This week, we sit down with Partnership Development Manager Gabriel Barrientos as he shares his personal mission & how it relates to Concordia's, his insight into Concordia's partnerships, and his views on what lies ahead for the organization.
My personal mission is to work towards providing opportunities to those that haven’t been born into those opportunities—whether that is striving to eradicate poverty or improve education systems. My father came from extreme poverty in Guatemala and he managed to make it out through a lot of hard work and determination. Circumstances were stacked up against him, but I was able to grow up in a middle-class United States upbringing, so I had many opportunities presented to me. Even my being at Concordia is fully due to the fact that I was born into a position of privilege. So it’s always been my mission, in terms of my career, to think of ways in which I can create opportunities like that for more people.
Concordia is a great place to do that because it understands that the systemic issues that people face are entrenched through various different interwoven institutions. Concordia understands that in order to address these issues, all sectors must be involved. We really try to promote the idea that progress is not achieved through a “one silver bullet solves all” method, but rather by working across various different sectors, people, and organizations. This is a practical way to promote systematic change that ultimately creates better opportunities for disadvantaged people.
I started at Concordia only recently, but I’ve already noticed that the organization has been able to establish itself remarkably in a very impressive manner in terms of connecting and convening. Strategically, Concordia has realized the comparative advantage that it has, which is to extend conversations—not just in terms of connecting and convening, but actually helping create partnerships as well.
In terms of partnership development, I would say Concordia has green pastures ahead that it hasn’t necessarily developed in the same capacity as its convening spaces. In the next five years, I see Concordia developing its partnership development aspect. Whether that’s understanding what our members want to get out of partnership development, understanding our comparative advantage, or understanding how we can leverage our efforts to foster even more partnerships. It is important to not only understand this from a data point of view, but also from a political point of view.
Most importantly, we are a very young and small team, and as a result we’re able to react quickly and decisively. We have a lot of enthusiasm and there’s not a lot of bureaucratic red tape, so when we put our minds to a strategic path, we’re very capable of completing our goals. If we continue down this road of partnership development, as we’ve started to establish this year, I think in the next five years we’ll be able to create a niche for Concordia in this space.
The first thing that we try to highlight is that we understand that, as a small team, we can’t be experts in all of the sectors or industries we operate within. As I said earlier, there are a lot of interwoven topics that address a lot of systemic issues: whether that’s food security, education, healthcare, financial inclusion, and so forth, they’re kind of intertwined. Concordia’s done a great job of bringing the right players to the table—the actual experts in these fields—to talk about their expertise, to share the best practices, and to most importantly acknowledge where the biggest shortcomings and roadblocks are in their fields and organizations. I think Concordia does a great job of understanding where those shortcomings and roadblocks are and helping to identify across the aisle—across a different sector—which organization or which individual has the skills and tools to address those roadblocks.
I think my background has really developed me and helped me a lot. Prior to attending graduate school, I worked at the World Bank in education projects all over Latin America. What I learned early on was that many issues that a country or society is facing have a lot of the same deep-rooted structures as another country or society. In addition to that, in an institution like the World Bank, I learned how to deal with government entities, people from different cultures, and the need to understand these things. I reached the stage where I wanted to be able to carry out a lot of rigorous evaluation, but in order to do that I needed to develop more skills, which graduate school enabled me to do. I think my skill set is a great fit for Concordia; it has done a great job of establishing its position as a premier international convener, but we need to understand the value and the impact of our convenings, of our work, and evaluate how they play out in an international sphere, since they all are interconnected.