What we think

Mindsets for Partnership and Innovation 

27th August 2019 Posted by: Ethicore

Mindsets for Partnership and Innovation


How transformative could our partnerships be if we invested in the mindsets and capacity of each individual that makes a partnership happen?  The leaders, finance, design, delivery?  Partnership is ultimately made up of individuals and their relationships with each other, with success or failure often determined by the attitudes and behaviours of those individuals.  It takes real mastery of mindsets for partnership’ to create and sustain transformative partnerships.    

Too often partnerships lack a shared aspiration for change, getting stuck in service delivery, unable to break down silos or finding ‘new’ difficult.  A partnership may be drifting off track but the partnership doesn’t have the relationship or the tools for the partners to disclose and address issues In this partnership mindsets series, we’ll be introducing 6 mindsets for partnership and the core mindsets that underpin them.  Let’s challenge ourselves to invest in partners to develop their mastery of mindsets for transformative partnerships. 

Follow the series to get an ‘overview of the mindsets for partnership and innovation’ and delve deep into each mindset for more insights and tools. 

Sign up at https://www.ethicore.com/get-in-touch/sign-up/ to receive the series by email. 

By Rachael Clay 

The challenge and rise of new financing modalities for Sustainable Development

27th June 2019 Posted by: Ethicore

Brookings Impact Bond Snapshot, 1 January 2019

Brookings Impact Bond Snapshot, 1 January 2019[i]

Funding for development is changing.  Payment by results and contracts were already shaping expectations of grants and mainstream funding.  Now new funding modalities such as Development Impact Bonds (DIBs), blended finance and Multi-Donor Trust Funds (MDTFs) are reinforcing this trend.  Specific programmes may be well suited to such approaches, increasing efficiency and scale, leveraging investment funding and incentivising innovation.  They may rebalance risks for development actors and governments, but they also raise new questions around power, funding, policy and continuity.  We explore the modalities and considerations. 

Brookings Global Impact Bond Database tracked 134 impact bonds as either completed or in implementation by the end of 2018, mostly Social Impact Bonds.  Specifically, in development, there are seven active Development Impact Bonds DIBs currently. Outcomes-based programmes are financed by risk capital from social investors with an ‘outcome funder’ (e.g. a donor or government) paying back the investment on end results.  The approach is suited to programmes with established indicators and impact results, ready for scale-up, particularly where they are flexible and adaptive to specific contexts.  Experience of the current DIBs suggests teams need to be prepared to invest time and money in measurement and reporting systems and close coordination with partners to succeed.  DIBs are less suited for longer-term programming and can carry high start-up costs for investment and systems [ii].   

Blended Finance can leverage significant funding for SDG delivery and focus private investments on development outcomes. This is a large market ($50bn), forecast to double [iii]. Development finance in the shape of loan guarantees or mezzanine loans (governments absorb impact of defaults) de-risk private investments, attracting finance for development projects. But large infrastructure projects attractive to investors may not have development benefits for communities and marginalised indviduals [iv], and incentives are biased to middle rather than low-income countries [v]. 

Multidonor trust funds are well established (MDTFs exist for disaster response, global development and country projects), with pooled funds from multiple donors.  Benefits include a commitment to long term coordinated programming between actors and funders and reduced entry costs for smaller donors.  Collaboration in larger MDTFs promote common policy and practice.  The challenge is to make sure donor funding preferences and budget lines do not work against shared objectives and funds [vi] 

New financing modalities can help leverage new funding and were applied well have the potential to increase focus on outcomes and performance. However, it’s important to address issues head-on, including power, funding, policy and continuity. 

  • Power imbalance: Power dynamics and power imbalances between international investors and governments in countries.  More evidence on results and impacts for people and communities in poverty are needed [vii] 
  • Funding substitution: Do new funding mechanics generate incremental revenue streams, or simply substitute traditional ones?  A particular concern for private foundations and corporate investments. Again more data is required. 
  • Policy Framing: More policy and institutional frameworks are needed to guarantee positive development impacts from private financing flows [viii]. Clearer international criteria and definitions for financing platforms could assist (e.g. Green criteria for Green Bonds [ix]). 
  • Continuity: Annual budgeting cycles for investors challenge continuity and longterm interventions [x].  Investment funding for pilots could be as well used in proven, established programmes. 

