Sub-principle 3.B

Promote inclusive, bottom-up and innovative partnerships and raise awareness of engagement opportunities


Why is this important?


Local MSMEs, businesses in the informal sector and rural producers are often the final beneficiaries of private sector engagement (PSE) projects but they are also one of the actors with the greatest potential for innovative solutions to address development challenges. Smaller private partners are, however, not the only source for successful bottom-up partnerships: grassroots movements, community-level efforts and entrepreneurial initiatives can all significantly contribute to making an impact on the climate agenda or for left-behind groups, for instance. As these actors tend to have the least capacity to engage in or be informed about existing PSE programmes and projects, development partners can play a supportive role in promoting bottom-up and innovative partnerships. To do so, development partners must go beyond the most visible or largest private sector actors; communicate engagement opportunities; and offer partner country governments resources, best practices and advice on how to partner effectively and inclusively with these non-traditional stakeholders. By fostering bottom-up partnerships, projects attain local buy-in, reduce risks and benefit from the varied contributions of diverse actors, thereby enhancing prospects for success. 

Self-reflection questions
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Policy Level Project Level
  • Does your government’s or organisation’s PSE strategy prioritise partnerships with smaller private partners (such as MSMEs), locally owned or entrepreneurial initiatives alongside larger domestic and transnational firms?
  • Does your PSE strategy stipulate the need to make PSE opportunities publicly and widely available and easy to access for local partners, including MSMEs?
  • Do you sufficiently communicate PSE opportunities in the countries where you operate? 
  • Have you considered preparing handbooks, leaflets, and specific campaigns or courses to increase the capacity of local actors to profit from your PSE opportunities?
  • Do your projects include activities to raise awareness of PSE opportunities among local actors, including those frequently overlooked (e.g. MSMEs, the informal sector)? 
  • Have you provided opportunities and incentives for MSMEs to engage in projects (e.g. providing initial funding that would otherwise not be available, building access to networks, harnessing public expertise and capacity building?)
  • Are you aware that inclusive, bottom-up partnerships are not only created by partnering with smaller private actors but also by enrolling other unconventional actors like grassroots movements, entrepreneurial initiatives or community-level groupings?

Actions to consider
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Policy Level Project Level
  • Use vertical linkages to connect local platforms, partnerships and projects to international processes and mechanisms. This enables the transfer of knowledge and ideas from the global to the grassroots level and vice versa. 
  • Consider how to broaden the knowledge base among relevant actors of PSE opportunities, notably those with reach for vulnerable groups and in social sectors. Note that reaching out to them requires tailored messaging that speaks to their needs. 
  • Consider awarding prizes or accreditations to actors and projects that exemplify good practice to incentivise and publicise good partnering practice.   
  • Think outside of the box when it comes to how inclusion and bottom-up partnerships can inform national level policy. Going beyond conventional, yet important, approaches to public-private and multi-stakeholder dialogues can help uncover innovative ways of working in concert.
  • While recognising the responsibility of partner country governments to establish national and regional-level dialogues, offer advice and suggestions on how to broaden the range of partners at the community level in project planning, implementation and review. 
  • Emphasise the benefits and insights that can be attained through more inclusive and bottom-up partnerships. Pay particular attention to identifying and addressing gaps in participation or inclusion in PSE projects.
  • Where possible, budget appropriately for the provision of additional resources in support of more inclusive partnership mechanisms and opportunities for engagement. 
  • To reach MSMEs and smaller private sector actors within the informal sector, use local contacts and networks (such as proxy actors or middlemen) who sit at the intersection of the formal and informal sectors.
  • Collaborate with local financial institutions as intermediaries to ensure that “bankable” projects can endure and scale up once they are established.

Pitfalls to avoid
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Policy Level Project Level


  • Rely on standard, one-size-fits-all approaches for partnering with the private sector without taking into account the nature and size of the organisations involved.
  • Assume that enrolling a diverse set of actors will automatically lead to fruitful partnerships and innovative ideas without providing additional guidance and support.
  • Duplicate or fragment existing in-country consultation platforms (public-private or multi-stakeholder).
  • Design PSE policies that mainly help to open new opportunities for your own domestic firms irrespective of their fit to the intended development impact at the country level.


  • Neglect partner country contexts when designing outreach to the private sector. Local societies and communities usually consist of a diverse range of stakeholders that engage and vary by project and region.  
  • Offer only tokenistic or superficial opportunities for smaller actors like MSMEs and informal businesses.


The UK, Sweden and The Partnering Initiative support the Business in Development Facility in Colombia, Mozambique and Zambia. This multi-stakeholder platform comprises champions from public, private and civil society actors and provides a structured modality to support bottom-up and innovative partnerships towards action on key business and development challenges.


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