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How Companies Can Collaborate with USAID Under the Biden Administration

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How Companies Can Collaborate with USAID Under the Biden Administration

With COVID-19 continuing to impact communities and economies worldwide, an accelerating climate crisis, and rising global food insecurity, President Biden faces a litany of foreign aid and global development challenges that the public sector cannot solve alone.

Companies have emerged as critical partners for development impact worldwide. Private sector collaboration is increasingly a key pillar in the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) approach to global development and foreign aid. We see this in our private sector engagement (PSE) activities with USAID, in the emergence of USAID’s PSE Hub, and in USAID’s transformational PSE Policy, presented as an "Agency-wide call to action, and a mandate to work hand-in-hand with the private sector to design and deliver [USAID’s] development and humanitarian programs across all sectors."

We believe that the next four years under the Biden administration present enormous opportunities to scale cross-sector partnerships and increase engagement and collaboration between the public and private sectors on issues ranging from COVID-19 to climate action.

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Top 4 Promising Areas for Cross-Sector Collaboration with USAID

We’ve seen firsthand how, together, USAID and the private sector can combine resources, networks, technical expertise, and technologies to kickstart innovation, unlock new markets, crowd-in additional private- and public-sector financing, and accelerate progress on shared challenges threatening companies and communities alike. 

Meanwhile, for their part, forward-looking companies recognize that effective and contextually relevant partnerships are essential to tackling complex challenges in the communities where they source and sell, helping them address and achieve company targets aligned to the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

With a 12% increase in USAID’s budget under the Biden administration, we see four key areas primed for cross-sector partnerships over the coming years: global health, climate change, internet access and digital skills, and transforming the global food system.

 

Biden-USAID-Budget

 

Below, across each of these critical areas, we’ll explore specific partnership avenues, as well as recent examples of how USAID, companies, and other cross-sector actors have collaborated to scale impact.

Interested in how to actually get these partnerships off the ground? Check out the end of this paper for practical partnership resources, guides, and next steps.

Promising Area 1

COVID-19 and Global Health

From the global pandemic to Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea to the interruption of communicable and non-communicable disease treatment during the COVID crisis, global health will be at the center of the Biden administration’s agenda.

For example, on February 19, at the G7 summit, President Biden announced that the United States would provide $2 billion to the COVID-19 Global Access Facility (COVAX), an innovative financing mechanism to deliver safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to 92 low- and middle-income economies. At the same summit, President Biden also called on the global community to provide similar financial support for vaccine distribution, and he reiterated the United States’ commitment to advancing global health security. 

The private sector plays a critical role in realizing global health goals: Over the past year, we’ve seen companies channel tremendous levels of R&D into vaccine development; modify work policies to comply with public health needs; and reinvent their supply chains, manufacturing, and product lines to meet urgent global health needs. Looking forward, companies in the health sector and beyond will continue to be valuable partners to advance global health access and outcomes.

Possible avenues for cross-sector collaboration for global health may include:

  • Digital Health Innovation: Working together to develop and pilot new digital health technologies to expand patient access to quality care in emerging markets.
  • Data and Tech for Improved Health Delivery: Aggregating health data and harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) for better tracking and treatment of disease.
  • Health Financing: Collaborating to design, pilot, and co-invest in blended finance and results-based financing solutions to improve health service coverage.
  • Health Supply Chain Strengthening: Coordinating to deliver essential health products more efficiently to patients and providers worldwide.
  • Vaccine Access and Distribution: Partnering to innovate, test, and scale vaccine supply chains—including manufacturing and last-mile distribution—to address the pressing challenge of vaccine access in emerging markets.
  • Market Access: Partnering to improve patients’ access to health-related products and services in emerging markets. 
  • Health Systems Strengthening: Collaborating to improve countries’ health systems—including health-related institutions, human capital, and resources—to strengthen healthcare delivery. 

Examples of Cross-Sector Collaboration with USAID for Global Health

Past Collaboration: Uncovering Private Sector Innovations for Improved Health Systems 

In 2019, USAID launched an open innovation competition, the Inclusive Health Access Prize, to uncover and recognize private sector solutions to improve accountability, affordability, accessibility, and reliability of healthcare in emerging markets. The prize focused on context-smart solutions to improve local health systems, in collaboration with the local public sector. The prize awarded five winners from Cameroon, India, Nigeria, and Senegal, with innovations ranging from online blood banks to “Uber” for ambulances.

Read the Project Profile Here >> 

Active Collaboration: Deploying Blended Finance for Health

The World Bank and USAID, together with other donors, NGOs, and Merck for Mothers have joined forces through the Global Financing Facility (GFF), a blended-finance mechanism dedicated to eliminating preventable maternal, child, and adolescent deaths. This multi-stakeholder global partnership, originally established in 2015, provides catalytic financing and technical assistance to 36 low- and lower-middle-income countries and has helped mobilize more than $2 billion in private capital.

