Rex Wickenden l Palladium - Sep 25 2020
Call for Business Partnerships to Support COVID-19 Recovery

Source: Business Partnerships Platform (BPP)

The Palladium-managed Business Partnerships Platform (BPP) is calling for partnerships with inclusive businesses in Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, and Tonga to create both development impacts and sustainable commercial returns, and support recovery from COVID-19.

The BPP is a flagship initiative by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) that supports partnerships between DFAT and businesses to scale commercial models. These partnerships deliver sustainable products and services that improve lives, and support more inclusive and productive value-chains.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant economic impact in countries across the world. In the Indo-Pacific, while the health crisis has not been as deep or widespread as other regions to date, the economic impacts from travel, trade, and social restrictions have nonetheless been severe. Businesses and households have seen their sources of income disappear overnight, with demand for tourism falling to almost zero across the Pacific, and disruption to agriculture, manufacturing, and services sectors dramatically reducing revenue and business survival rates across the board.

As Australia and its partners respond to and recover from COVID-19, the role of business in adapting and ‘building back better’ to support more sustainable, resilient economies has never been more important. The BPP’s call for partnerships is part of a broader effort to ensure a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, as outlined in DFAT’s Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response.

Each BPP country has a unique theme and sector focus which reflects Australia’s shared interests with partner governments. In Samoa for instance, the focus sectors are on health security, stability, and economic recovery. For Sri Lanka, there is a cross-cutting theme of women’s economic empowerment and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with a focus on information and communications technology (ICT), financial inclusion, agriculture technology and fisheries, and online education and education technology. The BPP will also launch a call for partnerships in two more countries - Vietnam and Fiji, before the end of the year.

Bangladesh, Nepal, Philippines, Timor-Leste and Tonga form BPP’s Regional call for partnerships - more information on the focus sectors for each country can be found on the BPP website.

Thinking creatively about COVID-19 recovery

The BPP is a flexible model, designed to support a diverse range of partnerships. Past and present BPP partners range in size, from global companies such as Essilor, the worlds’ largest eyeglasses manufacturer, to local enterprises like Krissy Co., a manufacturer of coconut products in Samoa. The make-up of partnerships also varies considerably, with some including NGOs, academic institutions, local government, and state-owned enterprises to help build or scale the commercial model.

“We are in a time of significant economic, social and environmental challenges, as well as opportunities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” explains Ariane Gauchat, Palladium Team Leader for the BPP. “We would encourage applicants to be bold and think creatively about where the BPP can support ideas that can contribute to COVID-19 economic recovery. The BPP Call for Partnerships also has a strong gender and ‘build back better’ focus. As such, we will be looking for applicants to identify how partnership proposals will support women and girls and deliver climate change impacts.”

The BPP offers partners advice and support in refining their concept. Shortlisted applicants will have the opportunity to discuss mutual interests to help shape full proposals. Successful partnerships will benefit from access to DFAT’s networks and expertise, as well as matched funding between AUD 100,000-500,000. Co-investment from BPP partners to date has significantly exceeded the DFAT contribution by a ratio of almost 2:1.

The BPP currently maintains 33 partnerships across 16 countries, leveraging over AUD 25.9 million in co-contributions to build and scale innovative models, from a DFAT investment of AUD 14.6 million to date. For example, the partnership between the Australian Government, Mastercard, The Asia Foundation, and the Vietnam Bank for Social Policies works to expand access to mobile banking services for poor and underserved populations in Vietnam.

“What the BPP did for us is it got everyone organised around a set of goals, and from there we began working out a strategy and that involved building relationships” says Dr Michael De Gregorio from The Asia Foundation. “Through that we began to understand each other’s needs and operating mechanisms.” This partnership has reached over 5.1 million new customers, providing many with access to SMS banking services for the first time.

How to apply

Interested organisations are invited to submit a brief concept note through the BPP website. Applicants must refer to the Guidelines for Applicants, which provides all the relevant information on eligibility criteria and the process for submitting concept notes. The deadline for applications is 12th October for Samoa, and 4th November for all other countries.

For more information on the call for partnerships, contact