The three ‘N’s

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At a meeting with an international NGO last week I was asked for three trends for the ‘business of development’. Based on research we have been conducting over the past year, here are the three ‘N’s that rose to the top:

1. Measurement of NET impact. Business increasingly needs to monitor the impact it has, not just in terms of numbers of jobs and investment dollars. But what is the quality of impact, and the consequence of its actions that support the business development model? And can you measure that in an accessible way? Sounds like the challenge NGOs and governments have. So there’s an opportunity here for the development community to develop the measures that can be applied to the ‘business of development’, and monitor sustainable development.

2. The NEXUS of social and environmental challenges. Leading global business are working on a nexus of social and environmental issues that cut across stakeholder groups. Problems are far bigger than any single actor. Social and environmental NGOs are sensitive to each others’ issues and positions, but how can they respond to this nexus of issues most effectively?

3. NEW partnerships. Business partnerships, NGO and business collaborations, public private partnerships… The scale of the challenge requires the ‘management of impact’ rather than the ‘management of projects’. More transformative partnerships are needed and this will no doubt lead to a consolidation of ‘projects’ and a challenging process of negotiating multiple agency, scalable programmes. The effort required in forming and storming through such partnerships will be immense, but NECESSARY!

Our research, whether desk research, case-studies, stakeholder research or online listening is constantly stimulating issues and ideas. A top ten set of trends will need to emerge next.