As traditional grant funding contracts and contorts, collaborating in new modalities of finance offer exciting new pathways for funding development.   Although evaluations of alternative financing methods are positive, more work needs to be done to assess future potential and longterm impact.     

By Jane Thurlow

[i] https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Impact-Bonds-Snapshot-January-2019.pdf

[ii] Impact Bonds in Developing Countries: Early Learnings from the Field Brookings Institute, September 2017

[iii] Blended Finance TaskForce

[iv] Development Initiatives, Blended finance: Understanding its potential for Agenda 2030, 2018 (http://devinit.org/post/blended-finance-understanding-its-potential/)

[v] Investments to end poverty 2018 report, Development Initiatives

[vi] 2006 Review of Post-Crisis Multi-Donor Trust Funds: Key Findings, Joint Donor and World Bank Review Norway, Canada, United Kingdom, and The Netherlands. World Bank Conflict Prevention and Reconstruction Unit, Trust Funds Operations Unit, Fragile States Unit

[vii] Impact Bonds in Developing Countries: Early Learnings from the Field Brookings Institute, September 2017

[viii] Blended Task Force

[ix] Bank Track Calls for Strengthening of Green Bond Principles

[viii] Impact Bonds in Developing Countries: Early Learnings from the Field Brookings Institute, September 2017

[x] Impact Bonds in Developing Countries: Early Learnings from the Field Brookings Institute, September 2017

What next for advocacy partnerships? 

10th August 2018 Posted by: Ethicore

By Jane Thurlow, Ethicore Associate 

A couple of weeks on from Business Fights Poverty Oxford, we’ve been reflecting on the discussion we curated with our insightful panel and  The Partnering Initiative at the Advocacy Partnership Zone.  Our panel had some clear directions on what was needed next for more impactful advocacy partnerships. 

Contributors acknowledged  the scale of the challenge to deliver the SDG’s can only be achieved through collaboration between companies, civil society and governments.  While agreeing that new models of partnerships are evolving, many felt more is required for advocacy collaborations to achieve greater clarity of purpose and impact.  Six directions emerged from the discussion:  


  • Prioritise data and analysis upfront to build a robust partnership and clear advocacy asks 
  • Use evidence to promote shared understanding of the problem to solve, promote shared priorities and encourage trust 
  • Underpin external advocacy with empirical data for more influence with policy makers 


  • The most effective partnerships start from a sense of shared purpose, built on common goals: 
  • Identify the problem/challenge to address  
  • Build on data and evidence for robust, non partisan goals (see the case for data and evidence above)  
  • Establish clear partnership aims and principles to align with objectives and guide activities 
  • Break down long term policy goals to measurable targets and milestones to build agency and facilitate M & E (see effective impact measurement) 


  • Be clear on the agency and potential for impact of both partners, using the strength of different voices collaboratively and independently: 
  • Companies have traction to influence government and advocate for responsible practices with sector peers 
  • NGOs provide an authentic external voice to spotlight issues and raise awareness, for advocacy rooted in the experiences of communities on the ground 
  • Be clear on the strengths of each partner and clarify targets and activities accordingly  


  • Internal tensions within organisations can hamper the progress of advocacy partnerships.  Conflict can exist between advocacy goals and commercial purposes in businesses; civil society can experience tension between programme, advocacy and funding objectives.  Both require clear frameworks and governance to ensure engagement and follow through in their organisations.  
  • Ensure clear governance structure in organisations for advocacy partnerships 
  • In companies: designate accountability to an advocacy lead/group to consult and explore differences within organisation, agree framework and ensure approaches/policies are embedded 
  • Involve key internal teams (e.g. procurement) to ensure consistency between internal policies and practices and external advocacy goals 
  • In INGOs: establish cross functional working groups to agree framework, principles and approaches for partnership 
  • Consult with cross functional leads to ensure alignment within campaigning, programming and fundraising 


  • Recognising that policy makers respond to evidence, the need to develop more effective impact measurement is called for to define what success looks like for advocacy outcomes: 
  • Embed monitoring and evaluation into day-to-day partnership activities 
  • Use social and business measures for maximum traction internally and externally 
  • Engage in cross partner experimentation and dialogue to establish effective measures for behaviour change in companies 


