Pact welcomes Todd Kirkbride as head of private sector engagement

May 14, 2024
Todd Kirkbride, Pact's new Senior Director of Private Sector Engagement
Todd Kirkbride, Pact's new Senior Director, Private Sector Engagement. Photo credit: Adam Fritz, Pact.

Todd Kirkbride joins Pact with 25 years of experience designing, facilitating and implementing public-private partnerships for development and promoting private sector engagement in emerging markets for multinational corporations, international donors, foundations, nonprofits and entrepreneurial start-up ventures. He has run a successful private sector engagement/partnership consulting practice for seven years, advising clients on how to maximize their organizations’ goals through shared value and inclusive business approaches, has led private sector landscape assessments and private sector engagement strategies for USAID Missions.  

In this Q&A, Kirkbride shares more about his experience, what brought him to Pact, thoughts on localization and the private sector and more.

Q: What made you want to join Pact?
A: Pact’s longstanding reputation among international development implementors as a leader in community development. As a private sector engagement (PSE) expert, I was looking for an organization who had made a commitment to working with non-traditional organizations wanting to achieve social impact through a shared value approach, which Pact has done through its PSE office but also by wanting to build-up a new advisory/consulting practice area that I might help create.

How do you leverage your extensive experience to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with the private sector?
Love the framing of the question since leverage is the key resource I look for in identifying private sector partners to work with. Having worked in the partnership and PSE space for almost two decades, I have a very good understanding of what companies, foundations and donors are looking for in co-creating impactful partnerships and projects in their priority countries. It’s a matter of identifying the ‘sweet spot’ of mutual benefit for all parties involved to deliver on a common objective. And to also identify other partners that might help fill missing gaps. As trust is a critical ingredient for any successful PSE, I like to think that my extensive network having worked for USAID, numerous INGOs and companies allows me to open many doors quickly to build these partnerships.

Can you share an example of a successful public-private partnership that is effectively driving sustainable development outcomes?
In my last full-time job with Land O’Lakes Venture37, I helped broker a public-private partnership with the Global Dairy Platform, Bain & Company and Land O’Lakes called Dairy Nourishes Africa. We piloted the partnership in Tanzania and started to scale up in Kenya with plans to expand to the rest of East Africa. Simply, our key partners on the ground were the leading dairy processors whom we worked with to increase their capacity by working throughout the entire value chain. But we brought in so many other partners by helping address issues around nutrition, women’s economic empowerment, animal health, school feeding (milk) programs, methane reduction and many other cross-cutting benefits. The successful pilot attracted additional investment from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Swedish Development Agency, and interest from TetraPak, regional banks and others. The program continues to expand and scale even today. 

What does success in this role look like to you?
I like to think of success in three key areas:

  1. Expanding the potential non-USG client base for projects not only within the Sustainable Markets impact area, but with the Governance and Health teams as well (and CD&I is already integrated throughout). 
  2. Providing more technical design advice within public opportunities that could strengthen our proposals with more integrated PSE activities. 
  3. Deliver more technical assistance and knowledge leadership around PSE within Pact and all its projects. 

And to have fun with a great team doing all this!!

Localization is a significant trend in international development and is central to Pact’s vision of engaged communities leading their own development. How does this align with private sector needs and priorities?
Luckily, ‘localization’ has been part of Pact’s DNA for the past 50 years, so I hope to see many more opportunities for us to engage with USAID on this journey to realize full empowerment of our local partners, mostly in the NGO space. To that end, they also need guidance on how to work with the private sector and have these conversations in aligning goals, resources and activities. I hope the PSE team can get more involved in training and advising local organizations in conducting their own assessments and outreach to achieve sustainable impact with the private sector. 

In your experience, what are some common challenges or barriers to establishing effective partnerships with the private sector, and how do you address them?
As I have developed many three-day trainings to address this exact question, I can only highlight some key challenges in this limited space:

  • Cross-talk: Development actors and the private sector speak different languages and often don’t actually hear what the other organization is saying. One solution could be to bring in expert facilitators to help all parties explore the potential to combine resources to solve a common problem. 
  • Sponsorship, not partnership: Development actors primarily seek engagement with the private sector to help cover the cost of implementing activities or projects they have decided on. To overcome this, once a strategically aligned company is identified, engage in open, co-creation sessions to fully understand what benefits each organization can offer to the other and develop activities and funding sources together. 
  • Relationships: These can’t be built overnight. Critical to any successful partnership is trust, mutual benefit and equity; all of which can only be achieved by building up relationships between individuals and organizations over time. We must invest in client relationship management systems and practices that facilitate meeting face-to-face, exchanging information and be willing to take risks together and learn from trying to do development differently. 

What is a quote or saying that you live by and why?
‘Follow your heart.’ I can still remember this was the subject of all of my college application essays and it seems to have set me on a path of awesome adventures, meaningful experiences, amazing people, bountiful happiness and a life of fulfillment and purpose.