The big idea: Partnerships between sectors of the economy generate innovation through collaboration that leads to a more sustainable reduction in needless childhood deaths from preventable disease.

The scenario: Save the Children is an international nonprofit that tackles seemingly insurmountable problems, helping to improve the lives of almost 125 million children annually. Still, nearly seven million children younger than 5 died in 2011 from lack of access to basic health care, vaccinations or nutritious food. Many of these deaths could have been averted with low-cost interventions.

The resolution: In May 2013, GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical and health-care companies, and Save the Children announced a partnership to save one million children’s lives over the next five years. The work would begin in Kenya and Congo and then expand to other global regions.

Many large pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, have attempted to provide aid to countries with high childhood mortality rates. This alliance, however, promises an integrated approach to securing lasting change.

GlaxoSmithKline is furnishing $23 million over five years to train health-care workers and fund community projects; it brings access to cutting-edge medical laboratories as well as supplies of pharmaceuticals and vaccines at cost.

Save the Children brings an unmatched knowledge of the conditions and needs that afflict children in many of the poorest and most remote regions around the world; also it has unrivaled access to their communities through its on-the-ground network of employees and volunteers. Over the longer term, Save the Children will hold a seat on GlaxoSmithKline’s pediatric research and development board to assist the company’s efforts for children’s medicines.

The lesson: Mission-driven alliances can address societal problems while the parties share risk, resources and expertise. Private corporations, governments and nonprofits collaborate to advance sustainable solutions by contributing their core competencies, including operational, technological, promotional and financial, to craft strategic solutions.

Mary Margaret Frank and Allison Elias

Frank is a director for the University of Virginia’s Darden School’s Institute of Business. Elias is a research associate for the institute.