The Juggernaut of Tri-sector Partnerships
(Chapter 16 in Shaping Globalization: Civil Society, Cultural Power and Threefolding)
The powers behind elite globalization are faced with four major interrelated challenges that they must now respond to, especially after the Battle of Seattle.
First, global civil society is emerging as a third global force, thereby shifting the balance of power away from the elite establishment (Chapter 6). Second, global civil society is increasingly recognizing its identity and origin in culture and its role as the key holder of cultural power, thereby awakening from the "trap of unknowing" and becoming less vulnerable to co-optation. (See Chapters 9 to 11.) And third, global civil society is starting to recognize that millions of Cultural Creatives around the world supportpersonally, financially and morallyits ideas and values, thereby increasing civil societys sense of its long-term sustainability, relevance, strength, and effectiveness (Chapter 12).
And fourth, global civil society is realizing its tasks, both the self-defense of culture and the conscious birthing of comprehensive sustainable development through national and global threefolding, with the latter exemplified in Philippine Agenda 21. This last development, especially when taken with the other three, is of particular concern to elite powers.
The awakening of global civil society to its true tasks signals the beginning of a permanent creative presence of global civil society in the unfolding of the globalization process. This has the potential for unifying the diverse factions within global civil society by showing how the different tactical and strategic approaches all play a vital role in advancing innovative responses to the consensus concerns of civil society about elite globalization. The unification of global civil society can only mean a serious decline in the prestige and influence of the elite establishment. It is a warning to elite powers that global civil society can produce and encourage the beginning implementation of development frameworks that are potentially more encompassing and relevant to tens of millions around the world than conventional neo-liberal approaches. Furthermore, these new developments in conscious threefolding actually provide creative venues for the formation of strategic alliances among like-minded people in civil society, government and business, thereby eroding the very power base of the pushers of elite globalization.
Recognizing this threat, the powers behind elite globalization have found a potent response. The approach acknowledges civil society as the third global force. It appreciates the cultural nature and powers of global civil society. It takes into consideration the long-term viability and strength of global civil society.
The approach also shows that segments of the establishment are not fearful. Instead, their strategy mimics authentic and conscious threefolding approaches, thereby potentially blunting global civil societys most potent response to elite globalization. The elite powers call their approach tri-sector partnerships (TSPs). It is their response to the emergence and challenge of global civil society in the on-going struggle to shape globalization.
That said, I would like to add a word of caution and then take a closer look at tri-sector partnerships.
A word of Caution
From one perspective, the emergence of tri-sector partnerships, especially at the level of the United Nations, is a testimony to the soundness of threefolding approaches in addressing the challenges of elite globalization and advancing broad-based sustainable development. TSPs, properly conceived and implemented, are a powerful affirmation of the central themes in this book. Because of the promising features of TSPs, global civil society should take a closer look at the framework, operational details, best practices, and other characteristics of tri-sector partnerships in order to further its own agenda for comprehensive sustainable development.
This is the reason why I am personally involved in the promotion of authentic tri-sector partnerships or what we call threefolding partnerships in the Philippines, while remaining respectful of other approaches that do not seek partnership or dialogue. This is also the reason why I personally value the thousands of civil society activists and other Cultural Creatives in business and government who are also honestly trying to shape globalization towards the direction of comprehensive sustainable development.
There is therefore no attempt to pre-judge, as good or bad, the involvement of any individual involved in the promotion of tri-sector partnerships. Rather it is a matter of an objective assessment of where TSPs can lead, because they can be harnessed towards either authentic or dubious ends.
It is from this objective point of view that the attention of those involved in TSPs, including friends and allies, is directed to the other face of TSPs. Tri-sectoral partnerships present the most sophisticated challenge launched by the elite establishment to neutralize the increasing power and effectiveness of global civil society. (See Chapter 8 for a related discussion.) Even well-meaning TSPs originating from civil society, that of Synergos for example, will become enmeshed in a field of tension as they interact and network with TSPs coming from the elite establishment. And the complex nature of TSPs will make discernment essential, however difficult it may be.
