Unusual Suspects policy briefs: the private sector in international development

'(Un)usual suspects' — SURe programme,Development Policy08 Jan 2020Yannicke Goris, Arthur Rempel, Sarah Cummings

In the field of international development there seems to be little disagreement about the importance of engaging with the private sector. It is often unclear, however, how we can effectively work with private actors, let alone what role they (can) play in knowledge brokering for international development. If we are serious about collaborating with private actors for inclusive and sustainable development, it is vital to acquire a better understanding about obstacles and opportunities for collaboration.

The NWO-WOTRO research project An unusual suspect: the private sector in knowledge brokering in international development (henceforth Unusual suspects) is making an important contribution to this understanding, by delving into the role of the private sector in knowledge brokering for development.

Running since September 2017, the Unusual suspects project is now approaching its final stages. One of the project’s primary goals is to bridge the academic-policy divide and make sure the findings have an impact in practice. To that end, The Broker has worked with the Unusual suspects research team to translate the project results into clear policy briefs. The first and second of three planned policy briefs have now been published. Both policy briefs present key relevant findings of the Unusual suspects projects in a succinct an accessible manner, aimed in particular at policymakers and practitioners in the field of international development.

Policy brief #1 is based on a comprehensive literature review. It starts by outlining the potential of private sector involvement in international development. Thereafter, the brief identifies some of the main barriers for private sector involvement. Finally, the brief concludes with some key messages for policy makers.

Policy brief #2 is based on a very recent article by Sarah Cummings, Anastasia‐Alithia Seferiadis and Leah de Haan. This second policy brief seeks to reveal the hidden dimensions underpinning current policy dialogues on the private sector by looking at discourses central to development policy. Untangling the way in which the role of the private sector is envisioned and talked about helps identify the most fruitful way forward to collaborate with private actors for sustainable development.

While knowledge brokering is increasingly recognised as one of the potential roles of the private sector, little research has focused on this activity specifically within the field of international development. Therefore, the Unusual Suspects researchers decided to revisit the results of the literature review (see Policy brief #1) and test the available findings by consulting experts in knowledge brokering. Policy brief #3 presents the most important insights of this study as well as their implications for policy(makers).


All three policy briefs are now available for download:

Get policy brief #1 here.
Get policy brief #2 here.
Get policy brief #3 here.

Find more information on the Unusual suspects programme on the official programme page.