International Organizations Converge on Policies for Public-Private Partnerships and All Governments Can Use Their Guidelines

The world has seen many public-private partnerships (PPPs) for infrastructure projects and other types of collaborations, but there is widespread confusion as to what constitute a good PPP. Individual governments and consultants  offer advice, but it  sometimes still seems like a cacophony of voices. I looked into the guidelines, recommendations and tools from international organizations such as ASEAN, OECD, the World Bank and others have produced. In my research I found that international organizations converge on many of the issues and content of the guidelines for PPPs, even though they may recommend different specific tools to help governments go further with PPPs.

The World Bank recently launched its ambitious PPP Knowledge Lab. OECD also recently convened a meeting in Paris with PPP senior officials and experts  (see: OECD Senior PPP officials meeting . My research has shown that international organizations use roughly the same categories and conceptions of stages for what is needed to establish effective PPPs. A broad policy consensus seems to have emerged in international organizations on recommendations for good public governance of PPPs. The content of the international organizations’ PPP policies focuses on.

  • a robust institutional framework
  • the selection of projects grounded on value-for-money judgments and well prepared economic analysis
  • management and leadership skills and competences needed for PPP projects
  • transparent procurement and budgetary procedures, and
  • creating opportunities for policy learning of experiences with PPPs.

Policy learning is enhanced by establishing “prestigious forums” in the OECD, World Bank and other international organizations,, processing and reporting on quantitative data, and transforming the knowledge into guidelines and other resources for organizations to use.

The OECD is a good example here. OECD has a report with a a list of 12 recommendations grouped under three themes: OECD Principles for PPPs “1) Establish a clear, predictable and legitimate institutional framework supported by competent and well-resourced authorities. 2) Ground the selection of public-private partnerships in value for money. 3) Use the budgetary process transparently to minimize fiscal risks and ensure the integrity of the process”. The ASEAN countries have adopted most of the OECD insights in their list of 14 recommendations. The two important additional recommendations in the ASEAN framework concern a call to “prudently assess the potential for cost recovery, regardless of the degree of private participation” and a “mechanism for cross jurisdictional co-operation, also at the regional level”. There are  other recommendations and best practices recommended from think tanks, research centers and scholars. Brookings has a report on PPPs  with ample recommendations for PPP projects. Lawrence Martin and colleagues recently listed 10 internationally recommended best practice advice for transportation PPPs. These included advice on the size and complexity of PPP projects and the need for dedicated PPP units.

PPPs continue to important in Europe and elsewhere. The European PPP Expertise Center recently reported that there were 49 PPP deals in Europe in 2015 with a combined value of EUR 15,6 billion. 15 projects were in education, 12 projects in transport and 10 projects in healthcare.

Now that we have new and codified knowledge that exist in the PPP guidelines in international organizations, why not use the knowledge to improve national PPP policies across the world?

This blogpost builds on the paper “International Public-Private Partnership Policies: Convergence in Themes in International Organizations” which was recently presented at the IRSPM conference in Hong Kong in April 2016. An earlier version was presented at the fourth PPP conference in New York in September 2015, and this full version of the paper is available at CBS Open Archive:

Carsten Greve is Professor at Copenhagen Business School and Academic Director of the CBS Public-Private Platform. He is the author of several books on PPPs, including Rethinking Public-Private Partnerships (co-editor Graeme Hodge) (out on Routledge in paperback the summer of 2016), and he is currently working on a new book (with Graeme Hodge) on The Logic of Public-Private Partnerships for Edward Elgar Publishing.

Twitter: @cgrevecbs

OECD points to several modes of infrastructure delivery

OECD has made a contribution the current debate about what infrastructure modes of delivery to choose. It used to be so that PPP was the “only show in town”. Now, a wider range of delivery modes is recognized – and PPP is one of them. The report is called “Towards a Framework for the Governance of Infrastructure” (September 2015-version)

OECD now distinguishes between:
– Direct provision
– Tradtional public procurement
– State owned enterprises (in full or in part)
– Public-private partnerships and concessions
– Privatization with regulation

OECD argues that the objectives of a new framework for infrastructure governance ensures that (p.7):
– the right projects happen
– in a cost-efficient and
– affordable manner, that
– is trusted by users and Citizens to take their views into account

Another highly fascinating part of the OECD framework is the suggestion for a “decision tree for infrastructure delivery option choice” which are meant to guide countries in chossing between infrastructure delivery modes, taking sectoral objectives and characteristics into account, and to make a balanced prioritization.

