Cases of cross-sector partnerships for building institutional capacity

Taking the point of view of the local partner in the following case discussions serves to highlight how knowledge-based resources combine with the position of social sector partners and government sector partners to build institutional capacity. The seeds of institutional transformation around BOP markets may start in governments, but this change may also have sources in social sector entrepreneurship or markets. The empirical cases selected for this discussion feature institutional capacity building projects in each of the different sectors — government, society, and markets. This study aims to evaluate the traction of the conceptual framework offered for examining the local—global link between local agents of change and MNCs.

In the first case, the Ministry of Health in Mozambique worked with Coca-Cola’s global and local subsidiary partners to champion the adoption of an improved logistics management system into the national healthcare delivery system, extending the national reach to better serve rural clinics, which overlap with BOP communities. In the second case, SMEs that work in the emerging food processing industry in Kenya, leveraged the mentoring and advice platform created by PFS in order to access advice from global food expert volunteers working at North American-based MNCs, such as General Mills. In the third case, social entrepreneurs introduced a digital platform, Hello Tractor, which offers affordable access to mechanised farming inputs for smallholder farmers in collaboration with John Deere’s global and local subsidiary partners, the Kenyan government, and global philanthropic support. These three cases illustrate the local—global link wherein local agents of change — from governments, the social sector, or local industry — leverage the knowledge-based resources of their partners to build institutional capacity.

Case 1. Capacity building governmental agencies – Project Last Mile

The partnership, Project Last Mile, brings together the Coca-Cola Bottling Company and the Ministry of Health in Mozambique and illustrates a case of cross-sector collaboration in which government agencies leveraged MNC skills, quality standards, and technology to transform the institutional capacity of its national healthcare delivery system. The Centro de Colaboracao em Saude worked with implementing partners, Village Reach and local bottling subsidiary, Coca-Cola Sabco, to adopt network systems and logistics expertise to address the challenging last mile delivery of healthcare supplies across a national network of clinics (Foote, 2018).1 Individuals with industry expertise (e.g. an Africa-based general manager, a human resource specialist, and a market research advisor) joined forces with local partners on three workstreams: route optimization through improved mapping and planning activities; supplier qualification to enhance distribution and tracking; and management capability enhancement through the development of training materials and performance metrics. The assembly of the learning team and its focus activities illustrates an approach to collaboration that leverages MNC expertise on the one hand, and well-positioned host governments and local implementing partners on the other, toward capacity building of the national healthcare management system.

A crucial piece of the explanation of institutional capacity building in this case is the role of the government as project champion. Having a champion in a position of bureaucratic authority is instrumental to the adoption of logistic capacity into the government systems. Without this high-level ministerial support, it is not clear that the resources available would have been effectively leveraged towards capacity-building. Resources such as grants from global philanthropies and development agencies, including USAID, the Global Fund, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, further supported the local adoption of the programme with both funds and social capital. This targeted capacity building of national healthcare delivery is complementary to the interests of Coca-Cola and may be viewed through a strategic philanthropy lens. Building community resilience and assisting in building domestic healthcare capacity reinforces the positive relations of the local subsidiary with the government and host community. Supporting this humanitarian initiative also offers a potential boost to the MNC brand value, as reputation works back to global stakeholders of Coca-Cola as an MNC.

Case 2. Capacity building society: organizing to support smallholder farmers – Hello Tractor

Described as an ag-tech social enterprise, Hello Tractor applies a model of a sharing economy that enables smallholder farmers in Kenya, who work plots of farmland averaging less than 100 acres, to gain access to a tractor that would otherwise be too costly to access. At the models core is the digital platform that stands between tractor fleet manager and smallholder farmer, providing a matching function that forges new connections between stakeholders — smallholder farmers and suppliers of agricultural machinery, such as John Deere. A sharing model is used to ease the affordability constraint. Barriers to access are further reduced as the digital tractor-sharing application is accessible by phone and payable via the widely used banking app M-Pesa (Foote, 2018; Peters, 2018). Customer service agents are employed to facilitate the transaction.

Hello Tractor aims to scale the operation nationally, with 10,000 tractors pledged through formal public—private partnership agreements between John Deere, working with its local partners, and the Kenyan government. Motivated by the potential access to markets as a strategy to bolster food security, the cross-sector partnership model with Hello Tractor has been replicated with the Nigerian government as the host government partner. Global philanthropy and aid organizations lend their support to this market-driven collaboration, given the potential impact on greater food security.

The Hello Tractor initiative is illustrative of how a social sector-based IT platform (see the discussion in Okunlola & Adenmosum, 2017) serves the needs and requirements of smallholder farmers who can now have better access to mechanised farming inputs. The platform is reinforced by the employment opportunities of local entrepreneurs managing the tractor hiring, as well as MNC partners, such as John Deere, aiming to build greater market access to its tractors in Africa. While there is much development left to be done in the Hello Tractor initiative, John Deere has also engaged in other customerbased initiatives to create access for smallholder farmers, using a contractor model where farmers organized into small groups of about 20 to 30 can lease a tractor.2 This contractor initiative illustrates how the modest but important re-organization of customer stakeholders may also be a route to greater access to higher impact farming inputs for smallholder farmers.

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