Navigating private and public sector collaborations: Insights from the 2024 Civil Protection Forum

Better Shelter’s co-founder and managing director, Johan Karlsson, recently participated in the 2024 Civil Protection Forum (CPForum2024), which was organised by the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) in Brussels.

Johan shared his experiences collaborating with the IKEA Foundation, IKEA, UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency), the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), RescEU, and many other organisations in the session Strengthening Disaster Resilience: Joining Civil Protection and Private Sector Efforts with:

  • Adam Elman, Head of Sustainability for Europe, Middle East, and Africa at Google
  • Fredrik Hassel, Senior Advisor at Saab
  • Camilla Saad, Social Impact at Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Cynthia Spishak, Associate Administrator of FEMA’s Office of Policy and Program Analysis
  • Fredric Stany, Analyst at The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB)
  • Seppe van den Steen, Crisis Management at the Federal Health Department of Belgium

Since 2015, Better Shelter has provided nearly 100,000 shelters to people in some of the world’s most challenging humanitarian crises. This remarkable achievement would not have been possible without the steadfast support of our partners in both the humanitarian and private sectors. Reflecting on these partnerships, we’ve identified five key insights that have been instrumental to our success, which Johan shared at the forum:

Own the mission

Innovation flourishes when there is an unwavering focus on the mission and the end user’s needs. Central to this is the strategy and conceptualisation of our products and programs. Suppose we do not internalise and commit to our mission. In that case, we risk being sidetracked by appealing new technologies that may not address our core challenges.

Build a culture of courage and heart

Leaders must cultivate an environment where teams feel empowered to challenge the status quo and explore new, untested ideas. Encouraging a culture of bravery and compassion enables innovation and progress.

Embrace expertise beyond our own

Recognising our limitations, we have learned the importance of relying on the expertise of others beyond our immediate sphere. Collaborating with organisations that excel in areas outside our core competencies has been crucial to our achievements.

Act with calculated boldness

In a world where information is often incomplete, we have embraced the art of prototyping and swiftly testing ideas. Guided by the 51% rule—if it’s mostly correct, it’s worth pursuing—we move forward confidently, balancing boldness with caution.

Cultivate realistic expectations

Like a lasting marriage, successful partnerships require patience, resilience, and a healthy dose of pragmatism. As Warren Buffet observed, the key to longevity lies in maintaining modest expectations. This approach has been vital in sustaining our collaborative efforts.

About the Civil Protection Forum

The forum is a central event for the civil protection community, fostering knowledge exchange, collaboration, and networking among European stakeholders. It addresses critical policy and operational questions, inspires future developments in the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM), and creates opportunities for disaster risk management collaboration. The Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) organises the event biennially and gathers government officials, civil protection authorities, first responders, EU institutions, scientists, and private sector representatives.