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Creating Partnerships To Navigate COVID-19

Cross-sector collaborations enable organizations companies to leverage invaluable opportunities

As COVID-19 continues to rage across the globe, business executives are faced with the urgent challenge of how best to respond and contribute to the benefit of their employees, their customers, their communities and ultimately their businesses. The challenge is that the pandemic is what social scientists like to a call a truly “wicked problem”—an enormously complex challenge where no single solution exists.

Over the last decade or so, global business leaders have increasingly tackled these types of wicked problems through new, creative, non-traditional partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government agencies. Celebrated CEOs, such as former Unilever CEO Paul Polman, champion these cross-sector collaborations as critical for tackling issues ranging from climate change to the sustainable sourcing of inputs and materials. These partnerships enable companies to leverage new resources, expertise and networks.

But cross-sector partnerships differ from traditional business alliances that companies have with vendors or suppliers. You don’t simply hire an NGO or a UN agency and cut them a check, but rather start with building a shared understanding of the problem to be solved and develop common goals and a framework for sharing risks, responsibilities and rewards. In a cross-sector partnership, the value is created by partners leveraging the capabilities of the other partners to solve the problem.

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