Public private dialogue and private sector advocacy

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 6 May 2014



Irwin, D.D. (2014), "Public private dialogue and private sector advocacy", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 27 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Public private dialogue and private sector advocacy

Article Type: Guest editorial From: International Journal of Public Sector Management, Volume 27, Issue 4.

This edition of the International Journal of Public Sector Management focuses on what practitioners describe as public policy advocacy, private sector advocacy and private public dialogue – though academics tend to refer to interest groups, state business relations, interest group influence, etc. – and how the private sector can influence sustainable improvements in the enabling environment.

There is much encouragement these days for governments especially in developing countries to improve their investment climate and, particularly, the regulatory framework for business on the basis that this will lead to increased growth in economic activity – and thus enhanced wealth generation, job creation and poverty alleviation (World Bank, 2004). The evidence, and the wording, is repeated more strongly in Doing Business 2008 in which the World Bank (2007) asserts that “higher rankings on the ease of doing business are associated with more growth, more jobs and a smaller share of the economy in the informal sector” (World Bank, 2007). It is not just the World Bank making these arguments: there is a growing body of evidence which demonstrates that investment climate improvements make a difference to economic growth and that it can achieve far more than any number of NGO-promoted poverty alleviation projects (Chapman and Warneyo, 2001; Coates and David, 2002). So business membership organisations engage in dialogue and advocacy in an attempt to influence those making public policy.

In this edition, there are four articles which add to our understanding of business association advocacy and influence.

Jackson describes the systematic evaluation of an advocacy support project in Tanzania, the impact of which is being evaluated over a five-year period. She concludes that advocacy is complex, with long timescales and uncertain outcomes, that business associations can take a broader view than government departments and agencies and importantly can offer them practical knowledge on which to base decisions, that public private relationships are important and that evaluation of advocacy projects needs to be multi-faceted to identify success of business associations, not only in changing public policy but also in raising their competence.

Monal offers a fascinating insight into post-revolution Egypt and the Egyptian banking sector. She explores how effectively business and business associations have been able to influence public policy and bank policy in relation to credit. She concludes that private sector advocacy has had a positive impact on the ease of accessing credit by sectors most likely to enhance economic growth and job creation. She argues that there is a need in some way to institutionalise public private dialogue – perhaps through legislation – because of the important impact it makes to the business environment.

Urassa looks at the very specific over-regulation of Tanzania's dairy sector and the efforts being made by one business association to reduce the impact. He finds that dairies have to comply with more than 25 different regulations and satisfy 11 different regulators. He estimates that the regulation costs a dairy around $33,000 per year. Whilst recognising that there has to be some level of regulation in a food industry, he argues that the high cost makes it difficult for Tanzanian dairies to compete with imports let alone attempt to export – and this may also explain why so little milk in Tanzania goes through the dairies at all.

Little has been written about interest groups and the influencing attempts of business associations in developing countries. The World Bank, however, is one of the few to recognise their importance in influencing public policy and has attempted to describe four stages of development (World Bank, 2005). Irwin suggests that their typology is too simplistic and, looking through a policy influencing lens, has attempted an update. The practical objective in doing so is to be able to customise capacity building and mentoring support to business associations so that they can grow to be effective influencers.

Hopefully, all the articles in this special edition will provoke further thought and debate about what makes business associations successful influencers.

Dr David Irwin
Irwin Grayson Associates, Riding Mill, UK


Chapman, J. and Warneyo, A. (2001), Monitoring and Evaluating Advocacy: A Scoping Study, Action Aid, London

Coates, B. and David, R. (2002), “Learning for change: the art of assessing the impact of advocacy work”, Development in Practice, Vol. 12 Nos 3-4, pp. 530-541

World Bank (2004), Doing Business in 2004: Understanding Regulation, World Bank, IFC and Oxford University Press, Washington, DC

World Bank (2005), Building the Capacity of Business Membership Organisations, 2nd ed. , World Bank and IFC, Washington, DC

World Bank (2007), Doing Business 2008, World Bank and IFC, Washington, DC

About the Guest Editor

Dr David Irwin is a social entrepreneur with 30 years’ experience in enterprise and economic development. In 1980, at the age of 24, he left his job to co-found one of the first enterprise agencies, Project North East (PNE), to encourage and support business creation in the northeast of England. Since leaving PNE, he has continued to work with organisations seeking to make a difference in society both in the UK and internationally, particularly Africa where, inter alia, he works with private sector advocacy support funds in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Nigeria. He is currently researching the characteristics of business associations that lead to success in influencing public policy. Dr David Irwin can be contacted at:

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