This month’s issue of the Harvard Business Review focuses on the ‘Ecosystem of Shared Value’. It describes the relationship between business success and social progress, the critical role of collaboration in driving this progress, and the key factors for successful collaboration. We are happy to see that one of our clients, the World Cocoa Foundation, is mentioned as a successful example of collaboration for collective impact with respect to their cocoa sustainability strategy CocoaAction.

According to HBR, five elements drive the success of large-scale social change. The first four, common agenda, shared measurement system, mutually reinforcing activities, and consistent communication, are similar with the four steps of large-scale sector transformation as laid out in NewForesight’s collaborative white paper on ‘Sustainable Sector Transformation’.

An intrinsic element in NewForesight’s approach to market transformation, and mentioned by HBR as a fifth driver for success, is dedicated “backbone” support from at least one independent organization. This is a crucial and many times underestimated factor for success for initiatives that consist of several partners with competing interests. From our experience in supporting transformative initiatives in sectors such as coffee, cotton, and cocoa, this is most apparent for industry competitors, but is equally important for NGOs, governments, and academic/research partners, which all have their own agendas.

WCF is a great example of successful collaboration for collective impact. They act as the independent ‘strategy holder’ and backbone support organization for CocoaAction, WCF’s voluntary industry-wide strategy that aligns the world’s leading cocoa and chocolate companies, origin governments, and key stakeholders on regional priority issues in cocoa sustainability. As such, they are able to act as a neutral party in developing shared goals, aligning activities, developing a shared M&E system and investing in standard-setting, and acting as a single voice with a consistent message to governments, sector stakeholders, and the general public. Simply put, they tick all five boxes, and the result is collective positive impact on the lives of thousands of farmers and their communities.

NewForesight is proud to be on this journey with WCF, providing strategic guidance and support from the start of CocoaAction, until current day. CocoaAction recently celebrated its 2-year anniversary and is planning to further expand its reach. We look forward to celebrating many more milestones together with WCF.