Apologies to Gershwin: Summertime (maybe) and the readin’ is easy

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A girl in a black hat and black silk dress sits in the niche of a fishing hut on the seashore and reads a book on smart public private partnerships
Our annual PPP summer reading list includes thought-provoking articles for beach or hammock reading. © Shutterstock/ 19bProduction

Summer is my favorite season. The days are long, work slows as people take much-needed breaks, and we have the chance to reconnect with friends and family. This is why it’s so ironic that my friends at the World Bank asked me—a guy stuck in the middle of winter in Australia—to provide you with a list of interesting “summer reads”! 

Meteorologically speaking, I’m the wrong person for this job. But as someone who actively seeks out content on PPPs, infrastructure, and global development, hopefully, I can provide you with some thought-provoking articles to read while lazing on a beach or curled up in a hammock. 

“Fear of failure limits our ability to innovate.” I like this concept. Whether we work in public service or for a corporation or international organization, fear of failure often drives employee and management decisions. In Rethinking the concept of failure, Efrat Ravid speaks eloquently about his own failures and how we all grow by failing—and learning from the experience. Efrat advocates for sharing our failures with our teams and offers lessons for all organization on how to lead—and fail—by example!

There are increasingly vast quantities of data available to governments, companies, and individuals providing important insights into our world. I recently came across an infographic Visualizing the Current State of the Global Gender Gap illustrating just how far we have to go to achieve gender equality. The data, from the Global Gender Gap Report (World Economic Forum, 2021), shows that at the current rate of change it could take 135 years to close this gap! Data like this underscores why the World Bank Group created the Gender Equality, Infrastructure, and PPP Primer as part of its efforts towards addressing gender gaps in infrastructure PPPs. Data can reveal a structural problem, but it’s up to people and organizations to take action.

Rethinking infrastructure PPPs and how they relate to gender, climate, social equality, and governance has been a common theme in many articles I’ve read lately. Two recent ones examine this from very different perspectives. In Public Private Partnership is Dead…Long Live the Public Private Ecosystem, the author talks about how public services and infrastructure PPPs can be made more inclusive, efficient, and resilient to shocks through policy and process improvements that make public procurement more flexible and outcome (not asset)-focused. While in Why the World Needs a Fresh Take on Smart and Sustainable Infrastructure, the authors look at infrastructure from the construction side and how it needs to be more sustainable. Despite these articles’ different starting points, there is a lot of common ground: the need for greater collaboration and involvement of a wider range of stakeholders, a focus on outcomes, and the adoption of flexible, technology-enabled processes. 

Another good read is from the Stanford Social Innovation Review. In Public Interest Technology: Bridge to the Future, leaders from Cisco and the Ford Foundation talk about how, with the rapid pace of technological change, it’s vital that technology is developed collaboratively, pairing technologists with those who have a deep understanding of ethics, legal, policy, and societal concerns. They note that people who could most benefit from learning from one another “are rarely in the same rooms or virtual spaces, from scientists and community organizers to developers and social theorists.”

While some may not think this relates to PPPs, I do. PPPs by their very nature require collaboration. And truly successful PPPs aren’t simply a partnership between public and private sectors, but directly involve legal, finance, and environmental and social experts.  They have inputs from communities, policy experts, and civil society organizations (CSOs). And just like the authors say about public interest technology, by improving these collaborations in PPPs, we “can better serve the public and help deliver more positive outcomes.”

And a final article that may help some of you prepare for your return to work after your vacations—How to Deal with Passive-Aggressive Coworkers! Given the focus of many of these articles on the need for greater collaboration, you just might find some of the advice very useful when you return to work. 

Enjoy your summer. I know I will…in about five more months!

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Your summer reading list: PPPs, human capital, and lessons from Iceland’s national soccer coach 

Your summer PPP beach reading


Geoffrey Keele

Senior Stakeholder and Risk Management Advisor

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