Promising Area 2

Climate Change

President Biden wasted little time signaling the importance of addressing climate change during his term in office. Within hours of his Inauguration, President Biden issued an executive order for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Agreement, and, in late April, he further announced a new target for the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52%, based on 2005 levels, by 2030. Biden further positioned “climate considerations as an essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security.”

Meeting domestic and global climate goals will require substantial investment, innovation, and collaboration across sectors, industries, and borders.

Possible avenues for cross-sector collaboration on climate change may include:

  • Climate-Smart Agriculture: Co-investing to support smallholder farmers to adopt climate-smart agricultural practices and technologies that build resilience—by boosting productivity and enabling them to adapt to changing conditions in the short term—and mitigate carbon emissions, thereby lessening climate change impacts over time.  
  • Climate Resilient Communities: Engaging target communities to define needs, co-design solutions, and take collective action on climate change adaptation projects in highly vulnerable areas, including reinforcing/safeguarding critical infrastructure, harnessing private sector innovation and R&D, or promoting climate-resilient agriculture.
  • Company Climate Commitments: Collaborating across sectors on initiatives that help companies—such as Microsoft, PepsiCo, Amazon, and others—accelerate progress toward ambitious net-zero commitments. Contributing initiatives could focus on, for example, renewable energy, reforestation, and regenerative agriculture, packaging, and transport solutions, and climate tech innovation.
  • Climate Finance: Co-designing and co-funding blended investment funds to support sustainable ecosystem management for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
  • Tech Innovation for Better Climate Data and Predictions: Partnering to develop, pilot, and deploy tech innovations to map and monitor ecosystem change and predict climate-linked natural disasters and sea-level rise.
  • Pre-Competitive Data Sharing: Collaborating with USAID or other neutral third parties to facilitate pre-competitive data sharing to support climate modeling, collaboratively map landscape or watershed changes, and unlock new solutions.
  • Circular Economy Transition: Taking collaborative action to advance the circular economy, thereby reducing emissions from the production of goods and building system resilience to external shocks.
  • Technological Innovation for the Energy Sector: Co-developing, piloting, and leap-frogging critical technologies, such as battery energy storage systems, that promote and scale emissions reductions in the energy sector. 

Examples of Cross-Sector Collaboration for Climate Change

Past Collaboration: Engaging the Local Private Sector for Climate Adaptation and Disaster Preparedness

The USAID Climate Economic Analysis for Development, Investment, and Resilience (CEADIR) project worked with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to establish 10 public-private partnerships with local companies in India, focused on climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Across four Indian cities, local companies and the public sector came together to reduce flood risks through better solid waste management, shape municipal strategies for disaster risk reduction, boost emergency response operations, map critical community facilities and evacuation routes, rehabilitate community shelters, and increase urban resilience to extreme heat events.

Read the Project Overview Here >>

Active Collaboration (non-USAID): Mobilizing Climate Finance

In April 2021, the U.S. government’s International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) announced interest in co-investing with private finance partners in funds targeting strategies and solutions for climate mitigation, adaptation, and resiliency in emerging markets. The DFC has also recently committed to elevating climate-focused investment to 33% of the agency’s new investments by 2023. 

Read the Project Overview Here >>

Active Collaboration: Partnering to Scale Clean Energy in Africa 

The U.S. government, including USAID, is working with more than 150 companies on Power Africa to mobilize and direct over $40 billion in investment for Africa’s energy sector, with the overarching goal of developing 30,000 megawatts of cleaner energy and 60 million new home and business connections by 2030.

Read Our Project Profile Here >>

Promising Area 3

Internet Access and Digital Skills Development

Globally, approximately 45% of people still lack broadband access. The pandemic underscored the impacts of this digital divide: without reliable and affordable access to the internet, children and adults miss out on critical opportunities to learn, work, and compete in the 21st century. 

internet-access-low-among-economic-vulnerable

Around the world, access to the internet and basic digital skills will be essential catalysts for progress—spanning sectors ranging from health to education to workforce development and economic growth and diversification. And, conversely, without access to the internet, there will be severe limits on social and economic change. In today’s economy, this is an essential building block for progress.

It’s a critical area for companies as well: Businesses thrive where customers and suppliers are equipped to engage in the digital economy, and participation in today’s global workforce increasingly demands digital skills.

