FIP 94: Scaling Partnerships with Government, Shannon May of Bridge International Academies

Today we speak with Shannon May about scaling partnerships with government, in order to help you understand if this is the right option for your social enterprise, ie. doing the outsource model of government partnerships, which Erin Worsham in the last episode (FIP 93) introduced us to. Shannon is Chief Strategy & Development Officer and Co-Founder of Bridge International Academies. They provide a range of at-scale services for teachers, students, schools, and governments, and have reached over half a million people now. We are going to talk about some of the different partnerships they have with governments, particularly Nigeria and Liberia.

On this episode you will learn:

  • About the Education World Forum, a large conference hosted by DFID and the British Council, which is a critically important place once you start trying to work and support governments, reform, and problem solving for them.
    • There are more than 100 ministers participating in the event.
    • It is important to think what are probably the 2 to 3 places/conferences you should be a year where the actual people you’re trying to serve, and the actual decision makers are going to be present, and having conversations about what works and what doesn’t. (But you do need to pick carefully since not all conferences are created equal.)
  • Since no one government is facing the exact same problem, Bridge International Academies deals with a lot of specificity and their intervention design is very much tailored to what the government asks for and where they think they are best suited.
  • To do careful mapping across all countries in which you already work or think have a need for your programming, and do some in-depth work on the politics of those places.
    • Understand who are the champions, who are the reformers, who are the people who are willing to take risks and make bold decisions.
    • Take a look at their ministry of finance–have they already done any procurement, any sort of public private partnership where they have procured private services to support a public need?
    • Do a full mapping and then it’s highly likely that one or two places come to the top of your list, and then it’s about finding a political champion.
  • It’s really important that there is an elected leader who wants to make change for their population, and sees the importance of providing services to the public and feels that need for responsive (often comes through being elected). Shannon gives an example of their Liberia partnership.
  • To understand your cost and what is within the realm of possibilities within a government budget.
  • It is possible to get public institutions providing public services on the road to better services and better quality outcomes earlier by this blend of different finance sources.
  • What are the one or two things social entrepreneurs should have if they are looking to government partnerships through outsourcing or different partnerships.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Shannon: