Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) Win Awards for Social Impact

(3BL Media and Just Means) - It’s never crossed my mind that the federal government of the United States would seek partnerships with small artists. But, that’s exactly what they’ve done. In a recent interview with Andrew O’Brien, the Special Representative for Global Partnerships in the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Partnerships, and Mike Samson, Co-Founder of crowdSPRING, I learned how and why this partnership matters.

The Global Partnerships office calls them P3s, as in public-private partnerships. The office began a P3 Impact Award for corporations who are making social impact through on-the-ground partnerships. It was an idea that was birthed from the Concordia Summit as a way to recognize high impact work across sectors. The winner of the recent P3 award was The Hershey Company’s Cocoalink program. In partnership with the Ghana Cocoa Research Institute and the Ghana Cocoa Board, Hershey initiated CocoaLink, a unique program that uses low-cost, mobile phone technology to carry social and agricultural information—based on fair trade principles and techniques—to rural cocoa farmers. They were honored with the P3 award for the scalability of their work and the growth potential of their impact.

“Everyone who submitted was a winner, but what makes CocoaLink unique is their potential for scalability. The impact it will have on people’s lives--teaching basic farming and agricultural practices-- is remarkable,” says O’Brien.

To honor the five finalists, the Global Partnerships Office worked with crowdSPRING, an online marketplace for logos, branding and content creation. Artists from around the world submitted a five, panel mural/infographic highlighting the work of each partnership initiative. (The winning design is showcased above.)

“At crowdSPRING, we have a global talent pool. The diversity of ideas that comes from a project like this is incredible. We have a pool of artists who are both self and classically trained.  The ideas that were submitted enriched the whole process and make it more powerful,” says Samson.

Partnering with small artists does add value to the Global Partnerships Office’s marketing efforts, but it’s also something they are very proud of. The winning mural hangs in the entryway of their office and has received great attention, says O’Brien.

“We love tapping into wonderful creativity,” says O’Brien. He explains: “And if you think back over history, the Works Progress Administration under Roosevelt funded programs which put people back to work. Writers wrote guidebooks, artists did shows, the Civilian Conservation Corp built state parks. We have some of the most enduring legacies of that time through art and government partnerships. And, it captured the time and put people together that you don’t see in a lot of other outlets.

Samson agrees: “When the state needed creativity, they went to an agency. We step back and we let the artists deal directly with the client, the government. We are knocking down the barriers which typically exist and enabling people to find artistic work who never would have had to have access on their own.”

“What’s your vision for private, public partnerships? And, where does big business fall into this equation?” I asked both Samson and O’Brien.

“Less government, more entrepreneurs. Less government, more artists. ” answers O’Brien. Large corporations have a wider reach than anyone in government. The global nature of business gives them the biggest impact. We are fortunate that companies likes Hersheys and Coke and GM recognize their place as their partners.”

“At crowdSPRING, we want to see the one on one connection between artists and large companies and artists and governments multiply. In regards to the role of large corporations, they have to be more transparent,. They have to rise to a great account of responsibility. When they are so easy reach, it makes them more accountable. There’s more and more they cannot overlook,” says Samson.

I give kudos to the US Federal government for trying to build cross-sector efforts. It’s takes a lot of work to bring the public and private sector together. But it’s worth it because the most impactful change occurs when the whole system works together.

Read more about P3s and crowdSPRING.