Possible avenues for cross-sector collaboration for equitable access to the internet and digital skills may include:

  • Last Mile Capacity: Collaboratively assessing barriers to last-mile internet access to shape targeted, local solutions and identify opportunities for co-investment. (Together, explore additional regulatory and enabling environment constraints for expansion in target markets.)
  • Broadband Infrastructure Development: Co-investing in infrastructure development and/or in local telcos and internet service providers to expand internet access in emerging markets, particularly in rural areas and among marginalized populations. 
  • Women’s Digital Access: Partnering to create and/or scale solutions that improve women’s access to and use of digital technology, to facilitate women’s economic empowerment.
  • Global Digital Divide Strategy Development: Developing global strategies and new cross-sector coalitions to identify and overcome obstacles to expanded internet access.
  • Digital Literacy for Small Businesses: Partnering to create programs and services that increase basic digital literacy for small- and medium-sized enterprises in emerging markets, to help entrepreneurs better take advantage of the digital economy.
  • Digital Skills for the Emerging Workforce: Partnering to create initiatives that help universities expand and upgrade their offerings in computer science, data science, and other specific technology areas; and/or train teachers to integrate technology into numeracy, literacy, and soft skills development.

Examples of Cross-Sector Collaboration with USAID for Internet Access and Digital Skills

Past Collaboration: Co-investing in Critical Infrastructure After Ebola

In 2017, USAID partnered with CSquared to co-invest in high-speed metro fiber communications infrastructure in Monrovia, Liberia, in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak—expanding Internet connectivity to government offices, clinics, and businesses. 

Read the Project Overview Here >>

Active Collaboration: Open Innovation to Expand Women’s Digital Access

USAID’s WomenConnect Challenge is a global call for solutions to close the gender gap in digital connectivity and improve women’s access to technology. Between 2018 and 2021, the program has issued three challenge rounds, as well as a focused initiative in India, seeking innovators with bold new solutions to facilitate women’s access to the internet and digital technology in emerging markets. The third challenge round specifies that applications must include a private sector partner, to ensure long-term sustainability and to seed greater private sector collaboration on the gender digital divide.

Read the Project Overview Here >>

Active Collaboration: Global Alliance to Reduce the Cost of Connectivity

The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) brings together businesses, governments, and civil society actors to shape policy and local action to reduce the cost of Internet access worldwide.  Cross-sector national coalitions work on the ground to advance new solutions and overcome barriers to affordable internet access. (USAID was an early partner on A4AI.) 

Read the Project Overview Here >>

Active Collaboration: Digital Skills for Women Entrepreneurs

In March 2021, the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) launched a new partnership with Microsoft to help women entrepreneurs and women-led small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) grow their businesses through better access to, and understanding of, digital skills and technologies. Together, the partners will create a Women’s Data Lab and Network (WDLN) in Côte d’Ivoire, with the goal to eventually scale the concept to other African countries. The WDLN—with funding from USAID—will create and connect an e-community of women entrepreneurs and women-led SMEs to digital skills training through Microsoft 4Afrika’s SME-focused program.

Read the Project Overview Here >>

Promising Area 4

Food Security and a Sustainable Global Food System

Since COVID-19 began, the United Nations has sounded the alarm on the looming humanitarian disaster that is hunger, food insecurity, and child malnutrition. Before COVID-19 struck, eliminating hunger was already on the shortlist of foreign aid and development priorities. Despite the global community stepping up last year to provide record donations, UN experts expect 2021 to be worse.

food-security-and-a-sustainable-global-food-system

Meanwhile, around the world, companies, the public sector, and other organizations are increasingly warning that our current food system is unsustainable. From plastics in the ocean to soil degradation to tens of billions of pounds of food waste each year: Cross-sector collaboration will be essential to shaping a food system that can sustainably feed 10 billion people.

Possible avenues for cross-sector collaboration for sustainable agriculture and the global food system may include:

  • Market Systems Development: Partnering to strengthen and diversify local market ecosystems and value chains, enhance local resilience, and bring nutritious, locally produced foods to market at affordable prices. 
  • Expanded Opportunity for Smallholder Farmers: In overlapping company supply chains, collaborating—across sectors and with pre-competitive partners—to improve smallholders’ access to appropriate finance, quality farm inputs and equipment, training and technical assistance, and livable incomes.
  • Women’s Empowerment in Agricultural Supply Chains: Partnering to test and scale solutions to improve women’s access to land, agricultural inputs, training, opportunities, and finance across global agricultural supply chains.
  • Regenerative Agriculture: Partnering to help companies meet regenerative agriculture goals, through farmer-centric approaches. Partners can help connect farmers to technical assistance; provide agronomy tools and training to improve yield and profit; support data collection and crop rotation; facilitate access to finance, and explore avenues to map and secure land rights. 
  • Digital Innovation for Smallholder Farmers: Partnering to co-create, pilot, and advance digital innovations that improve smallholder farmers’ access to technical assistance, market information, and buyers; or that facilitate improved supply chain management in emerging markets.
  • Sustainable Fisheries and Seafood Supply Chains: Collaborating to design, pilot, and scale solutions for sustainable fisheries management and seafood supply chain traceability and sustainability.
  • Food Waste Reduction: Partnering, together with financial institutions, to develop blended finance structures to increase investment in food loss and waste reduction strategies.
  • Healthy Consumer Choices: Collaborating to design healthier consumer products and to co-design and jointly implement programs that nudge consumer choice toward more nutritious, nature-friendly diets. 

