Reflections on Private Sector Engagement (PSE) Relationship Qualities by the USAID/Honduras Transforming Market Systems (TMS) Activity

The Private Sector Engagement Relationship Qualities in a Market Systems Development Activity learning brief provides evidence and learning from the team of the USAID/Honduras Transforming Market Systems (TMS) Activity on how to most effectively engage the private sector and the relationship qualities that influence the achievement of partnership results. This brief contributes to the USAID Private Sector Engagement (PSE) Evidence and Learning Plan evidence base on “What PSE relationship qualities influence results?”  

The litmus test for a successful private sector partnership is often considered to be (1) the right idea with (2) the right partner. But TMS reflections and learning also show the importance of a third factor (3) the right relationship. This relationship factor is particularly important when working in complex settings to address wicked societal problems such as inequality, poverty, hunger, or lack of opportunity.

In these contexts, it may be impossible to know exactly what idea is right, so therefore ever more critical to have the right relationship with the right partners to be able to discover the novel, right solution(s) to the problem.

Below is a summary of the twelve most salient reflections by TMS with regards to relationship qualities.

  1. Measure relationship quality because it matters to making real change on tough problems
  2. Give a third option to a yes or no decision to proceed with a partnership
  3. Emphasize alignment and complementarity in multi-stakeholder partnerships
  4. Support and motivate all staff – whether technical or support – to add value
  5. Facilitate relationships between partners as a way to add value
  6. Shift from output to outcome-based milestones with performance incentives
  7. Use flexible, contractual mechanisms to ensure commitment in partnerships
  8. Focus on getting communication right to the needs of the partnership
  9. Emphasize feedback and learning within partnerships 
  10. Invest in and leverage a solid reputation to support trust-building with partners 
  11. Reduce the downside risk to collaboration perceived by partners with thought leadership
  12. Ask yourself – and your partner – often, is this partnership on the right track

For further questions and comments, please contact author Dun Grover, TMS DCOP Market Systems and CLA at, Jacob Gray, TMS Learning Specialist at, or Anastasia Buyanova, USAID/Honduras ME&L Specialist at


This report was made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this report were prepared by ACDI/VOCA and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government. It is the second brief in a series of learning products produced under the TMS Activity as part of its Learning Agenda. The first brief on Metrics and Data for Self-Reliance can be found on USAID Learning Lab.


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