Tag Archives: ppp

Building Sustainable Cities – and Societies – through Collaboration

Sustainability Treehouse Exhibition

Society is described by Aristotle as two or more people pursuing a common goal. A society could therefore be an elevator –even if none of the occupants talks to each other! We enter, we nod, sometimes say hello, press our desired floor and look at our smartphone, contemplate our watch or adjust our briefcase until we are awaken from our reverie by the elevator chime, the door opening or someone entering or exiting our walled ecosystem.

Cities are like elevators. They have a common goal as well as people passing in and out of them. They require technology to function and use resources to reach shared goals. They receive people from all walks of life and representatives of every industry sector imaginable. Elevators and cities are systems in movement; buzzing and chiming every passing second. But despite, or because of, the noise their members are missing valuable opportunities to talk to each other…

Building sustainable cities requires collaboration. Not just collaboration between public and private sectors but also collaboration with and between consumers and citizens. A public private partnership (PPP) is a concept used globally (and usually quite successfully) to help solve infrastructure problems relating to things such as water and energy, ports and roads through both public and private participation. But I think it’s time to look at the consumer or user more closely when we talk about building sustainable cities.

We are living in an age where collaborative consumption is becoming the norm: examples range from the popular accommodation web platform “Airbnb” to crowdfunding projects and ideas through “Kickstarter” or “SeedInvest”. We crowdsource design, suppliers and scientific solutions. Consumers and businesses have found their own ways to collaborate and there’s much more innovative problem solving in the pipeline.

This is where the future of our cities lies; sharing physical and virtual spaces to come up with innovative and workable solutions to our cities’ most pressing issues. We don’t need to be elevators – each going our own way with very little conversation – when we can learn through collaboration; opening up “two way streets” for dialogue and problem solving leading to sustainable city growth.

One of the main questions that arose during the Peter Drucker Global Forum in November 2013 in Vienna, Austria was the role of leadership in complex – and increasingly collaborative – times. With collaboration, where do leaders fit in? If and when we crowdsource our cities’ problems, who leads the charge?

One of the characteristics of modern cities – a modern public – is the potential to create and identify leaders from the very platforms used for problem solving. Anyone can start collaborating but it takes someone to lead and implement the ideas that those platforms or networks generate. In other words, we need someone – whether from government, business or community – to defend, promote, adapt and use the idea for the benefit of the city. Someone to say: “here is an example that works – what comes next?”

If we want to build sustainable cities we need to tap into the knowledge networks that already exist and leaders will emerge. It’s not enough to just design, build and operate or to elect the officials to make strategic decisions for us; while some of us might be happy with the status quo the reality is that the status quo is not sustainable. Forums, networks, industrial clusters, special economic zones – as well as the communities, businesses, governments and individuals that support them – are the platforms for building collaborative and sustainable cities and societies.

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This post was written in response to Masdar’s 2014 Engage Blogging Contest: Smart Cities & Sustainable Development. You can vote for my story above – or another one you feel best answers the question: “How can cities contribute to the advancement of sustainable development and address issues including water, energy and waste?” on Masdar’s web site: http://www.masdar.ae/engage

My bio: Esther Clark is a Contributor to Forbes Mexico and America Economia magazines on leadership and strategy. She is the founder of Hipona Consulting where she currently leads Strategy and Business Development. She is a 2013 Peter Drucker Global Challenge Winner and blogs about business, leadership, branding, social entrepreneurship, knowledge networks and Latin America.

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Why successful PPPs are tied to a higher purpose

Confederation Bridge connecting Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick courtesy Confederation Bridge
Courtesy: Confederation Bridge (Canada)

PPPs or P3’s– Public Private Partnerships – are becoming increasingly popular forms of private and public sector cooperation in infrastructure development and shared service offerings. We hear about successful partnerships in areas like ports, road concessions, real estate development and energy generation projects. This is especially true in countries that typically look for investment and expertise in order to free up capital for other programs or when the project involves a strategic resource, capital intense investment and long term cash flows. But little is said about the human element of the PPP and why an overarching sense of purpose – or a shared belief in what the project represents to its users– is characteristic of successful PPPs.

India has privatized several airports in the last 10 years and in August announced a fast track to privatize several more. This is in line with a global trend towards airport privatization in countries such as Australia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand and Peru. In February 2013, the Municipality of Quito inaugurated the new Quito International Airport in Ecuador; a PPP that includes direct participation by the Municipality of Quito, the Government of Canada, and the private sector.

With increased privatization and competition, successful airports – and airport PPPs specifically- have increased their focus on the airport experience and not only on development of commercial airport activities or the provision of a function or service. As we see with Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), branding is becoming a way for airports to distinguish themselves given increased competition in the airport sector.

csia_logo

CSIA is India’s second busiest airport and since 2006, the Mumbai International Airport Pvt. Ltd. (MIAL), a joint venture between the GVK led consortium and Airports Authority of India, has led the modernization and upgrade of Mumbai’s international airport. The CSIA’s logo is in the shape of a peacock feather (a symbol of pride) and their branding efforts position the airport as a gateway to experiencing India’s dynamic financial and movie-producing capital.

Regardless of whether airports choose to promote characteristics like infrastructure (e.g. Atlanta) or personality (e.g. Perth), branding begins when partners understand the project’s connection to users. And because a brand is the result of consistency of actions across all product and service offerings and, in the case of a PPP, across actions of numerous project partners, it follows that PPP partners need to share a belief in a higher purpose in order to be consistent with what image they are projecting and how they are positioned in the hearts and minds of users. An overarching sense of purpose brings partners to the drawing board and keeps them connected throughout the project lifetime.

Belief in a higher purpose also ensures that project promoters from the private sector are connected to users and not just particular shareholder interests. This holds true with governments that have PPP expertise; Canada, India, Australia and the UK all conduct comprehensive government PPP programs and are more likely to reap the benefits of engagement with their private sector partners and the users of the PPPs. Partners share a sense of purpose and a belief in how the project will contribute to society as well as to specific communities and stakeholders.

In general, when there is an overarching purpose to a PPP there is more space for problem solving; it opens up possibilities for collaboration because project members are focused on the things they believe in rather than the things that they are responsible for. Decisions are made with the larger project purpose at heart; resulting in unexpected connections between departments, functions and organizations operating in industry sectors and markets with a connection to the PPP core business.

Belief is what makes talent and opportunity unite to create something of value for humanity; something that PPPs typically try to do given at least one partner’s public sector mandate. When partners grasp the partnership aspect of a PPP and sketch out and communicate the project’s vision, they not only lead a successful project but also create a successful brand.

Modern organizations understand the emotional connection to doing business and the “why” behind purchase decisions and client loyalty. Nevertheless, PPPs – and proponents of PPP – have yet to take full advantage of the emotional and human connections with their projects. Perhaps it is because of the number of partners involved in a typical PPP that branding does not take place but the dynamic nature of a PPP is precisely the reason why shared belief in a higher purpose and a unified brand is so vital to success. If a PPP has the potential to be managed as a brand, then every tangible and intangible experience associated with the project is part of the brand and can therefore contribute to the project’s equity. And who is not interested in project equity when we talk about investment and partnership?

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