The emerging OECD framework can be read in a larger context of international organizations’ aim to publish recommendations, guidelines or principles for how infrastruture governance, including PPPs, can be approached by countries. Other recommendations and knowledge hubs are found in UN, the World Bank, the IMF and other international organizations. I am presenting a paper on this at the upcoming IRSPM (Interntional Research Society for Public Management) conference taking place in April 2016.

Infrastructure governance: towards a broader understanding

In the first months of 2016, the CBS Public Private Platform has heard presentations from both OECD and the Swedish Infrastructure Commission. Both talked about infrastructure governance in a broader way than usual. OECD has issued the report on “Towards a Framework for the Governance of Public Infrastructure” in 2015 and The Swedish Infrastructure Commission published its final report on “Infrastruktur in utveckling” (Infrastructure in development) also in 2015.

There are some similarities in what the reports highlight on infrastructure here in the mid-2010’s:
Infrastructure governance is seen as critical for economic growth: Both reports argued that a solid infrastructure policy and programme is essential in getting the economy up and running again. The OECD report was also presented to a G20-meeting in September 2015 focused on growth opportunities. The Swedish report sees infrastructure as key element in developing the Swedish economy further. The report was published in October 2015. Work had been going on with the report since March 2015. Both also address the infrastructure challenge but that it is difficult to put an exact figure on the “infrastructure gap” although many organizations offer estimates.

Infrastructure governance covers many forms of organizational- and financial structures – PPP is one of several models. Where in previous years, the public-private partnership (PPP) model has been the most talked about model, both reports discuss the various organizational forms that infrastructure governance can be developed in. A familiar range of organizational- and financial structures spans contracting out/outsourcing, state owned enterprises, regulated industries, PPP, and privatization. The PPP model is not the only show in town anymore, though the Swedish Infrastructure Commission is keen to explore further alternative (private) financing options.

Infrastructure governance concerns many sectors – old and new. The infrastructure governance debate focuses on some familiar areas. Right now transport and renewable energy seem to attract attention. But there is also water, telecom, rail, electricity to consider – as well as newer infrastructure in digitalization projects. Investment in areas where economic growth is important will continue to occupy policymakers’ minds – as the focus on energy, transport and the digital single market in the European Commission’s “Investment Plan for Europe” (The Juncker Plan) is a reminder of.

Infrastructure governance requires strategic thinking. Both reports underline the argument that governments need to think and act strategically about infrastructure governance. Governments must have a strategic vision for what purposes they want their infrastructure to fulfill, and they need to carefully organize for that vision to come true. Australia and the UK (once again) lead the way here in how their systematically organizes for better infrastructure governance. Australia has an Infrastructure Act and an infrastructure plan. The UK also operates with an Infrastructure Plan and “top 40” for potential projects. The Investment Plan for Europe is perhaps the most visible symbol of this kind of more strategic policy thinking. The Swedish Infrastructure argues that Sweden should adopt a more similar, more systematic approach to infrastructure planning in the future. The Swedish Infrastructure Commission suggests an improved framework for making decisions about infrastructure projects. Sweden has, as other Nordic countries, restrictions on how private finance models are used for public infrastructure, and the Swedish Infrastructure Commission finds that those barriers need to be addressed.

Summing up, both OECD and the Swedish Infrastructure Commission put infrastructure projects on the policy agenda, and both point to the need for improved infrastructure decision-making processes. The overall message appears to be that infrastructure cannot be assessed project-by-project only, but needs to be viewed in the broader perspective on a more systematic approach to infrastructure governance and its relation to economic growth opportunities.

The European Commission. 2015. An Investment Plan for Europe.

OECD. 2015. Towards a Framework for the Governance of Infrastructure.

The Swedish Infrastructure Commission. 2015.