Consider TSPs created among individuals who have modernist values and who are working in the institutions of the three spheres of societycivil society in culture, government in polity, and business in the economy. TSPs among modernist individuals will have quite a different result than TSPs or authentic threefolding dialogues and partnerships among Cultural Creatives. If a cultural creative finds himself or herself within TSPs constituted by modernists, that person will need individual integrity so as not to be appropriated by the power of co-optation inherent in the pursuit of TSPs among modernists.
David Korten, author of the best selling book, When Corporations Rule the World, brought home the reality of this dilemma and challenge in a message he wrote to me.
Threefolding is creating a society in which each of the three realms understands its own nature and role and its appropriate relation to the other two realms. . . . we have three cultural formations [Cultural Creatives, modernists, and traditionalists ] cross cutting the three spheres [of culture, polity and the economy]. The clearest piece is the alignment of the dead world modernist materialists. Their limited worldview aligns them totally in a world defined and dominated by an economic sector devoted to the production of material goods and amenitieswhich are their only source of meaning. By contrast, Cultural Creatives, especially the core Cultural Creatives, both have more balanced perspectives, and are in touch with their connection to the spiritual.
One can see immediately that a multi-stakeholder dialogue in which the three spheres are all represented by modernists will be entirely different from a dialogue in which all are represented by Cultural Creatives. The one dominated by the moderns will coalesce around the ideal of collapsing the civil and political spheres into the economic sphere under corporate rule. The one dominated by Cultural Creatives presumably would move naturally toward your vision of authentic threefolding.
As a final word of caution, the discussion below will document the enthusiasm that is now emerging globally for TSPs. But this enthusiasm needs to be balanced by the following observation. And here I especially encourage individuals active in global civil society and in TSPs to take note.
A significant number of TSPs do not formally address the weaknesses of neo-liberal approaches. Instead TSPs design, whether consciously or by default, their policy reforms or programs within the framework of neo-liberal economic developmentthe kind of thinking and framework that have brought about elite globalization and its massive problems. (See Chapter 5.)
In so doing, TSPs forget that civil society is there precisely because it has successfully mobilized global resistance to the neo-liberal paradigm of development championed in such places as the WTO, the IMF, the OECD, and the World Bank. Furthermore, TSPs forget that civil societys task is to provide cultural, human, social, and spiritual considerations that are the context for economic activity. As such, the economic agenda of TSPs have to fit into a comprehensive sustainable development approach. The opposite is often the case, however. They try to fit comprehensive sustainable development into the much-too-narrow confines of neo-liberal economics.
If TSPs do not tackle, head on, the problem of neo-liberal economics and the importance of conceiving projects under a comprehensive sustainable development framework, then the TSP becomes an arena of co-optation for civil society. Colleagues in civil society and their strategic allies in government and business may wish to bear this in mind when they explore or get involved in tri-sector partnerships.
Therefore, in the discussion of the dark side of tri-sector partnerships that follows, the reader is encouraged to remember that TSPs can be beneficial or malignant, depending on who is participating and what motives animate the partnerships. Clarity on this issue is urgent now that leading global institutions, such as the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development, Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum, Greenpeace, Care International, Amnesty International, the Council on Foreign Relations, the United Nations, and others, are all closely looking at, or already engaged in, TSPs.
If authentic, tri-sector partnerships can be an entry point to threefolding processes. If contrived, then tri-sector partnerships can suck unsuspecting and naïve civil society organizations into the whirlpool of elite globalization.
Two key questions emerge: Who will mobilize TSPs and for what purpose? And how does one develop the capacity to discern between false forms and authentic threefolding partnerships?
The elite establishment has awakened to the potential and power of TSPs and is pouring tens of millions of dollars into their realization. Elements of global civil society are starting to wake up to the potential and promise. But will global civil society awaken and move fast enough so as to discern and ensure that TSPs lead to authentic TSPs or threefolding partnerships (TFPs) and from there to authentic threefolding approaches to comprehensive sustainable development? This book is a modest attempt to support this process of awakening and discernment.
Shadow Threefolding? The Mainstreaming of Tri-Sector Partnerships
The best way to understand the rationale and nature of tri-sector partnerships (TSPs) is to look at what its most prominent advocates are saying.
