Our will be divided into BC and AC—before COVID-19 and after COVID-19. The global pandemic has touched every country around the globe, putting healthcare infrastructure under unprecedented strains, and locking nearly half of the world’s population in their homes. In a few short weeks, the world has found itself in a global economic crisis of entirely new proportions: U.S. unemployment rate has soared to nearly 3 million in a week, and G20 economies are projected to contract over the course of 2020 by more than 2 percent, completely revising the global growth trajectory.
In the BC era, public private partnerships were a “nice to have”—hatched around specific sustainable development goals and celebrated around the UN General Assembly or annual Davos meetings. These BC partnerships adopted a long-term outlook in addressing global challenges from ending food insecurity to increasing financial inclusion.
In the midst and in the aftermath of COVID-19, we have no other solution but to join forces and multiply our collective impact to address critical, immediate needs including strengthening national systems for public health preparedness, disease containment, diagnosis and treatment, and protecting and supporting people’s lives and livelihoods during a spiraling global disruption and economic downturn.
Multiplier partnerships are not just acts of generosity, but strategic moves to protect the employees, customers, and communities that make up the fabric of our society. Businesses, governments, NGOS and international organizations alike know that now more than ever, there is an operational and moral imperative to act, and in partnering with others, they can multiply their positive impact.
Multiplier partnerships take many forms and there are opportunities for organizations of any size to meaningfully join a broader effort. The private sector can approach and maximize these opportunities by considering few key questions: What is our comparative advantage and what unique resources, expertise, or access do we bring to help our employees and stakeholders? What is the biggest unmet need in the communities that our business touches? In what geographies can we catalyze the most impact? Who are the most important stakeholders we are trying to impact? How do these efforts align with our overall business strategy and corporate purpose? And ultimately, who are the best partners that can help our organizations achieve these objectives?
There are a number of inspiring initiatives focused on multiplying positive impact—locally, regionally and globally—around a few common themes:
JOINING RESOURCES AND ORGANIZATIONAL STRENGTHS.
Organizations have partnered to combine their financial resources, topical expertise, and ability to reach communities around the world. The Gates Foundation, Mastercard, and Wellcome Trust launched the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, combining $125M in resources to accelerate the response by “identifying, assessing, developing, and scaling-up treatments.” The COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund was founded by the UN Foundation, the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation, and the World Health Organization as a major platform to leverage large and small donors alike to track the virus and support front line workers.
SHARING KNOWLEDGE AND DATA.
Institutions with critical data, subject matter expertise, and sharing technologies are uniting to speed up data-driven medical therapies or policy approaches. The World Economic Forum launched the COVID Action Platform, galvanizing the data and tools of diverse private sector actors, including Salesforce, JP Morgan, Deloitte and many others. In China, Alibaba and Tencent are working with regional authorities to roll out mobile apps that aggregate data to evaluate individual risk of catching and transmitting COVID-19. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Allen Institute for AI, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), Georgetown University, Microsoft, and the National Institutes of Health(NIH) launched the Open Research Data-Set—an AI and data-mining initiative to identify and bring together worldwide scientific efforts to accelerate the path to solutions on COVID-19.
CRITICAL TOOLS BEYOND CASH.
Some philanthropic organizations that already provided resources to address societal challenges are now targeting their funds to tackle issues related to the pandemic. Bloomberg Philanthropies and Vital Strategies committed $40 million to support vulnerable low- and middle-income countries in preventing and controlling the COVID-19 outbreak. In parallel, companies that provide essential products or services, mobilized quickly to help global communities. Zoom Communications offered its platform for free to K-12 students and educators, Unilever partnered with the UK Department for International Development to commit €100 million worth of free sanitizer, soap, and food, utilizing their manufacturing teams to distribute among communities most in need around the world. Additionally, Ventec Life Systems and GM just announced a partnership to produce critical care ventilators.
There is an impetus, urgency, and abundant opportunity to build and shape partnerships that can multiply impact and help us all emerge stronger from this crisis. Societal expectations of the private sector have never been higher and what companies do during the COVID-19 will have direct implications on their global reputation and license to operate—both locally and globally.
What will your legacy be following the COVID-19 pandemic?