need to highlight the role of MSPs in promoting the concept of Inclusive Business in Zimbabwe.
Wageningen University on their MSP Knowledge Portals www.wageningenportals.nl states that;
In the wider sense, the rationale for multi-stakeholder collaboration is simple. Today, the world is faced with a set of very difficult issues: the over-use of natural resources; climate change; continuing poverty; and the psychological and health-related ‘downsides’ of modern living. Quite simply, our existing ways of making decisions, along with our mechanisms of governance – from the local to the global level – are failing to cope with today’s challenges. The University goes further to describe the combination of reasons why stakeholders can come together these are stated below:
2) Learning and idea generation
3) Joint problem solving and decision making
4) Overcoming conflict
5) Collective action
In many MSPs stakeholders engage for a combination of these reasons. However, the primary purpose for a MSP does have significant implications for how it is set-up, structured and facilitated and for its legitimacy. In this sense consultation and shared learning processes are less complex and less difficult to manage than those aimed at joint decision making, conflict resolution or collective action.
Inclusive Business Forum and its experiences in Zimbabwe:
One of the highlights of the Inclusive Business (IB) program in Zimbabwe has been the formation of the IB Forum, an MSP that brings together the relevant stake-holders in the private and public sector. Launched in April, 2012, the forum has grown from 18 members to more than 70 members to date. The role of this platform has been to show case important lessons and the potential of IB. The main objectives of the Forum are to promote inclusive growth and development by establishing productive alliances between companies (across their value chains) and small-scale operators/communities/community based organisations, with benefits for both.
The main strategy employed was knowledge sharing and information dissemination, with a greater emphasis on generating local case studies that can be show cased in order to build confidence in the private sector. To date in partnership with SNV Zimbabwe, 3 local documentaries have been produced and showcased at several public events. More importantly the platform opened up the debate between CSR and IB, but however the distinction was made clear, aided by case-studies.
The Forum also runs a website that enables their activities and achievements to be shared globally.
IB Forum has played a crucial role in stimulating the interest of the private sector in adopting or attempting IB models. Initially the mainstream private sector had minimal interest, with greater interest and innovation came from the SMEs sector, however after demonstration of impact by the few innovative companies, through the IB Forum knowledge sharing platforms, much needed attention from the larger/mainstream private sector has begun occupy the IB Forum.
Funding to support the work of the Forum has initially come from the Ford Foundation; the importance of funding the Forum is to ensure that administration and coordination of stakeholders is carried out effectively and efficiently. The key to the success of this MSP has been the administration and coordination. The IB Forum is housed in the Business Council for Sustainable Development of Zimbabwe (BCSDZ) which is a regional networking partner for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). This positioning has enabled the IB forum to have an immediate contact with the private sector. A second partner Regional Centre for Social Responsibility (RCSR) has enabled establishment of the Forum in the second largest industrial city of the country, their expertise on social responsibility and MSP process coordination has further strengthened what the the Forum can offer members.
B4MD profiling the success of a global MSP on their Blog;"As innovators in this space, the Business Call to Action (BCtA) and its growing membership have helped to advance the inclusive business agenda by showcasing novel business models, sharing best practices, measuring the financial and social impact of these companies and forging partnerships to improve scale and increase development impact". The BCtA continues to lay the groundwork for the growing number of Japanese companies looking for evidence that inclusive business can be profitable and create a social impact. www.b4md.com.au/blog/inclusive-business
In conclusion, it is of our opinion that the success of any MSP has to start with the Value Creation, then once the value creation and objectives are established there is need to carefully identify the right partners, or the right institution to house the MSP; Having it as a stand alone is good but a lot of time will be spent on setting up administrative frameworks; this gives the housing option an added advantage. Preferably select a partner with experience in MSP process administration. When all is in place the MSP has to have an activity list and a multi-dimensional coordination committee that meets regularly and is task oriented. This is important as it will safeguard the interests of the stakeholders and will keep in check the progress being made. These measures can avoid the MSP becoming an elitist society and ensuring that it benefits its members holistically. At the end of the day to achieve success in a MSP strategic partnerships have to be created and there is need to strive for productive cohesion must be achieved.
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For more information on the IB Forum visit our website www.inclusivebusiness.org.zw and follow us on twitter @IBZimbabwe