Talking shared value & smart business in Rome

June 18, 2016
Participants pose for a group shot at the Shared Value Practitioners Forum.

We had our fair share of pasta and gelato, but for the more than 60 people who descended on Rome, Italy, last week for the Shared Value Practitioners Forum, the richness was in conversation, collaboration, and curiosity. Prego!

Pact was 10-strong at the forum. Country directors from Nigeria, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Swaziland, Thailand, and Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda, joined with headquarters staff from a wide range of disciplines, including livelihoods, opportunity development, and corporate engagement.

A week after returning from Rome, I continue to be inspired by the quality of the forum, made possible by the Shared Value Initiative, and the attendees who joined together in a conference room for three days despite the architectural beauty of Rome that surrounded us. The attendees and speakers represented 14 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and seven corporations, allowing for candid discussions about corporate engagement and how shared value as a corporate strategy can create both return on investment and social impact. 

We listened to case studies of shared value in action, spoke about real-time internal struggles in sectors and industries, and examined bias we may carry toward other sectors in order to do all of our important work. 

I was struck by the common threads I share, as an architect of partnerships for Pact, with my corporate peers, who are also architects in their sector. After recently moving from the corporate to the NGO world, I feel like I’m right where I should be – leveraging the skills I honed building global internal and external engagement for social issues at a corporation in order to do the mirror image at an NGO. Pact knows the value of partnering with the private sector and craves the inspiration, guidance, and tools from those of us who can bridge the language gaps, understand motivations, catalyze expertise and address the bias that we may respectively carry.

The Pact team used the week as a corporate partnership conclave, building time into the agenda to examine Pact’s current state of corporate partnerships, their impact, and how every team member can build upon the current 17 programs with corporations that are expanding our important work across eight countries to affect change in people’s livelihoods, health, and use of their natural environment.

Listening to my Pact colleagues and the other forum participants, I realized that five or 10 years into the future, we may not be talking about a company’s shared value work. We’ll simply call them a “smart company.”

So, however you use the Italian word, “prego,” in place of the word “great,” to acknowledge a comment, or to dress your pasta, I’m using it back here in Washington, D.C., to express my enthusiasm and inspiration for more from potential partners ready to do the same. I’m nowhere near full from the richness of our time in Italy.