This originally appeared on Devex Impact.

Since it first released the Global Development Alliance mechanism in 2001, the U.S. Agency for International Development has contracted more than 1,600 public-private partnerships. Each year, it releases a new Annual Program Statement (APS) (PDF), which governs the nature of these partnerships.

To understand what’s new and relevant for companies and implementers interested in creating new partnerships with USAID, Devex Impact caught up with Ken Lee, a senior alliance advisor with USAID’s office of global partnerships.

First of all, what is an Annual Program Statement, and how does it relate to public-private partnerships?

USAID uses Annual Program Statements to invite and support creative and innovative solutions to challenging problems in developing countries. Think of it as a global invitation to bring us great ideas and work with us to make the world a better place.

Gabi Zedlmayer, vice president of Hewlett-Packard’s Office of Global Social Innovation, signs the memorandum of understanding with Maura O’Neill, chief innovation officer at USAID. Photo credit: USAID/CC BY-NC-SA

For us, public-private partnerships are projects that advance development outcomes in areas like health, food security, and climate change while addressing core business issues for companies. These partnerships include efforts like working with agribusiness firms to help them source from small-holder farmers or partnering with technology companies to train youth in ICT skills.

The Global Development Alliance Annual Program Statement focuses that invitation on the private sector and others who are interested in building public-private partnerships. We want to work with private sector companies to identify complementary interests and concerns and then figure out ways we can work together to achieve those interests and address those concerns.

We believe that by working together, we can engage markets and market forces in ways that increase the reach, efficiency, effectiveness and sustainable impact of our development investments. As Administrator [Rajiv] Shah has noted, working with private firms is key to encouraging truly sustainable, broad-based economic growth in developing countries. The GDA APS is our invitation to private sector companies – and traditional implementing partners who work with the private sector–to expand the scope and quality of our collaboration.

What is different about this new APS?

Whenever we issue the latest version of the GDA APS, we try to incorporate changes that address various questions, creative suggestions, and lessons learned that emerged in the previous year. Input from our private sector partners, implementing partners, and agency colleagues is critical to improving the APS from one year to the next.

Three of this year’s most important changes are:

  • Improved ease of use for private companies: The 2013 GDA APS allows certain types of “nontraditional partners,” such as private companies, to submit a one-to-two page letter of interest in lieu of the standard five-page concept paper. The APS also showcases a special type of agreement – a “collaboration agreement”–that can be used with these nontraditional partners.
  • Increased information about alliance development: The 2013 APS tries to clarify the alliance development process. For example, we’ve included more information on the timing and types of discussions available to USAID and prospective alliance partners both prior to and after they submit ideas under the GDA APS.
  • Enhanced descriptions of private sector resource mobilization or “leverage”: We’ve provided much more thorough information on what we’re looking for in terms of private sector engagement and private sector resource mobilization (what we call leverage).

In addition, we’re using the 2013 GDA APS to pilot an approach that will allow USAID–under certain limited circumstance–to consider equity and loans as possible sources of leverage.

What do you want private sector companies to know about the new APS?

We’re open for business! We really want to hear from private sector companies. Even if your company doesn’t know whether or how it wants to collaborate with USAID, come talk to us. The first few pages of the APS highlight several value propositions for the private sector. If anything in those pages is even remotely interesting or intriguing, send us an email so we can arrange for a meeting and learn more about your business and the challenges you’re encountering in developing countries. We are eager to find ways in which our collaboration with you can significantly improve the results of our respective efforts and investments.

What do you want nonprofits and implementers to know?

We’re open for business! For more than 50 years, the expertise and talents of our implementing partners have been absolutely essential to the success of USAID’s work. With regard to Global Development Alliances, our implementing partners have identified private companies, developed alliance ideas, and designed and delivered core alliance activities.

If you are a nonprofit or implementer and you are able to effectively engage the private sector as a core partner in the definition of key challenges in developing countries and the development of high-impact solutions to those challenges, please contact us. We are very interested in working with you and your private sector partners to explore alliance opportunities under the GDA APS.

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