A Different and Visionary World Bank?
The World Bank has been such a champion of elite globalization that heads really have to stop and turn when it starts advocating a Comprehensive Development Framework and tri-sector partnerships. This is what the World Bank has to say about Business Partners for Development (BPD), its version of Tri-Sector Partnerships.
The roles and responsibilities of business, civil society and government have changed dramatically since the World Bank charter was drafted, and perhaps most dramatically in the past ten years. With the advent of globalization, the reduction in cost of telecommunications, expansion of market economies throughout the world, and the endurance of democracy, the roles of the three sectors have become increasingly interdependent. We have moved from a world where the state had sole responsibility for the public good and business maximized profits independent of the interests of society at large, to a world where success depends on the close synergy of interests among business, civil society and government.
The private sector is the engine in wealth creation. It has also expanded widely to sectors previously considered public services, e.g. from power and telephony, to education, health and safety. Today most companies accept that their long-term investment goals can only be achieved within stable social and financial environments; thus, they are supporting a range of development activities. While not their core business, the success of these activities is essential to the success of their business.
Civil societys role and influence is expanding. In the marketplace, the consumer has become "king." In the social arena, civil society has a growing influence on the behavior and governance of state, business and individuals. Increasingly, civil society plays a key role in assessing the business communitys contribution to the development arena, rewarding community friendly behavior and criticizing the opposite.
The public sector is having to reinvent itself. It is pulling out from the production of goods and the provision of services, and taking a more strategic approach to its role in society. Governments role is increasingly to foster the trust that creates social capital and mobilizes social forces and energy from all stakeholders.
The role of development organizations is changing to adapt to these new realities. To achieve poverty reduction, development institutions ability to affect the volume of private investmentboth domestic and foreignmatters as much, if not more than how much money is lent to countries. In 1997, official development assistance from industrialized country governments totaled USD $37.3B; private sector flows to the developing world exceeded USD $256B (a sixfold rise from 1990). In this context, partnerships with the private sector are an important strategy for poverty reduction, influencing the totality of a companys impact on society.
For the World Bank Group, this means a whole new agenda of working with governments to create an environment which will attract both domestic and foreign private investment in areas such as: property rights, legal systems, guarantees, capital markets, financial sector restructuring and more. Member countries have increasingly called upon the Bank Group to work with civil societynon-governmental organizations, foundations, and academic institutionsto help deliver development on the ground. They have called upon the Bank Group to work directly with business to maximize the development impact of resources flowing to developing countries, i.e. helping to ensure that more is achieved with resources which they are spending, and by increasing the effectiveness, encouraging them to spend more. Partnerships with governments, civil society, private sector and other multilateral and bilateral donors, each playing to their respective strengths, forms the basis of the World Banks Comprehensive Development Framework.
The Business Partners for Development (BPD) network has been active since June 1998, when the World Bank Group provided seed funding from its Development Grant Facility. Since 1995 when British Petroleum sought technical assistance in designing social programs in the Casanare Region of Colombia, the Bank Group has been exploring the linkages between corporate social responsibility, social capital and tri-sector partnerships. While this was an unprecedented role for the Bank to play, the Bank found that it was well positioned to act as neutral convener, trusted by the business interests, government authorities and civil society organizations active in the region.
The Business Partners for Development (BPD) initiative was designed to study, support and promote strategic examples of partnerships involving business, government and civil society working together, with the World Bank Group as an equal partner, for the development of communities around the world. Partners have come together to focus on aspirational standards of behavior, as opposed to designing codes of conduct. The core hypotheses are the following:
Business partnerships for development provide win-win benefits to all three parties;
Partnerships can be much more widely used throughout the world; and
Partnerships can be scaled up to national and regional levels. . . . .
