Increasing development impact: Channeling corporate social responsibility funds through public-private partnerships
In recent years, private fund flows to low-income countries have expanded dramatically. Some of this increase can be attributed to firms' bolstering their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities by engaging with social concerns in countries where they operate. Public-private partnerships (PPPs), which are collaborations between state and nonstate actors to achieve mutually defined goals, offer one way to steer CSR funds toward development priorities. This paper addresses the question of whether collaboration with public partners can improve the targeting of private funds for social ends, thereby increasing the development impact of CSR activities. We suggest that, when compared with independent corporate initiatives, CSR funds can come closer to meeting development goals through collaborations with public partners and can further improve outcomes if project beneficiaries are directly involved. By drawing on RTI International’s experience with PPPs that incorporate CSR activities, and linking it to the emerging literature on such collaborations, we propose strategies for ensuring a balance between partner priorities, avoiding frustrations with divergent organizational cultures, and incorporating beneficiary participation that can improve alignment of CSR activities with development priorities and thereby increase their impact.