We are currently facing some of the biggest crises of our time—climate change, learning loss, global health inequities, and more—and we need new approaches if we are to make meaningful progress toward tackling them. While there is no doubt that government plays an important role in helping to solve these critical issues and support social service programs to combat them, it has long been recognized that the private, or nonstate, sector has the potential to bring a multitude of benefits in either the delivery or financing of those services through public-private partnerships (PPPs). We see great potential for a new type of PPP—partnerships for public purpose* (new PPPs)—which emphasizes not whether the partner is from the public or private sector, but whether these collaborations and their impact have a publicly oriented purpose.

Partnerships for public purpose, on the other hand, put the emphasis on multilateral relationships that support sustainable, long-term, and systemic impact. Instead of being constrained by private finance contracts or by cost-reduction strategies, these new PPPs encourage true partnerships with a diversity of stakeholders. By harnessing the technical expertise, approaches, and networks possessed by governments, private-sector organizations, nongovernmental actors, and donor agencies, these new PPPs can provide innovative mechanisms and promote collaboration to address challenges that traditional government resources and competing priorities struggle to negotiate. In doing so, they can increase capacity, improve quality, enhance equity, and target poor or marginalized populations for the delivery or financing of services.

An increasing number of these new PPPs are being put into practice and delivering results for citizens around the world. Over the past decade, outcome-based financing mechanisms such as social, development, and environmental impact bonds (SIBs, DIBs, and EIBs), as well as outcomes funds, have arisen as key forms of these new PPPs. These mechanisms bring together multiple stakeholders, which could include governments, NGOs, social enterprises, donors, and investors, to collaborate and deliver a set of outcomes—paying only when results are achieved.

Read the full article about partnerships for public purpose by Amel Karboul, Emily Gustafsson-Wright, and Max McCabe at Brookings.