W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Philanthropy and Private Sector Partnerships: 
Lessons in Social Change for the 21st Century

Wealth Generation and Family Economic Security in the United States and Latin America

"Foundations are change catalysts. In philanthropy, we often think in nine-year blocks: three years to plan, three years to implement, and three years to exit. For complex systemic issues that is not enough time. We must create partnerships with business, the public sector, and community to sustain change initiated by these investments.

To get the private sector to tackle poverty alleviation as part of their business model will require an overhaul of traditional economic and financial systems. It will require policies to incentivize companies to include social change in the bottom line. This will also require business schools to teach leaders new theories and practice based on real-life examples of community change."

— Fred Keller, Former CEO, Cascade Engineering, Executive in Residence,

    University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

The Brief:
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation wanted to understand the ways philanthropy can encourage private sector partnerships to generate wealth and improve the lives of vulnerable children and their families.

The Solution:
Working in partnership with University of Oxford, Harvard University, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, and Fundação Getulio Vargas and Universidade de São Paulo in São Paulo, Brazil, pfc examined successful models based on business approaches and economic tools—microfinance, cooperatives, corporate social responsibility, and social enterprise and social business within the United States, Mexico, and Brazil.


We examined several questions:

  1. How are programs that build on business and economic tools impacting the lives of the poor? How are hybrids of business and social strategies transforming development to the benefit of poor children and their families?

  2. How can business schools and philanthropy work together to train current and future business leaders in multiple bottom lines, including social change? What are the opportunities to further advance multi-sector partnerships involving business?

  3. How could business schools offer guidance and advice and expand the knowledge base and spur innovations in poverty reduction in emerging economies as well as in high-poverty states in the US?

  4. How can policy spur innovation? How might systemic change of the financial system be achieved through policy reform?

  5. How could communities be given voice and decision-making power within collaborative projects involving business? We found examples, in the corporate social responsibility practices of global corporations such as Walmart and Pepsico in Mexico, of efforts to give community voice.

  6. How can business be a partner in poverty alleviation? We found many examples of for-profits, hybrid social enterprises, and not-for-profits whose goals and outcomes include poverty alleviation. What are cross-country, cross-cultural social change opportunities to engage the private sector?

  7. How could private sector partnerships result in training and skill development and lead to tangible jobs throughout the value chain? We found examples of value-chain efforts that result in jobs and improved workforce skills established by corporations ranging from Wholesome Sweeteners and Nike to Cascade Engineering.

The case study can be read in its entirety here