  • Business Fights Poverty’s excellent report on advocacy partnerships, Advocating Together for the SDGs, identifies 8 influential case studies of advocacy partnerships as exemplars to stimulate multi-sectoral advocacy to advance the SDGS.  The momentum is now on to create more case studies to engage and build learning: 
  • Use case studies to short-cut policy arguments, highlight issues and connect emotionally with decision makers 
  • Provide concrete examples of advocacy outcomes and successes  
  • Anchor to clear advocacy asks/recommendations 

We’d love to hear more thoughts on what next for advocacy partnerships – let’s keep the discussion going, share your thoughts @ethicore #advocacy partnerships. 






Innovation for Impact Partnerships at Business Fights Poverty Oxford

18th July 2018 Posted by: Ethicore

By Jo Zaremba

A vibrant buzz of innovators, intrapreneurs, thinkers, doers and investors filled the Innovation Partnerships session at Business Fights Poverty.  Facilitated by our partner, Darian Stibbe, of The Partnering Initiative; the topic of conversation: innovative partnerships for economic, social and environmental impact. Nine innovation leaders from companies and NGO’s shared experiences of building partnerships, setting the scene for the packed room to contemplate innovative solutions to current global problems. Thinking through combinatorial innovations and lateral applications, participants came up with some wonderfully dynamic new solutions, building on each others’ competencies. The result included five practical innovations which participants  committed to taking forward – and 10 insights to scale up processes for partnerships for innovation:

1.Finding common purpose

2.Unlocking networks, e.g.  local community groups

3. Standing in your partners’ shoes (viewing different issues from different perspectives)

4.Building tolerance through failure

5.Investing in  relationships and accepting that partnerships will ‘wax and wane’ in energy

6.Taking joint ownership of cycles of adaptation for your partnership and programmes (& regular M&E)

7.Investing in emerging / local leadership (coach, train for collaboration)

8.Communicating and being transparent with your partners

9.Developing succession plans for the sustainability of your innovations

10.Using the power of  the many, to mitigate risk aversion

The session concluded on a challenge to partnerships to move from funded to self-financed projects, building local ownership, capacity and commitment into the core of partnerships.  Panellists reflected the cost of partnerships are considerable and investment is vital.

We will be publishing more content stimulated by Business Fights Poverty Oxford soon and keeping you up to date on Twitter and Facebook, so do take a look.
 Image FrancescaENew of Mars Global

Advocacy Partnerships Session at Business Fights Poverty Oxford

18th July 2018 Posted by: Ethicore

By Jo Zaremba

A  stimulating discussion was had at our curated Advocacy Partnerships session with The Partnering Initiative this morning at Business Fights Poverty’s flagship Oxford conference.  Panellists and the audience shared case studies demonstrating how business can make a significant contribution to the SDGs, but also raising practical, ethical, intellectual and moral challenges.

The diversity of discussion points is indicative of the diversity of Advocacy Partnerships and contexts where they exist.  From debating the roles of companies in policy and regulatory arenas to the nature and extent of reporting practices and impact, different lessons emerged which showed that collaborations provide both synergies and contradictions.

Interesting reflections in the room on how in contexts lacking the systems, structures, and commitments to basic rules of Human Rights,  the role of business is to go beyond compliance to improve the social or environmental ecosystem.  Meanwhile, companies need to align policy, practice and advocacy with sustainability.  Insightful thoughts on how NGOs can bring in external voices to encourage better business but need to balance challenges with solutions.

Panellists discussed how scale and impact can only be achieved through tackling root causes of social issues. Resolving complex problems require the types of dialogue and collaboration that partnerships offer to bring different minds, experiences, and approaches together to deliver systemic change.

The challenges of forming, managing, maintaining, and measuring the impact of Advocacy Partnerships echo other types of partnerships.  Given the scale of the challenge posed by delivering the SDG’s,  the conclusion from the lively discussion was that investing to address these challenges are worth the effort – for companies, civil society and governments alike.

Look out for more from our Partnership Zone Innovation session with TPI later today.