WFP Shares Its Perspective on Partnering with BCG
What does collaborating to innovate against hunger look like on the ground?Learn more
A global partner of BCG since 2003, the World Food Programme is the world's largest humanitarian agency. WFP provides emergency relief by meeting urgent food needs, as well as longer-term solutions to hunger and food insecurity. Each year, WFP provides assistance to 80 million people in 82 countries.
For more than a decade, BCG has supported WFP to enhance its effectiveness on a wide range of strategic, operational, and organizational issues. BCG has worked alongside WFP on the highest priority topics for the organization.
For example, our joint initiatives have included transforming WFP's school feeding program for greater impact—an effort that reaches more than 16 million children across 63 countries. And we've helped further develop alternatives to traditional food assistance, such as the use of cash and vouchers instead of direct food aid in those instances when food is available yet inaccessible to the poor. We also supported WFP in designing a system for emergency food reserves.
BCG has also helped WFP enhance its organizational effectiveness. By calculating the return on investments in emergency preparedness, we have helped WFP prove the value of preparedness and attract more governments and donors to act on this critical effort. And finally, we have helped WFP develop its knowledge management capabilities.
If we are going to move from being what we’ve always done in the past—moving large amounts of food to large numbers of people—to becoming the efficient and effective deliverer of food assistance programs, it means that we need to transform processes, we need to change the skill sets of those who work at country level, and we need to provide different resources at country level.
And what that requires is that we not only focus on what we do but how we do it, and how we fund it. Those are all very difficult questions to ask of an organization. But the good part about it is that we recognize that this is a journey, and we’ve begun the process that is necessary to achieve our goals.
We provide more detail on another project below, illustrating how we collaborate with WFP and the impact of our joint efforts.
When a crisis hits, the WFP launches a new appeal for donations to fund the immediate need. It therefore takes time before the money is received and humanitarian assistance can commence. And the money it receives is earmarked for the specific emergency for which it was given.
Because the WFP is funded entirely by voluntary contributions, WFP's donations remain uncertain until confirmed, and the majority of donations are earmarked for the specific emergencies for which they are given. Consequently, WFP lacked flexibility to fund assistance immediately when emergencies arose.
To free up more funds sooner, BCG modeled the opportunities and risks of expanding WFP's working capital financing facility. We established specific processes to increase the working capital facility to 15% of WFP's working budget and at acceptable levels of financial risk.
The new approach is enabling WFP to reach 10 million hungry people three months earlier.
Some of the innovation at WFP focuses on how the agency can maximize efficiency within the existing funding model. The main issue is that the food-delivery supply chain takes a long time, from start to finish. WFP is constantly looking for ways to maximize its efficiency, with the goal of being able to send supplies and receive goods for delivery before money arrives in its bank account.
We want to know, can we find ways to get cash in our hands earlier, in a way that's acceptable to donors, so we can absolutely maximize our time efficiency—and ideally our cost efficiency as well—in getting food to people who need it?
BCG Global Partnerships
The World Food Programme's Ertharin Cousin on Becoming Fit for Purpose
Working in WFP has been a new experience for me as a consultant. I was using analytical, structuring, and communication skills not to increase revenue or to reduce costs but to understand what really makes a difference in the reduction of chronic hunger and malnutrition.
After lots of data analysis and report reading, I found that the most fascinating experience was going to Peru and Senegal to see what it takes to reduce chronic malnutrition on the ground: who does what, how to make a difference. We will draw on our findings to help WFP define its role on the path to Zero Hunger.