Support for BPD has been growing steadily since James Wolfensohn alongside corporate and civil society representatives held a press conference to officially launch the network at the World Banks 1998 Annual Meetings. He stated BPDs objective: to influence the way we do business, i.e. to mainstream the tri-sector partnership approach throughout our lending and investment activities. Moreover, the World Bank Group is being asked to engage more substantively with the private sector, beyond lending and donor-based relationships. The central BPD team is in discussion with a variety of units throughout the Bank, each of whom brings a consortium of interested business and civil society partners, to expand the BPD approach. The following areas are being discussed as possible BPD-style clusters: HIV/AIDS, disaster mitigation, sustainable cities, financial services and SMEs, tourism, and a regionally-based initiative for Africa. (Emphasis added.)
From a certain perspective, there is a lot that is remarkable in this World Bank statement. This is the reason why I have quoted it extensively. It also captures a significant amount of thinking about TSPs that are already happening and that draw significant support from global civil society. It reinforces many themes that have been elaborated in this book. These include, among others, the emergence of civil society as a third global force, hints at the cultural power that stands behind civil society, the need for broader considerations in development, and the importance of involving all three sectors (government, business, and civil society) in global issues.
However, it is still necessary to listen to what is said and then discern what is possible and what is questionable, depending on time, place, issue and process. This is part of the discernment process that I have emphasized frequently and which is necessary for anyone who wants to properly assess this approach.
But whatever civil society thinks of this World Bank initiative, especially its narrow and controversial concept of civil society as a delivery mechanism of development, it will not be able to ignore the Banks Business Partners for Development program. This is especially the case now that the Bank has leveraged its BPD Program as its preferred mode of developing Country Assistance Programs for its client nations around the world. For this move constitutes the mainstreaming of TSPs at the country level.
Tri-sector partnerships lie behind the World Banks new Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF). The World Bank initially started promoting the CDF framework with 12 countries that wanted to try out this new mode of designing and implementing national development projects.
I accidentally discovered the intimate connection between tri-sector partnerships embedded in the BPD and the CDF at the Civicus World Assembly held in Metro Manila in September 1999. Civicus, not surprisingly, is another important global network promoting TSPs. Civicus is a partner of the World Bank and the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum in aspects of the Business Partners for Development.
In a workshop, the World Bank official in charge of the BPD Program was extolling the virtues of BPD. I made a comment that the idea of a principled partnership between civil society, business, and government is supported by Philippine Agenda 21. I then made the observation that the BPD was a kind of miniscule approach compared to the larger more destructive projects of the bank as found in its Structural Adjustment Programs.
The World Bank official became defensive and responded approximately as follows. "The BPD is a major concern at the top levels of the Bank. Every week I meet with Jim [Wolfensohn] and other top officials of the bank to give them a progress report on BPD. The BPD is also the basis for the new approach of the bank, its Comprehensive Development Framework."
In the CDF, partner countries make a commitment to undertake tri-sector dialogues on 12 or more key areas of development, including ecological, economic, political, cultural, social, and human considerations. They also make a commitment to involve donor institutions in the process. In short, the CDF is the World Banks version of achieving sustainable development through threefolding processes.
But the question remains. Is it really authentic threefolding in the pursuit of comprehensive sustainable development? Or is it merely a more efficient form of systemic societal engineering which, at the same time, co-opts civil society into being mere cogs in the giant machine called "comprehensive development"?
Ultimately, only real presence of mind and sophistication among the members of global civil society will answer these questions. For it is the historical emergence of civil society as a third global force that triggered current discussions on threefolding, including authentic tri-sector partnerships. True, the presence of genuine strategic allies in government and business is important in birthing authentic TSPs. Nevertheless, how civil society creates and/or involves itself in these TSPs will be decisive in determining whether TSPs will usher in a beneficial kind of globalization or whether TSPs will merely mask the increasing power and destructiveness of elite globalization.
Whatever the answer, the reality remains. Some aspects of threefolding, albeit distorted, have surfaced in a very central way in one of the worlds most powerful institutions, and the World Bank is only one example. Now the practice is starting to spread globally, in country after country.
The Contours of the TSP Juggernaut
Table 7 illustrates the impressive network of institutions advocating and undertaking tri-sector dialogues (TSDs) and/or tri-sector partnerships (TSPs). Table 8 indicates how these loose, partially intentional networks are justifying their entry into TSPs. Taken together, Tables 7 and 8 demonstrate that tri-sector partnerships are taking off in a big way all over the world.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is now initiating TSPs, stating that this approach is a way to achieve synergy, help resolve conflict, and strengthen institutions, all in the pursuit of sustainable development. USAID has even produced a manual for TSPs called, Partnering for Results; A Users Guide to Intersectoral Partnering which was prepared for a 1998 Conference for USAID Mission Directors all over the world.
