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The World Economic Forum and the Joint Centre for Public-Private Partnerships to Collaborate on Best Practices for PPPs to Improve Healthcare Access

The  Joint Centre for Public-Private Partnerships at UCL is pleased to announce a major new collaboration with the World Economic Forum. As one of our first major initiatives since our formation several weeks ago, the Joint Centre is partnering with the Forum to develop and refine a set of best practices for cross-sector collaboration in expanding healthcare access.

Taking input from the Forum’s constituents, and combining it with insights from the PPP Initiative’s Healthcare PPP Guide, the project will build on lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic. Ultimately, we will create a set of recommendations designed to enable effective, sustainable healthcare partnerships between the private sector, governments, and multilaterals.

Looking Back at the First Year of the Covid-19 Pandemic 

The past year has been a remarkable one for cross-sector collaboration in healthcare. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, private companies have worked alongside governments to create reliable tests for the virus, manufacture protective equipment at scale, adopt transmission mitigation protocols, and of course, develop and distribute several safe and effective vaccines in record time. But this kind of collaboration did not emerge out of thin air. It was the direct result of a unique set of incentives: with a deadly virus threatening to kill millions and disrupt large sectors of the economy, the private sector was—overnight—incentivized to support public health goals. The question is: will this kind of collaboration continue as we move into a post-pandemic world? Without an emergency like Covid-19 to incentivize action, how can we ensure that effective cross-sector engagement becomes a mainstay of global health policy, rather than an aberration?

The Project

Even in the absence of a global catastrophe, cross-sector collaboration is still possible. But it will require a more deliberate approach. Effective public-private partnerships require incentives to be thoughtfully designed, and conflicts of interests must be effectively understood and managed. To achieve this, governments and corporations alike will need professionals who understand the conditions that enable successful partnerships, and are well-trained in frameworks and skills like negotiation, political management, engagement of the public as a partner, and stakeholder analysis.

Our collaboration with the Forum—a global, virtual endeavor—seeks to address these gaps, preparing and enabling executives in both the public and private sectors to create and maintain effective public-private partnerships. The project will involve four key elements:

  • An inaugural workshop, seeking validation and commitment from our partners and constituents
  • A series of roundtable discussions and interviews, designed to generate insights, learn from successes and failures, and better understand the relevance of country context to Covid-19
  • A “Best Practices” paper—linked to the Healthcare PPP Guide—designed to facilitate future public-private partnerships in healthcare
  • A presentation event for disseminating the paper’s findings

The  Joint Centre is thrilled to have the World Economic Forum—one of the world’s preeminent conveners for public-private cooperation—as our partner in this endeavor. This project builds on years of collaboration between the Forum and the PPP Initiative (the Joint Centre’s co-founder), including work on the World Health Organization’s Independent High-Level Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases.

Now, with the new Joint Centre acting as a convening partner, this project will move beyond any particular disease category, instead focusing on the urgent issue of healthcare access, combining the Healthcare PPP Guide with lessons learned from the past year. 

This exciting partnership with the Forum is only the beginning. The Joint Centre continues to grow—expanding its network of partners, and developing additional projects and research initiatives like this one—in service of one of its most fundamental goals: accelerating cross-sector collaboration in healthcare.

Announcing the Joint Centre for Public-Private Partnerships

We are excited to announce the formation of the Joint Centre for Public-Private Partnerships—a new collaboration between PPPI and The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment at University College London.

Combining the Bartlett’s world-renowned emphasis on multidisciplinary study with the PPP Initiative’s economics-driven approach to infrastructure issues, the Joint Centre will develop a new curriculum for graduate and executive education courses, emphasizing the frameworks, skills, motivations and incentives that underpin successful public-private partnerships. This curriculum combines The Bartlett’s focus of infrastructure investment, finance, and governance with PPPI’s years of research and educational experience.

In its initial stages, the Centre’s main focus will be on one of our world’s most pressing infrastructure challenges: healthcare. With non-communicable diseases, aging populations, and Covid-19 each threatening to overwhelm existing healthcare structures, the need for innovative new solutions is self-evident. Given PPPI’s extensive experience and research into healthcare PPPs, we are eager to “hit the ground running,” preparing a new generation of public- and private-sector professionals to develop efficient, transparent, and effective healthcare PPPs. In the process, the Joint Centre will seek to change the way we think about healthcare to include not only medical, scientific, and public health concerns, but also infrastructural and economic ones as well.

However, the Joint Centre’s focus will not be limited to healthcare alone, because the potential for public-private partnerships to transform the way we address large-scale policy challenges is not limited to one type of infrastructure. The Joint Centre will also seek to address challenges related to climate change, transport, water systems, and other features of the built environment.

The Centre will attract top-level talent not just from within the UK, but from around the globe, drawing from the worlds of investment, planning, finance, and management. With the potential addition of a public service fellowship program, top-tier graduate students could be encouraged to apply PPP knowledge to careers in the public sector, ensuring that—over the long run—PPP expertise would pervade the public sector as well as the private sector. Moreover, the Centre will act as a convening mechanism, bringing together high-level executives from across borders and across sectors, including public and private sector executives, graduate students, and constituent donor organizations.

