As one of the instigators behind Concordia’s Campaigns for Social Impact—the Campaign Against Labor Trafficking—Concordia’s Partnership Development Associate, Hilary Hamm, takes us through what Concordia faced behind the scenes to make it possible, and tells us what’s next in terms of her career.
You joined Concordia as an intern at a defining moment for the organization, with the launch of its very first campaign. What was your role in helping establish this initiative? What challenges did you face, and how did you succeed?
I interned with Concordia in winter 2015 for three months, and at that time, we didn’t have a Partnership Development Department—or even a social impact division—so I interned with our wonderful and hilarious Director of Research, Natalie Dabney, and we looked into how to leverage our convening capacity to become much more active in partnership brokering. So, we looked at the sessions at the Annual Summit that had been most successful and that garnered the most interest from participants and attendees, and we focused on a Human Trafficking session, which everyone seemed to love. And we said, “OK, let’s see if people would be interested in forming some sort of public-private partnership campaign around this issue.” As a result, my internship was dedicated to establishing a process and model for a campaign series, and that was when we determined that an initiative like this one would be a two- to five-year commitment between Concordia and a public, private, and/or academic sector partner. This changed throughout the years, but that was the foundation of the campaign, and my internship culminated in a presentation of this model.
The biggest challenge I faced was in defining whether we—Concordia—should broker partnerships ourselves, or whether we should broker partnerships through the auspices of a partnership secretariat. We initially adopted the latter—a ‘clover model’ of partnering—consisting of Concordia, an academic partner, a public sector partner, and a private sector partner. But this became confusing and complicated, and in the end we decided it would be more effective and more impactful for us to create partnerships ourselves, without being restricted by this structure.
As a member of the Partnership Development Department, what’s your perspective on what lies ahead for Concordia this year?
This is going to be a big year for Concordia, especially if we continue to have all these different entities coming to us with wonderful ideas around partnerships. Of course, you just want to say “yes” to everyone because as individuals we are all passionate about achieving impact through collaboration, but the actual impact comes from weeding through all these ideas and seeing which ones have long-term significance, and what makes most sense for us to really dedicate our resources to. Our growing significance in this field led to the launch of our Partnership Development Department in January of this year and, luckily, we have a wonderful Partnership Development Director who will continue to steer it in the right direction.
Congratulations on your recent admission to several universities for your master’s degree! How does this type of program relate to, and strengthen, your passion for international engagement and human rights issues?
Thank you! Well, I think that undergrad equips you with the critical thinking skills necessary to address social and human rights issues, but it doesn’t necessarily give you all of the practical tools. After graduating from Dartmouth, I was quickly thrust into this emerging field of partnership development without completely understanding the historical significance of the sweeping change that we’re seeing, with businesses becoming more socially responsible and enlisting the support of government and civil society to become more sustainable. Concordia has given me a passion for using partnerships to achieve social impact, and I hope my master’s degree will provide me with practical guidance from experts.
Now that you are embarking on a new stage in your professional career, what will you miss the most about Concordia?
What I will miss the most is definitely the team that I work with. It is hard to find a team as passionate, driven, and cohesive as the one at Concordia. My friends always say to me “You just have the coolest job in the world! You get to do what you’re passionate about every day, you get to travel and meet new people…you are very lucky to have this position.” I’ve found that people are not normally given responsibility in their job immediately after college, but Concordia has empowered me to the point where I could be comfortable if I am told to, “walk into a meeting and pitch the CEO of a Fortune 500 company,” for instance.
In the future, if you were responsible for creating the ideal partnership, what sector and type of organization would it involve? And, what would it try and achieve?
I am actually in the process of creating my ideal partnership right now! I will be working on creating a social enterprise for healthcare delivery in East Africa over the next three years. To make this possible, I am working with an NGO called Population Services International, and we’re looking for public and private sector partners to help us bring this to scale.