Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) partner with corporations in a variety of ways, and their roles have evolved in recent years. For decades, NGOs were recipients of philanthropic grants, service providers for disaster relief, and implementers of projects that benefited communities where employees lived or products were manufactured. But today, businesses work with NGOs as partners to enter new markets, reduce costs in their value chain, and build clusters around operations. Moreover, NGOs recognize that their beneficiaries live in the communities in which companies operate and may even be their customers or suppliers.
These mutual interests can help scale the missions of NGOs in sustainable ways. The shift toward shared value partnerships can deliver greater social impact, but it requires strategic examination. What are the best opportunities for an NGO given its unique mission, capabilities, and geographic footprint? How can an NGO structure these relationships in ways that are truly mutually beneficial? Will key stakeholders have concerns? Are there consequences for existing relationships?
Mercy Corps engaged FSG to help the organization better understand these new trends in corporate–NGO partnerships and to identify potential shared value opportunities for Mercy Corps. FSG researched the shared value landscape across various industries and social issues and conducted more than 80 interviews with internal stakeholders and external experts in shared value to learn which opportunities Mercy Corps was best positioned to pursue based upon organizational goals, internal capabilities and expertise, and existing corporate partnerships.
Three near-term shared value opportunities for Mercy Corps emerged from our work: (1) mobile-enabled services for smallholder farmers; (2) “last-mile” sales and the distribution of social goods such as cook stoves and solar products; and (3) community development partnerships with extractives companies. These recommendations received organization-wide executive and board approval. Today, Mercy Corps has begun to integrate shared value into the fabric of its work and partners with companies on shared value deals to create greater social impact.
About Mercy Corps
Founded in 1979, Mercy Corps is an international NGO whose mission is to alleviate suffering, poverty, and oppression by helping people build secure, productive, and just communities. Mercy Corps has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and currently works in 44 countries across the world, helping millions of people improve their lives.