Reimagining Public-Private Partnerships


By Stefaan Verhulst and Andrew J. Zahuranec

For years, public-private partnerships (PPPs) have promised to help governments do more for less. Yet, the discussion and experimentation surrounding PPPs often focus on outdated models and narratives, and the field of experimentation has not fully embraced the opportunities provided by an increasingly networked and data-rich private sector.

Private-sector actors (including businesses and NGOs) have expertise and assets that, if brought to bear in collaboration with the public sector, could spur progress in addressing public problems or providing public services. Challenges to date have largely involved the identification of effective and legitimate means for unlocking the public value of private-sector expertise and assets. Those interested in creating public value through PPPs are faced with a number of questions, including:

  • How do we broaden and deepen our understanding of PPPs in the 21st Century?
  • How can we innovate and improve the ways that PPPs tap into private-sector assets and expertise for the public good?
  • How do we connect actors in the PPP space with open governance developments and practices, especially given that PPPs have not played a major role in the governance innovation space to date?

The PPP Knowledge Lab defines a PPP as a “long-term contract between a private party and a government entity, for providing a public asset or service, in which the private party bears significant risk and management responsibility and remuneration is linked to performance.”

Typically PPPs develop or manage physical infrastructures such as roads, telecom networks, energy plants or health facilities. More recently, both the public and private sector have experienced major transformations in how they address complex and interdependent problems.

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