Examples of Cross-Sector Collaboration with USAID to Transform the Global Food System 

Past Collaboration: Piloting Innovations for Seafood Traceability

USAID partnered with international seafood supplier Anova Seafood; MDPI, an Indonesian foundation focused on sustainable fisheries; and an Indonesian tuna processor to develop and implement an internal traceability system for use by Indonesian tuna processors—a critical link in global seafood supply chains. The partners created TraceTales to allow tuna processors to electronically capture, store, and manage seafood product data. Through the adoption of TraceTales, the local supplier digitizes their entire catch documentation process, tracking seafood products as they move through the value chain. Local suppliers can now meet U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program requirements, increase the pace and accuracy of their data capture and business calculations, and reduce product recalls and waste. TraceTales also supports verification of Fair-Trade certification.

Read Our Project Profile Here >> 

Active Collaboration: Expanding Market Opportunity for Zambian Farmers

In 2020, USAID launched a 3-year partnership with Corteva Agriscience, John Deere, and Global Communities. Together, the partners will leverage over $37 million to help ten thousand Zambian farmers access new market opportunities and enhance resilience through increased productivity, better inputs, and sustainable farming practices. Specifically, Corteva Agriscience will work directly with farmers to support the adoption of hybrid seeds, crop protection technologies, and sustainable farming practices. John Deere will create new service provision models to help farmers access the agricultural equipment they need to increase on-farm productivity and efficiency. And USAID and Global Communities will work to provide farmers critical training, access to finance, and market linkages.

Read the Project Overview Here >>

Active Collaboration: Investing in Women Across Global Supply Chains

In June 2020, PepsiCo and USAID launched the Investing in Women to Strengthen Supply Chains partnership to prove the business case for women’s economic empowerment and show how elevating women in supply chains can lead to greater growth, profitability, and sustainability. USAID and PepsiCo will work together to strengthen women’s agricultural skills and access to resources within PepsiCo’s supply chains to demonstrate the value of women’s contributions to core business and impact goals. Together, the partners will provide evidence-based models, new on-farm approaches, and data and insights to make a practical and compelling business case for scaling investments in women’s economic empowerment within PepsiCo and other global companies.

Read Our Project Profile Here >>

Harnessing Cross-Sector Collaboration for Impact: The Road Ahead

The world faces enormous challenges that will demand commitment, determination, innovation, and ambitious cross-sector collaboration. The good news: We’ve heard from, and worked with, an ever-growing number of private- and public-sector partners who are ready and eager to collaborate to tackle today’s greatest development and global business challenges.

In the Biden era, we see significant opportunities for companies and USAID to collaborate for impact. However, opportunity means little without action. For companies looking for clear next steps—and the tools to get there—we’ve assembled a list of helpful partnership resources, pulling from our experience designing and implementing over 300 cross-sector partnerships. Below, you’ll find accessible guidance on how to identify high-impact opportunities, design successful cross-sector partnerships, and manage and scale collaboration with success. 

We look forward to supporting both companies and USAID on the road ahead, as we work together to solve shared challenges and forge new opportunities.

Resources

Next Steps to Get Started: Cross-Sector Partnership Resources


Contact Us

Want to know more about how companies can engage in cross-sector collaboration to solve complex challenges? Contact James Bernard or Steve Pelliccia to discuss further.

James Bernard

James Bernard
Vice President, Resonance Impact Advisory Team
jbernard@resonanceglobal.com

An internationally recognized expert on multi-stakeholder partnerships, with more than 25 years of experience, James built and leads Resonance’s global impact advisory practice focused on corporate, foundation, and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners, with clients that include PepsiCo, Cargill, Unilever, Microsoft, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the European Climate Foundation.

Steve Pelliccia

Steve Pelliccia
Vice President, Government Services
spelliccia@resonanceglobal.com

Steve Pelliccia brings more than 25 years of global development experience across a range of sectors including economic growth, natural resource management, and governance. Before joining Resonance, Steve served in senior leadership positions in the US and overseas with organizations including USAID, Chemonics International, and Abt Associates.  Steve leads the firm’s growing portfolio of projects and programs with USAID, the U.S. Department of State, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

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