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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Public-Private Partnerships: Getting Started

Fact Sheet
April 14, 2009


Secretary Clinton has committed the Department to “provide forward-thinking, sustained diplomacy in every part of the world, applying pressure wherever it may be needed, but also looking for opportunities, exerting leverage, cooperating with our military and other agencies of government, partnering with nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and international organizations, using modern technologies for public outreach, empowering negotiators who can protect our interests while understanding those of our negotiating partners.”

The Department welcomes your interest in public-private partnerships in response to Secretary Clinton’s charge. The following list of Frequently Asked Questions will help you get started.

Why is the Department of State seeking partners?

By leveraging unique skills and assets and the creativity of the private sector, we can together achieve outcomes with greater impact than could be attained by the Department alone. Public-private partnerships offer the Department new perspectives and approaches, and the accelerated replication and sustainability of its diplomatic initiatives.

Is my organization a potential partner?

The Department welcomes public-private partnerships with multi-national corporations, small- and medium-sized enterprises, trade associations, unions, non-governmental and civil society organizations, religious and faith-based organizations, academic institutions and professional societies. These relationships complement the Department’s work with the United Nations, international and regional finance institutions and other members of the international donor community.

If I’m interested in partnering, whom do I contact?

You can contact the Department’s Global Partnership Initiative whose staff are engaged in facilitating and building model partnerships; providing shareable tools and resources to a growing community of interagency practitioners; and enhancing collaborative networks. If you are located overseas, you can contact the U.S. Embassy to relay your interest and get feedback on specific ideas. You can also express your interest in partnering through a member organization such as the American Chamber of Commerce, Overseas Security Advisory Committee, Fulbright Commission, or bilateral friendship society.

What does the Department mean by “partnership”?

The Department defines a partnership as a collaborative working relationship with non-governmental partners in which the goals, structure and governance, as well as roles and responsibilities, are mutually determined and decision-making is shared. Successful partnerships are characterized by complementary equities, openness and transparency, mutual benefit, shared risks and rewards, and accountability.

What types of initiatives would the Department support?

Sometimes the Department seeks to maximize the reach of proven and high-demand programs through resource-sharing with the private sector. The Department is interested also in partnering initiatives that advance the national interest on specific policy issues such as trade, climate change and nuclear non-proliferation. The Department seeks partnerships to support the U.S. Government’s interests in meeting charitable, educational and humanitarian needs overseas. And the Department welcomes partnerships to generate increased social and economic gains from direct assistance to foreign governments and publics.

What should my organization look for in considering a partnering initiative with the Department of State?

Look for partnering opportunities that present the best fit with your organization’s core business objectives, interests and overseas investments. Assessment of fit includes a clear and jointly designed partnership agenda, good timing, a collection of partners whose strengths and resources are complementary, combined resources sufficient to achieve desired outcomes, and the presence of an effective broker and champion.

What benefits can I expect from partnering with the Department of State?

Partnerships with the Department can offer a menu of benefits including enhanced professional development opportunities for your key personnel; strengthening of information networks and access to experts; enhanced credibility; risk reduction; deeper reach into geographic regions of interest; operational improvements to core businesses; and increased effectiveness of products and services.

What does the Department expect in terms of our commitment?

Expectations differ according to the specific initiative undertaken, with the mutual agreement of the partners. Expectations are spelled out in non-binding letters of intent or memoranda of understanding, which typically include milestones or decision-points that invite review and reconsideration of the initiative’s effectiveness and future requirements.

If I partner with the Department of State, is my organization subject to a due diligence check?

The Department undertakes the same level of care as would any reasonable party before entering into an agreement or transaction. Potential partners may be subject to a conflict-of-interest check by the Department. The Department will seek to verify a potential partner’s claims regarding its motives, image, capacities, track record, accountability, financial viability, and intent and ability to deliver on its stated commitments. Organizations are evaluated against the “triple-bottom line” that encompasses not only economic but also social and ecological responsibility.

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