Background: The OECD presentation was made by Ian Hawkesworth on 22 January 2016 at CBS. The Swedish Infrastructure Commission report was presented by Björn Hasselgren and Pia Kinhult on 8 February 2016 at CBS. Carsten Greve visited Brussels on 10 December 2015 and 21 January 2016 regrading infrastructure governance in the European Union, PPP and the Juncker Plan

Public-Private Partnerships: lessons from international experience. Keynote to the 3GF conference

On 20 October 2015 I participated in the 3GF pre-meeting in Copenhagen held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.  The “pre-meeting” was for preparation of next year’s 3GF summit in Copenhagen. This is my keynote-address:


Good afternoon everyone. I am going to share with you some insights about what the current status for public-private partnerships (PPPs) looks like from the viewpoint of the research community. Let me start by saying that real advances in research and in international organizations have been made, and that further exploration of these themes and experiences with PPPs has the potential for further results.

Please let me share three points with you this afternoon:

  • Public-Private Partnerships – in their many forms – facilitate the journey towards shared value


PPPs at the moment resemble a movement or a policy development rather than just a sum of its individual projects. We all know that point of departure is that the challenges are too big for any one organization to cope with. Concepts like partnerships, cross-sector collaboration or collaborative governance are part of this movement.

With my college Professor Graeme Hodge from Australia, we have looked at PPPs at different levels. From individual projects to an organization and to the policy level and its immersion in countries’ culture. There is a movement – that you’re apart of – exploring many different ways of pursuing partnerships for shared value. There are different types of partnerships like service partnerships, infrastructure partnerships, and policy partnerships. Moore calls it “public value creation”. Porter and Kramer talks of “shared value”.

Example: The European Union’s “Juncker Plan” is invoking partnerships to meet the challenges of creating jobs in Europe and has singled out transportation, energy and digital reform as three areas of intervention.

The focus is often on the individual project, but a recognition that partnerships fit into a greater policy movement is important to take note of.

  • International public-private partnership policies tend to converge on same themes


Many international organizations are developing frameworks or recommendations on how to create PPPs. I recently undertook to research what these different frameworks tell us.

OECD has created 12 recommendations for PPPs.

The ASEAN countries have adopted 14 principles for good governance of PPPs.

IMF is working on a PPP risk assessment model and public investment framework.

The UN’s recent Sustainable Development Goals put “partnership for the goals” as goal #17.

Example: The World Bank has this year launched its “PPP Knowledge Lab”.

My conclusion is that there is broad convergence in the themes and ideas that organizations put forward.

Take the OECD as an example. Their 12 recommendations fall under three headings: :

“1) Establish a clear, predictable and legitimate institutional framework supported by competent and well-resourced authorities,

2) Ground the selection of public-private partnerships in value for money, 3) Use the budgetary process transparently to minimize fiscal risks and ensure the integrity of the process.”.

Research findings from Jeffares (2013) and many others confirm these lists with recommendations. Many of the same elements can be found in other recommendations.

That leads me to the conclusion that international organizations are converging on themes and that these shared beliefs can be used by all to move forward with action.

  • Institutional frameworks and good leadership provide cues to success for partnerships


Recent research shows and confirms that sound institutional frameworks for PPPs really do make it more likely that PPP projects will be adopted.

Professor Geddes and his colleague Waagner (2013) from Cornell University showed that 33 states in the U.S. have now adopted PPP enabling legislation. There is also research on the transport area within the European Union that maps the number of PPP Units that informs and advice on PPP projects.

Furthermore, we also now have increasing amount of information that shows how leadership, both political and administrative, can facilitate PPP projects. That also put demands on governments to strengthen their capacity to enter PPP projects (as well as private sector organizations).

A recent book by American researchers John Forrer, James Kee and Eric Boyer on “Governing Cross-Sector Collaboration” concluded this:

“1) Government must know what public value outcomes are achievable through cross-sector collaboration (partnership),

2) Government must know which participants can make the best contributions to a cross-sector collaboration (partnership).

3) Government must know how to monitor and evaluate public value in cross-sector collaboration”. Instead of public value, you can put shared value, and the aspiration is the same: To make partnerships create something of value to their stakeholders.”

Summing up, I believe that there is evidence to suggest that

1) partnerships are about more than projects, they’re part of a wider movement which includes local, national and international actors;

2) international organizations and research projects have shown a convergence of some the same themes that partnerships (should) pursue.