The U.S. government has a further hold on the territory of TSPs through the Inter-American Foundation (IAF). Together with the World Bank and the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), IAF is promoting poverty reduction through their tri-sector partnership project called PPR or "Partnerships for Poverty Reduction." The PPR hopes to build trust, develop institutional capacity and build social capital, all in the effort to reduce poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IAF recognizes the complexity of the development process and therefore sees the need to build upon the comparative advantages of business, government, and civil society to reduce poverty.
In this project, the U.S. government provides some USD $22 million yearly to assist corporations with community outreach. It is important for global civil society to note that some non-government organizations (NGOs) involved in this project have agreed to have their scope of work defined as merely that of service delivery.
There are also initiatives coming from the side of business. The most prominent of these is the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum. The PWBLF is also a key partner of many TSPs around the world. These linkages include, among others, the World Bank, the United Nations, USAID, Pact, the Copenhagen Centre, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Institute for Development Research (IDR), and the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, and the Stuart Mott Foundation.
PWBLFs entry point to tri-sector partnerships is to advance corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. It wants to improve the local acceptance for businesses and wants business to address the issue of human rights in their corporate operations. The PWBLF recognizes that businesses live in a rapidly changing world where economic, social and environmental problems are closely interlinked. Therefore PWBLF sees the need to harness the different capacities and resources found in the three key institutions of societybusiness, government, and civil societyto address complex problems of the world. The PWBLF has TSP projects operating in more than 20 countries around the world.
Increasingly, even prominent foundations within civil society are engaging in tri-sector partnerships. The Rockefeller Foundation recently launched its Global Inclusion Program. The goal of the project is to "ensure that globalization processes are more democratic and equitable and benefit the most vulnerable, disenfranchised populations, cultures and communities around the world."
It believes that TSPs are possible because globalization "contributes to the breakdown of traditional boundaries among the state, the market and civil society. It changes the constraints and operations of national governments, businesses and NGOs. . . . Building on the mission of the Rockefeller Foundation, the goal of the Global Inclusion cross-theme is to ensure that the processes of global integration are as democratic and transparent as possible, and benefit the most vulnerable people and communities."
It is instructive to see how the Foundation intends to accomplish the goal of this program.
Analysis of the social change process in a global context on an issue-by-issue basis will allow us to develop "ground rules" of norms, values, practices and institutions that will underpin globalization. Based on these analyses of issues and how they affect people who are poor and excluded, we will develop an overall "investment strategy" that will foster a network of partners that introduces knowledge and expertise at critical intervals in the process of global social change.
Our approach will also identify the new ground rules that reflect democratic norms and values, and accommodate the interests of poor people and other stakeholders. And then we will support the application of these ground rules by NGOs, businesses and governments as a way to promote global peace and prosperity. (Emphasis added.)
Individuals in civil society are left to make their own assessment of the desirability and authenticity of this approach to tri-sector partnerships. But for sure, one sub-theme of the Global Inclusion program is bound to raise lively and heated debate within global civil society. And this is the sub-theme of "Global Dialogue on Plant Biotechnology," where the goal is to protect the poor from possible negative effects and to "make possible their access to the technology."
Interestingly enough, there are also tri-sector partnerships to promote TSPs! Pact, a civil society organization, sees itself as contributing to the global growth of civil society by "strengthening the community-focused nonprofit sector worldwide and by working with strategic partners to identify and implement participatory development approaches at the community level that promote economic, social and environmental justice." In pursuit of this program, Pact offers organizational development (OD) services to civil society organizations. The "heart" of its OD approach is "the concept of teamwork, a natural extension of two guiding principles that characterize all Pact programsparticipation and partnership." This teamwork concept promotes "cooperative but equal relationships with donors, government and business."
Looking for synergy with government and business, Pact recently entered into a tri-sector partnership with USAID and the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum to advance its goals. Pact describes this step as follows:
Pact recognizes it takes more than public sector resources to address the worlds pressing social, economic and environmental problems. At the same time businesses increasingly see planned investments in social issues are in their long-term best interest in achieving bottom-line benefits. . . . In each case we and the business partner seek new ways of doing business together that contribute to sustainable development through principled best use of our comparative advantages.
These examples show the extensive appeal of TSPs to government, business, and civil society. TSPs are being implemented in dozens of countries around the world. Tens of millions of dollars are sustaining these projects. And advocates see TSPs as an innovative approach to address an impressive range of issues:
corporate social responsibility
natural resources management
water and sanitation
information for sustainable development
sustainable development itself.
It is easy to understand the enthusiasm of advocates of tri-sector partnerships when one sees the many potential advantages this approach offers in facing the complex challenge of globalization and in achieving comprehensive sustainable development.
These potential advantages include:
Sectoral Institutional Level
bridge participatory and information gaps
building trust and understanding
win-win for all three sectors
sharing of knowledge
augment resources and spheres of influence
build upon comparative advantage of each sector
overcome limited resources
Global and National Societal Level
better addressing of environmental issues
improved corporate reputation
better policy formulation
address human rights
strengthening government response to transboundary issues especially in the face of liberalization and rapid technological change
increased capability to address complex social problems
social inclusion especially of the poor
building social capital
These key global institutions not only have their institutional TSP agenda. They also actively link together with others through the Internet and through conferences. Together they present a formidable new constituency either for the elite establishment or for one of the most important social innovations of the 20th centuryauthentic threefolding.
The message from an in-depth study of this network and its content and tasks is as simple as it is profound. TSPs are the wave of the future, especially after Seattle. In the struggle to shape the future of globalization and hence the destinies of nations, TSPs will increasingly become prominently expressed in the policy landscape and in the field. This is a development which global civil society can either ignore at its peril or critically engage and harness to shape a different kind of globalization process.
Civil Society and the TSP Juggernaut
With the emergence of TSP initiatives in the very centers of elite power and within civil society itself, it is clear that global civil society is about to face a serious challenge. Authentic threefolding is one of civil societys most important creative contributions to the world. Now, with hundreds of TSP images put up all around it, civil society faces the disorienting experience of needing to distinguish between authentic and problematic TSPs, thereby making civil society vulnerable to co-optation.
Within civil society, however, there is also an understanding that those that seek to co-opt can also be vulnerable to the very arena and instrument of co-optation. So TSPs, if properly mobilized by global civil society, can also further weaken the elites hold on the current process and content of globalization. This is especially the case with TSPs as an instrument of co-optation, since global civil society has brought de facto threefolding into existence. Global civil society therefore can determine the ultimate fate and direction of TSPs. It can choose proactively whether TSPs become an entry point to authentic threefolding or determine, by default, whether TSPs become the juggernaut that will neutralize and erode the effectiveness of civil society throughout the world.
How can global civil society prepare itself for this epochal task?
First, global civil society needs to re-visit its assumptions about what it is, where it is coming from, and from where it derives its power. It is in this process of clarification that a healthy respect will develop within global civil society for the diverse approaches that are possible in addressing the challenge of elite globalization.
Second, global civil society has to realize that tri-sector dialogues and partnerships are one of the valid responses to the challenges of elite globalization. They are as valid as the necessary approach that expressed itself in the victory at Seattle, minus the violence of a few dozen people. Given this validity, other is global civil society should reserve their criticism for actual cases of whitewash or selling out.
Third, there is much to learn from the current articulations and experiences of TSPs. Finally global civil society will have to assess the opportunities and possibilities for authentic threefolding processes to build upon the existing TSP efforts.
Global civil society cannot run away from the juggernaut of tri-sector partnerships. In strategic instances, street mobilizations will still be necessary, but TSPs are set to become the new arena of struggle between the cultural forces of global civil society and the predominantly economic and political forces of elite globalization. The outcome of this epochal struggle will determine whether, indeed, it is the "end of history" or the beginning of a new and exciting one.