Nothing Is Impossible

Lessons on multistakeholder collaboration from Afghanistan

14/04/2014 Barcelona

Fred Krawchuk

The presidential election in Afghanistan on April 5, 2014, has been hailed as a success, and not just because voter turnout was up and election fraud was down, marking another milestone in the strife-torn nation’s transition to democracy. It also represents the ability of people from diverse communities to come together to tackle common challenges. It is a testimony to the power of "multistakeholder collaboration" in action.

Fred Krawchuk -- an IESE visiting professor and a former U.S. Army Special Forces colonel -- worked in Afghanistan for 18 months. He experienced firsthand the inhospitable terrain, a myriad of diverse tribes, nationwide poverty, a weak central government, widespread corruption, multiple languages, decades of war and a general distrust of foreigners, which combined to create an incredibly complex, uncertain and often hostile environment.

"At first glance, collaborative action in this environment seemed impossible," he says.

Yet even in Afghanistan multistakeholder collaboration has proven possible. And if it can work there, it can certainly work for any company that finds itself having to balance the disparate and often conflicting needs and interests of its own stakeholder groups.

Writing in the latest IESE Insight management review, Krawchuk draws on his on-the-ground experiences in Afghanistan and other trouble spots in Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia to present a practical framework to guide businesses in implementing multistakeholder collaborations.

His article, "Bringing Your Stakeholders Together to Transform Your World," explains the five P’s most important to any successful collaboration: purpose, people, place, process and practice.

"As the business world faces increasingly complex global challenges, I believe that multistakeholder collaboration and concerted action will assume a greater role than ever before," he writes.

As Afghanistan proves, "no matter how difficult the challenge, you can always find common ground for collective action, transforming the complex challenges we face into new possibilities -- for prosperity as well as peace."

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