3) Sound and robust institutional frameworks and leadership efforts are amongst those factors that research often and recently point out when success factors are sought after.


Partnerships can work if we want them to.


DONG-salg og Claus Hjorts dilemma

Finansminister Claus Hjort har et dilemma i DONG-sagen. Han kan efterkomme DF og Enhedslistens krav og give fuld åbenhed – og dermed risikere, at hele DONG-sagen skal starte forfra. Eller han kan fastholde kursen og den hidtidige policy og praksis i Danmark om, hvordan en regering sælger aktier og privatiserer statslige selskaber.  Aktiehandler i milliardklassen kræver, at en dansk regering er troværdig. Claus Hjort – og Finansministeriet – har en interesse i, at regeringens policy om statslige selskaber og privatisering fremstår konsistent. 3 pointer er klare:

  1. Sagen lige nu handler om de fremtidige spilleregler, når staten skal sælge aktier. Skal en regering i fremtiden lægge alle dokumenter frem til hele Folketinget, når store aktiehandler skal indgås? Hvis Claus Hjort ønsker at privatisere i fremtiden, skal han så forpligtige sig til at tage alle partier med på råd i alle faser og have indsigt i alle papirer og beregninger?
  2. Det er den danske regerings troværdighed som forhandlingspartner, der er på spil. Når en regering indgår store aktiehandler om salg af statslige selskaber. Internationale investorer kræver sikkerhed og mindst mulig virak, når de skal købe aktier. De, der ikke vandt, ønsker måske ikke alle deres forhandlingsbud lagt frem. Hvis der sås tvivl om Danmark som aftalepartner i udlandet og blandt investorer, vil det se skidt ud for enhver dansk regering.
  3. Det handler om også om rollefordeling mellem regering og Folketing. Regeringen havde i sin tid et mandat til at indgå i forhandlinger om salg af DONG, men DF trak tæppet væk under dette mandat, da de tilsluttede sig Enhedslistens krav om at alle dokumenter skulle lægges frem. Der var jo et flertal bag beslutningen om at sælge dele af DONG (husk staten stadig ejer majoriteten af selskabet).

Til sidst kan man spørge, hvad DF og Enhedslisten vil gøre, hvis de får adgang til alle dokumenter? Vil de underkende handlen? Vil de selv vurderer, at andre bud var bedre? Eller vil de gå ind i et lokale, hvor papirerne er tilgængelige, og bagefter komme ud og nikke stille og sige at alt er i orden?

Det er de dilemmaer, som Claus Hjort sidder med lige nu.

Wicked and not-so-wicked problems and collaboration and co-production make room for public value creation

These past months, professor John Alford from ANZSOG and Melbourne Business School have visited the CBS Public-Private Platform and the Department of Business and Politics. It has been a great chance for us here in Copenhagen to talk, debate and explore issues on (1) wicked problems (and no-to-wicked problems), (2) co-production of public service delivery and (3) the room for public value creation amongst other topics.

John Alford gave a presentation to a packed room of attendants  from both the world of practice and the world of academia on the issues of “the challenge of wicked problems”. It became a fascinating afternoon. The main issue of the talk was if it is possible to develop a more nuanced understanding of what exactly constitutes a wicked problems. There are also not-so-wicked problems and disingushing between the types of problems faced by public policy makers and public managers will become a key component in future public management reform. A conference paper is on its way on this topic…

Collaboration and co-production was a theme explored in a executive master modul for the Master of Public Governance-program in the “Leading public-private partnerships”-course that I run. John Alford used a teaching case from the ANZSOG-case library on collaboration from Melbourne. The participants in the class debated the issues presented to them, and it was demonstrated how good case teaching can be as it made the participants suggest management actions for meeting the challenges presented in the case.

How to create public value in an age where governments contract or outsource more of its activities? This was the theme of a public seminar John Alford gave in early June (with responses from professor Paul du Gay from the CBS Public Private Platform). John Alford here suggested that governments need to think carefully about implementing a strategy for including private sector organizations in public value creation, but that it is not impossible and that a contingency framework is called for.

