Scaling Pathways: Leveraging Government Partnerships

Introducing “Leveraging Government Partnerships for Scaled Impact,” the Latest Theme Study From Scaling Pathways

Leveraging Government Partnerships for Scaled Impact

Social enterprises driving toward systems change must undertake various partnerships along the way.  The one partnership most reported as being key to the ability to achieve such change is one with government.  So thousands of social enterprises embark, every day, on this journey—filled with opportunities and challenges now documented in a newly released Scaling Pathways study.

“Business innovation produces some kinds of transformation well, and government policy innovation does others.  Each has limits.  But many imperatives sit in the space between the two modes.”

– Roger Martin and Sally Osberg in Getting Beyond Better

So how, within this space, can social enterprises and government partner together to dramatically scale impact?  CASE explored this question with leading social ventures from the Skoll Foundation and USAID portfolios in its newest contribution to the Scaling Pathways theme study series, Leveraging Government Partnerships for Scaled Impact.

Scaling Pathways: Leveraging Government Partnerships for Scaled Impact lays out key strategies and advice curated from interviewees within the frame of preparing for and embarking upon a long-distance race.

On Your MarkOn Your Mark: Set a vision

First, you must get On Your Mark.  You must set a vision for your government partnership, and articulate the role the government will ideally play within your ideal of scaled impact.  This includes planning around one or more of the common partnership goals and the roles your social enterprise will play to meet those goals.

4 Potential Goals for Government Partnerships

Clear the path

Enterprise directly implements its product/service, engaging with government to seek informal permission and/or avoid potential barriers.


Enterprise directly provides a service/product – either through a government contract or by leveraging government resources/infrastructure.


Enterprise works to transfer management/implementation of solution to a government partner either fully or partially (with enterprise maintaining a role).

Change Policy

Enterprise influences the way government approaches or implements policy, allocates resources, and/or structures regulations.

Get SetGet Set: Prepare for long-term relationship

Next, you must Get Set for your journey.  Creating a productive working relationship with government is a long-term engagement.  Our interviewees provided advice on understanding the context and critical stakeholders within the country (including identifying levels at which to enter), and on ensuring that your organization has the capacity to sustain the pace and length of engagement.

GoGo! Take off, building productive partnerships

Once you have your vision set and are prepared for the long journey, you can Go!  Dive into those partnerships, but heed the careful advice of our interviewees to ensure that you are building effective, mutually beneficial partnerships.  We provide tips to determine the extent to which you bring a fully-baked solution to the table versus pursue co-creation, ways to think about the level of evidence required to meet various partnership goals, how you can manage—or avoid—politics, and ways to help maintain quality of impact over time.

But What If…?

On this journey, entrepreneurs will inevitably hit many bumps in the road.  What if you are faced with corruption?  What if your government partners change?  What if you are perceived to have a conflict of interest?  And what if working with government slows you down? (Note: it most likely will.)  Our research points to strategies successful entrepreneurs have deployed to address these and other common “what if” questions.

Whether you’re a social enterprise, funder, intermediary, or learner, there is knowledge in this paper for you.  Find the full paper here, and all papers in the Scaling Pathways series here.

Scaling Pathways is a collaboration between CASE at Duke University, USAID, the Skoll Foundation, and Mercy Corps.  Scaling Pathways was launched with funding from the Innovation Investment Alliance.