Delivering results in a sustainable way- a conversation with our partner FMO

FMO, the Dutch development bank, is one the core partners of our coalition. In light of this partnership Human Cities Coalition sat down for an interview with Louis Strydom, Senior Business Development Officer at FMO to learn more about the ambitions of FMO for their collaboration and to discuss his aspirations and vision on the work of HCC in its pilot cities Jakarta and Manila.  

Who is FMO?
Louis Strydom: As the Dutch development bank, it is our overall mission to empower entrepreneurs in developing economies to build a better world. Through our financing and investments, we support the UN SDGs and aim to contribute to their achievement. In general, we focus on financial institutions, agriculture, energy and private equity. We work together with HCC through our NL Business unit. This is an independent subsidiary that directs its efforts on supporting Dutch business in an inclusive manner. This implies that the NL business unit often focuses on service and infrastructure delivery, which includes the financing of public entities. FMO has an international network of companies and financing institutions and is experienced in combining private and public interests. The NL business unit aims to use this knowledge and experience to enhance the Dutch competitive position in developing economies and create an inclusive positive impact. We strive to deliver practical solutions for existing problems.

Why did you decide to support the activities of the Human Cities Coalition and become a core partner?
Louis Strydom: We’ve partnered up with HCC for several reasons. First of all, at FMO NL Business we aim to create partnerships for shared value. We do this by undertaking partnerships and projects with creative solutions, connecting partners and ensuring commercial sustainability. In that sense, it is important for us to have partners like HCC. The objectives we’re trying to steer to – creating sustainable cities and improving the livelihood of the urban poor- all depend on the strength of the partnerships.

From this point of view, HCC is a very interesting partner for us. Its strong founding presence by AkzoNobel and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs combined with a variety of strong partners in Jakarta and Manila allows us to bring in our business model and enable the other partners to succeed in their work. Furthermore, because of its multi-stakeholder approach, HCC has a strong social impact. This allows us to deliver results in a much richer manner.

Another important reason for us to join HCC is the fact that the coalition acts as a convener, aiming to catalyse the different initiatives from the public and private partners. This is very important to us as it is similar to our business model. We’re not the technical experts and therefore believe in working with other enablers to create the right environment locally for projects that deliver infrastructure and services. This commonality of a shared enabling role is very valuable to us.

In your eyes, what are the strengths of the Human Cities Coalition?
Louis Strydom: From my point of view, HCC has two core strengths that set the coalition apart from other initiatives in the field of urban development. The first is the inclusive approach of HCC. HCC chooses to truly involve local communities in developing plans for the challenges they face in their daily life and I believe that this local involvement is pivotal in creating lasting solutions. Another strength of the coalition is the tangible commitment that HCC makes. We are always looking for partners that create more than just talk shows. HCC uses allocated resources from its partners to carry out the projects in the pilot cities and as such is a result driven organisation.

As FMO, what do you contribute to the coalition?
Louis Strydom: As an active partner, we are willing to allocate resources on the ground to work with HCC to deliver tangible projects, within the scope of our mandate. This includes funding but it also means deploying our network and specific skillsets that we believe can help the projects to become more effective. In line with this, we also advise on how to think differently about delivering projects. It is very important to understand the local value chains so that you are delivering projects with people and not for people. We help in bridging the gap between the actual need on the ground and the capability of the institution that has to deliver it and the partners we can attract. Once we have developed an agreed clear value proposition, we will use both our financial and technical expertise to make that happen.  As such we not only work to create an enabling environment for the development of infrastructure and services projects, but also perform an arranging role for the finance. In terms of funding, we believe it is best to look at each project individually and based on the technical characteristics advise on what will and what won’t work.

From your point of view, what are the opportunities and challenges the Human Cities Coalition faces in the coming year?
Louis Strydom: I believe that it is very important that HCC will be able to show its added value in comparison to other initiatives. In the coming months, HCC will have to show its strategic relevance. Moreover, I believe it will be challenging to prevent the development of an isolated solution. You can’t just say: ‘I’m going to fix this block in this city and that is it.’ You have to understand how that block is intertwined with other parts of the city, understand the interaction. For a business case to become replicable, it is very important that you understand how the local interaction works and how to create alignment and value to all stakeholders. Projects will only succeed if this can be addressed properly.

I believe that HCC has the potential to create the right conditions and an enabling environment on the ground for commercially viable and replicable business cases. If HCC succeeds in creating such a replicable business case, the coalition will have a tremendous impact on the quality of life in a city like Manila.

What are your hopes for the future of the Human Cities Coalition?
Louis Strydom: I sincerely hope that HCC succeeds with Manilla and Jakarta and will be able to repeat its work elsewhere in the world. If HCC manages to create replicable business cases and is able to implement them in other cities by using its wide expanded network, that would be a fantastic achievement.

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Read another partner interview with VNG International