If you want to know more, I suggest you read some of the recent work by John Alford and co-authors Janine O’Flynn and Sophie Yates:

Rethinking Public Service Delivery is a book on Palgrave by John Alford and Janine O’Flynn from 2012* which is a comphrensive framework for thinking about public-private collaboration.

“Co-production of Public Services in Australia: The Role of Government Organisations and Co-Producers” is an article by John Alford and Sophie Yates from the Australian Journal of Public Administration in 2015.

“Mapping Public Value Processes” is an article by John Alford and Sophie Yates published in International Journal of Public Sector Management  27(4) 334-352 ** in 2015 which is available here:

*This book won an award at the Academy of Management

** This article won an award as an outstanding paper.


PPP panel at IRSPM conference focuses on new research on partnerships

A panel on public-private partnerships (PPPs) at the 2015 IRSPM (International Research Society for Public Management) conference in Birmingham generated a lot of new knowledge about PPPs.  Here are some of the issues that were discussed in the panel.

Erik-Hans Klijn (President of IRSPM and Erasmus University in Rotterdam) delivered a paper with colleagues on the issue of contracts for PPPs. Based on survey to PPP practitioners in the Netherlands, Klijn found that the contract itself is not so important as previously thought in the literature. The findnings generated a good deal of debate.

Stewart Smyth (Sheffield) and Dexter Whitfield talked about financializaition of PPP Projects and the nature of PPP Equity transactions. They remain critical of the financialization of PPPs.

Yin Wang (Shanghai) conveyed knowledge on the status of PPPs in China, especially in the area of roads and bridges and other transport related projects. China is among the countries with the fastest number of PPP projects right now.

Marlie Hueskes and Koen Verhoest focused on how to govern public-private partnerships in a sustainable way by analyzing a number of Flemish PPP projects.

There were also presentations from Veronica Vecchi (Bocconi), Greve and Hodge (CBS and Monash) and Anne Stafford with her co-authors Pamela Stapleton and Jean Shaoul (Manchester).  The PPP panel managed to assemble some of the newest international research on PPPs.

Some of the papers can be found here:

The PPP panel was preceeded by a Ph.D. course on PPPs run by Greve and Hodge for the Netherlands Institute of Government (NIG) that was held at the University of Birmingham prior to the IRSPM conference itself where 6 Ph.D. students participated.


2015: PPP activity is stepped up in USA, EU and the ASEAN countries

There is an international excitement about public-private partnerships (PPP) forinfrastructure programs right now as 2015 starts to get going. PPPs have been promoted (1) in the USA by the White House, (2) as a key part of the new President of the European Commission Mr. Juncker’s Investment Plan for Europe (3) and in Asia with new PPP principles for the ASEAN countries

(1) USA and the White House and PPPs: A recent article in the New York Times (16 january 2015) revealed that the White House will be proposing a new tax proposal and administrative actions to attrach private funding to public infrastructure projects  (My thanks to Rick Geddes from Cornell for the link). The article is titled: “Obama Proposes Tapping Private Investors to Fund Infrastructure Projects”. The purpose is to repair and build infrastructure projects in roads, bridges, water sytems and broadband networks. The private funding will supplement the investment committments from the federal government.

(2) European Union and PPPs. Juncker, the new president of the European Commission has launched an ambitious “Investment Plan for Europe” This plan will be mobilising finance for investment, making finance reach the real economy and improve the investment environment. A primary tool is to attract private finance to the tune of 315 billion euros. The EU will establish a European Fund for Strategic Investments and to “provide greater risk-bearing capacity through public money in order to encourage project promoters and attract private finance to viable investment projects which would not have happened otherwise” (p. 6. in the Investment Plan for Europe). Projects are planned to be in the energy and transport sector and in the digitalized economy (creating a digital single market). It is PPPs on a grand scale we’re talking about here.

(3) Asia adopt new principles for PPPs. In November 2014, the ASEAN countries developed and endorsed 14 new principles for PPPs. The first and second one deal with a clear and predictable regulatory framework on behalf of the state and with establishing a PPP unit by making public authorities competetent and making sure that they are sufficiently resourced to give advice on PPPs.  OECD helped the ASEAN countries develop the new PPP principles.


