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“More than Micro” Milestone 7: Engaging the Power of the Private Sector for Development (July 2013)

Authored by

Microlinks Team

The milestone. 

Private capital flows to developing countries are increasingly outpacing levels of official development assistance. This global rise in private investment and trade is shifting the dynamics, highlighting the need for USAID to engage more effectively with the private sector. 

On July 8-12, 2013, 83 USAID Private Sector Development Officers, representing 29 different missions, convened to meet the new opportunities and approaches for engagement.

The training helped participants to:

Better understand the new challenges and opportunities for engaging the private sector;

Gain key skills for program design and implementation; and

Build stronger networks and resources for sustained learning.

As Lawrence Camp, Senior Advisor at USAID, put it, “The key value of the Engaging the Power of the Private Sector for Development was to focus field officers on the benefits of and opportunities for engaging the private sector in our development initiatives.” 

Its significance.

The training greatly broadened participants’ view of and their role in private sector engagement. Wade Channell, USAID’s Economic Growth Specialist for Gender, reflected, “I felt that the key value was in expanding the concept of partnerships beyond the narrow political confines of GDAs or the deal-making fad that still dominates much thinking. The workshop explored a far wider range of options for understanding and engaging beneficiaries, including a session on network mapping.” One participant noted, “I broadened my view of private sector engagement beyond CSR to include more innovative approaches, such as investment funds.”

The event accomplished this by tapping the Officers’ collective expertise. For example, the event featured several “World Café” sessions, where participants interacted with Officers taking innovative approaches to address access to finance or the challenges of SME development.

Looking forward.

Since July 2013, Microlinks has further engaged its community on the topic of private sector engagement. Recently, Microlinks hosted a dedicated blog series to explore the topic of how “private capital” can be mobilized to accomplish our development objectives.  

Blog posts covered a range of topics, including what we mean by “private capital,” some of the different ways in which USAID can mobilize this capital, and when USAID should or should not become engaged. 

The series also included a number of vignettes or success stories from the field. These described each initiative, but also covered topics of specific interest to the traditional Microlinks community. For example, were the benefits of the initiative truly inclusive? And at what cost? 

The series was presented through the lighthearted lens of a mid-19th century journey on the Oregon Trail.  As one commenter reported, “Fun to read and easy to follow, but underneath - an amazing amount of content…it really was a complete journey to an understanding of “private capital mobilization.”