The Joint Centre for Public-Private Partnerships enjoys support from a diverse group of public, private, and multilateral stakeholders. Potential donors include:

  • governments
  • NGOs
  • multinational companies
  • global infrastructure developers and asset managers
  • government-backed, institutional investors.

This diverse set of supporters will allow the Joint Centre to address the medical, policy, development, investment, and management considerations associated with delivering effective and sustainable PPPs.

PPP Initiative in the Harvard Business Review, “A Better Approach to Fighting Chronic Diseases”

Today in the Harvard Business Review, PPPI President and Founder Alan M. Trager writes about the essential strategic elements of successful PPPs, and how PPPs can be used to combat non-communicable diseases.

National University of Singapore School of Public Health and PPPI Co-Host E-Workshop, “Introduction to PPPs in Healthcare.”​

COVID-19 has presented institutions of higher learning with a difficult challenge: how to educate students from a distance. With all the videoconferencing tools at our disposal these days, this might seem—at first—like an easy task. But as I have learned through years of experience in graduate and executive education, the intimacy and interactivity of the classroom are among an educator’s most valuable assets. So back in May, with COVID-19 social distancing mandates in place throughout much of the world, the PPP Initiative (PPPI) found itself facing a difficult challenge: without a classroom, how would we educate graduate students and public- and private-sector executives on something so subtle, so complex, and so interdisciplinary as public-private partnerships?

From July 13th to July 24, PPPI and the National University of Singapore’s School of Public Health (NUSSPH) set out to answer this very question, offering—for the first time in our history—a 100% digital workshop. “Introduction to Healthcare PPPs,” a pilot program that engaged a diverse and talented group of healthcare professionals and executives, demonstrated a compelling proof of concept for distance learning, and offered a glimpse of what the future might hold for distance-based healthcare PPP executive education.

Co-taught with Professor Kee Seng Chia, NUSSPH’s founding dean, the workshop took place over six sessions, each about three to four hours, spanning two weeks. Conducted entirely over Zoom, thanks in no small part to NUS’s excellent technology platform and support staff, the program combined lectures, Q&A sessions, and two participatory group projects in which students gained experience with the skills and frameworks that underpin successful PPPs. Learning directly from PPPI’s newest core curriculum, the 135-page Healthcare PPP Guide, participants engaged with eleven carefully-selected case studies, which allowed them to gain hands-on experience with real-world PPP examples.

Participants were recruited from a wide variety of institutions, including public-sector entities like Singapore’s Ministry of Health, National Kidney Foundation, and the Health Promotion Board; private-sector companies like Fitbit, GlaxoSmithKline, and Apple; and academic institutions like NUS. Productive interaction between sectors is a key element of any successful PPP, and as such, project groups were sorted specifically to encourage cross-sector engagement. As one participant wrote, “I enjoyed the diverse perspectives from different partners: public, private, and academic.”

Of course, executing a successful program via Zoom was no easy task. Without a classroom dynamic, our ability to “read the room” and make adjustments “on the fly” was significantly compromised. To compensate, PPPI engaged in extensive preparation. For each one-hour lecture, PPPI prepared a detailed slide deck—usually 40-50 slides—with content that was closely tied to the Guide and relevant case studies. These decks were distributed 24 hours in advance to give participants the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the content before attending each session. Lectures emphasized repetition and “re-capping” of previous lectures to ensure that participants had a strong foundation in the fundamentals before moving on to more advanced concepts.

A significant time difference also presented unique challenges. Each class began at 8am in Singapore, which is 8pm in New York. Between lectures, group projects, and presentations, the sessions would often continue late into the night, EST. The time difference necessitated a “hand-off” between Professor Trager, who delivered the lecture/Q&A, and Professor Chia, who—along with a group of highly-competent teaching assistants—directed the participatory group projects. Both professors’ extensive experience in healthcare executive education enabled them to execute this transition seamlessly; though each offered a unique perspective on the workshop’s content, the program maintained a smooth flow and a clear forward thrust.

Students were consistently engaged and insightful, and frequently pushed the discussion far beyond what we would have thought possible over video-conference. In fact, over the run of the course, we devoted approximately one third of our total lecture time to answering over forty distinct participant questions, which were—without exception—challenging, thoughtful and creative. This was no doubt due partly to the high caliber of our participants, but also to the consistently high attendance rates, which were regularly perfect or near-perfect. By the time participants were asked to present their final projects, in which they applied what they had learned to a real-world healthcare challenge in Singapore, they were able to demonstrate a clear facility with the frameworks and skills that underpin successful PPPs.

In their anonymous course evaluations, participants consistently praised the course’s “balanced approach” between hands-on work and lectures, and cited the “discussions” and “group projects” as among the most beneficial parts of the class. “The lectures were insightful and organized, clear and concise,” wrote one participant, while another felt that “the group work segment was the most enjoyable, as it allowed us to bounce ideas off one another and think about different perspectives.”