Sub-principle 2.A

Focus on maximising sustainable development results

Why is this important? 


The overarching objective of partnerships with the private sector is to support progress towards sustainable development in line with agreed priorities. For development partners, a focus on maximising sustainable development results is motivated by the need to deliver more with the limited resources available. Development partners can play a catalytic role in ensuring that all private sector projects have a clear development rationale alongside clear business benefits and are focused on attaining social, economic and environmentally sustainable results, in particular for groups most in need. For this, development partners can strategically engage the private sector and use its resources to create scalable market solutions and expand investments for sustainable development, including environmental and climate action or the creation and defence of global public goods. Setting up adequate systems, processes and partnerships is therefore essential to deliver solutions that directly respond to the needs of these target groups and outlast the horizon of individual programmes and projects.

Self-reflection questions
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Policy Level Project Level
  • To what extent does your government’s or organisation’s PSE strategy and goals recognise the need to target groups and sectors identified in a partner country’s national development plan? 
  • To what extent does your country programme explicitly target left-behind groups and sectors as identified in a partner country’s national development plan? Do these target groups include youth, women or populations particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change?
  • Do you regularly assess which groups and sectors in your country programmes are most in need and therefore should be targeted? Do you assess whether partnerships with the private sector are the best solution to support them (as part of political economy analysis, etc.)? Does this influence your overall policy orientation?
  • Do you consult local stakeholders in partner countries to assess who should be targeted by your PSE?
  • Do you consult relevant databases on social, economic and environmental statistics to assist in developing up-to-date, evidence-based policy guidance targeting those most in need that may also inform your PSE strategy and goals? How do you deal with related data gaps? 
  • Does your strategy acknowledge the role of the informal sector in partner countries’ development and identify mechanisms to support formalisation and/or work with actors in the informal sector?
  • To what extent do your private sector projects explicitly target left-behind groups and sectors as identified in a partner country’s national development plan? 
  • Do you and other partners share an agreed theory of change for PSE projects? If so, does this show how development outcomes are achieved and how the project will affect those furthest behind? 
  • How do you assess the impact of projects on the priority target groups
  • Are there feedback loops or systems in place to correct course or halt project implementation if desired development outcomes are compromised?  
  • What measures do you use to ensure that successful projects, especially those targeting marginalised and hard-to-reach populations, can be scaled up in other contexts? 
  • Have you established a clear exit strategy? How can you ensure that vulnerable populations, sectors and groups will benefit from a PSE intervention beyond the project’s horizon? 
  • Have you considered the potential positive and negative spillover effects of your project for left-behind groups and sectors? How do you mitigate related risks?

Actions to consider
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Policy Level Project Level
  • Identify priority sectors, regions and populations in line with your government’s or organisation’s overall PSE strategy to define clear development outcomes in different partner country contexts.
  • Encourage partner country governments and other actors to prioritise results on challenges where PSE is needed on partner countries’ development agendas, such as climate change or inequality.
  • Prioritise funding and support for PSE initiatives that explicitly target social and environmental vulnerabilities of left-behind groups and underserved sectors of the economy.
  • Identify and tackle bottlenecks and trade-offs to achieving outcomes across sectors, such as impediments in financing, technology acceleration and implementation.
  • Establish and promote clear steps on the use of standardised metrics (e.g. Sustainable Development Goals) for identifying needs at the policy level and defining and documenting related results.
  • Consider partnering with more local private sector and other actors to achieve better and more long-lasting results.
  • Establish, or support efforts by partner country governments in developing, a theory of change and rationale for each PSE project that highlights the role of each actor and how development outcomes will be realised, notably on the climate agenda and for hard-to-reach target groups.
  • Establish a clear exit strategy. Ensure that project planning embeds long-term perspectives and post-project support to maximise results and positive impacts for those furthest behind.
  • Use Sustainable Development Goal indicators, where appropriate and in line with national results frameworks, to track progress, drawing on specific indicators. 
  • Establish safeguards to enable course correction or project termination if a project has negative impacts on vulnerable target sectors or groups. 
  • Develop successful case stories where PSE has explicitly benefited those furthest behind for learning and knowledge sharing, across and beyond government.

Pitfalls to avoid
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Policy Level Project Level


  • Identify too many target regions, groups or sectors of the economy, rather than prioritising those most in need.
  • Decide on priority sectors, regions and groups without consulting local stakeholders or relevant databases.


  • Adopt an overly rigid, short-term perspective on project outcomes and results
  • Define target populations, project objectives, outcomes and results without consulting private and civil society partners
  • Design a project without a theory of change, business case and exit strategy
  • End a PSE project abruptly to which the private sector has committed resources, without adequate justification or mutual agreement. This undermines your credibility and the willingness of the private sector to invest in the future.


Through the Dutch Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security the Netherlands Enterprise Agency encourages public-private partnerships in the fields of food security and private sector development in developing countries. The facility has a clear focus on groups most left behind by focusing on projects that have demonstrable positive effects for low-income groups and women while also making markets more efficient and production chains more sustainable. The facility recognises the needs of all partners and maximising development results by fostering the complementarity between ending hunger (SDG 2), promoting economic growth (SDG 8) and business interests.

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