NY Times article: ttp://

EU Investment Plan for Europe:

ASEAN PPP Principles:

How does a public-private partnership work in practice? The Whole Grain Partnership works like this

I have written a report on the Danish Whole Grain Partnership and how it works in practice. My co-author is Rikke Neess from the Whole Grain Partnership.  The report is called, “The Evolution of the Whole Grain Partnership in Denmark”. The report was presented at a conference in Copenhagen on 4 December 2014 organized by the Danish Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Interior together with DJØF. Our presentation was right after the minister’s introductory remarks.

In the report, we show how the partnership has evolved during a period of five years, and how it has acheived some stunning results. There are lessons to be learned from others who want to start a public-private partnership.

The background is in the health and food area. The purpose of the partnership is to get people in Denmark to eat more whole grain food products in order to make them healthier. This is “policy partnership” or advocacy partnership, not an infrastructure partnership with private finance like the big long-term infrastructure contracts in the Private Finance Initiative-tradition.

The partnership is remarkable in a number of ways:

– The partnership engages organizations from both the public sector, the private for-profit sector (bread companies for example) and the private not-for-profit sector. Several big NGOS are involved, including the Danish Cancer Society and the Danish Heart Assocation.

– Alle partners work towards this common goal – to spread the news about whole grain and to get people to eat more whole grain.

– There were 18 patners in 2009, now there are 35 partners.

– The target is 75 grams of whole grain products per day, and Danes now eat 63 grams, compared to 36 grams when the campaign started.

– The partnership it self is managed actively and strategically by a small secretariat with Rikke in the lead. There is also a formal board and organizatíonal structure for the partner organizations.

– The partnership work in 3 year project periods. Organizations can drop out if they want to, but few has done so thus far.

– Keeping the partners engaged is a key task – and to do that results are measured constantly so that progress in the policy can be made.

You can read much more about how the partnership works in our report, available free of charge on our website:

Public management reform trends in Denmark. Part 3 out of 3

  1. Modernization and reforms do work. There are ways to measure if modernization and reform work or not. Organizations like The Danish National Audit Office conducts examinations of specific modernization initiatives. In recent years, there have been a number of international indexes and rankings that measure public sector performance. Denmark is usually found in the top of many important rankings. The top placements include the Transparency Index (Denmark is the least corrupt country in the world), OECD’s Better Life Index (Denmark has the best work-life-balance among OECD countries) and various digital government indexes (Denmark has most citizens connected digitally with the government in the age group 35-64 years according to a recent OECD survey). OECD focuses also on digital governance. OECD tracks the progress on digital governance and make recommendations to governments. Of course there are rankings where Denmark is not doing quite so well (the OECD PISA rankings, for example), but here Denmark is actively striving to improve performance (see the new Primary School reform).
  2. The Neo Weberian State in the Digital Era. The current reform effort is characterized by a systematic formulation and implementation of digital government tools. Denmark is digitalizing many services and interfaces with the citizens. A new strategy on welfare services and digital tools focus on how make digital solutions work for core public services. Following Dunleavy and Margetts and colleagues, the Danish government can be said to follow a Digital Era Governance strategy. Use of “Big Data” opportunities makes efficient information processing more relevant. There is also an increasing use of social media solutions (Denmark is one of the countries with most citizens on Facebook, for example). The trend towards digital era governance tools support the move toward bigger organizational units with a more friendly and outreach-oriented user-service for citizens. Think about how Amazon transformed the book seller industry or how internet banking transformed the way customers interact with their banks. Then you pretty much get the idea. Why should this trend not influence the organization of the public sector also? The bigger organizational units and the subsequent reinvigorated belief in more centralized government coordination lies at the heart of the current way of organizing the Danish public sector. Following Pollitt & Boucakert we can call this the Neo-Weberian State where more centralized coordination is coupled with more user-friendly services, often made possible by the analytical insight into the data stream about citizens’ needs and behaviors. The result is “the Neo-Weberian State in the Digital Era” as a description that fit what is going in the public sector in Denmark right now.
  3. Literature: See also Dunleavy, Margetts Digital Era Governance. Oxford University Press 2006 and Pollitt & Bouckaert: Public Management Reform 3rd edition. Oxford University Press 2011.

on public management and governance research