Loading... please wait

Why does Concordia believe partnerships are so integral to creating social impact?

I think the range of challenges facing the global community today are really immense. The SDGs provide a framework to address these, but even so, it’s a huge problem set. But, at the same time, we’re smarter, faster, and more efficient than ever before, so we have more potential to address this challenge set. And the only way to square that circle to meet today’s demands is to look at partnerships. Because when you’re able to work across sectors and industries, you frame a challenge differently, and that process lends itself to coming up with new, innovative solutions. So the very act of partnering can get you to a different place than if you’re approaching something by yourself. And, it helps you, of course, leverage the different resources and strengths of each sector. No good idea can scale without the influence of, and adoption by, the government. No policy will be successful if it’s not embraced by the community. And, finally, we need to draw on the cutting-edge innovation of the private sector. So to really come up with solutions that can stand the test of time, you need to have the best players at the table.


  • How did the Social Impact Department turn into the Partnership Development Department, and how did the experiences from the former help build the latter?


Internally, it developed out of a strategic planning process. After the 2017 Annual Summit, we started to be more introspective about where our strengths were. In exploring what we were most proud of, we found a lot of it in addition to our convening was rooted in the campaigns that came out of our Social Impact work, but the method of achieving that was very resource intensive and wasn’t scalable across our other work. Therefore, to really be responsive to the Concordia community—which cares about things beyond food sustainability and labor trafficking (our two campaigns)—and to meet them at all of their interest points, we had to rethink about how we were going about engagement. The new Partnership Development Department is trying to take the best aspects of what Concordia had, both in terms of its community and its partnership-building acumen, and it’s looking to leverage this as a partnership-building resource. And so I think it’s a really exciting way to take our campaign model, and to make it action-oriented and accessible across all of our programming pipelines.


  • What are your aspirations for Concordia’s Partnership Development Department over the next couple of years?


This is something that as soon as I joined the team I wanted to do. And I see it as a partnership accelerator. I see it as an opportunity to work with our community and to leverage all the resources that Concordia as a convening platform has—to raise awareness and to bring people together—and then to make sure they have everything they need to build successful partnerships. So my hope is that in three years I can look at a laundry list of partnerships across all of our pipelines that we’ve had some positive role in creating, whether it’s simply brokering introductions and connecting people with shared passions and abilities, or whether it’s much more involved in terms of structuring the partnerships and providing strategic guidance to partnering entities as they go about their work, and bringing in new resources and opportunities that take a good idea and scale it out. I also hope that through partnership development we can really elevate the P3 Impact Award and use those examples as case studies for any group out there that’s ever been interested in partnering.


  • Talk us through the journey of a Concordia Partnership: how does it begin, who drives the progress, what is the final result?


Concordia has internally identified four stages of a partnership. It all starts with a conversation. It’s about raising awareness about an idea and the impact that can come out of that. If you bring the right people together around the table, if you have the right media influence, how does that shape policy (public or private) and how does that achieve impact? That’s the first layer. We then look at building communities. So this includes widening networks, including strategic players, and exploring different time bound opportunities—so, looking at the global community calendar and seeing how we can align up against that.

The third stage is where we actually work with potentially partnering entities to structure out how they’ll engage. So, advising on the frameworks that they’ll be working with and the governance structures that will guide the partnership, exploring all opportunities to amplify the work or to strengthen it, and really being in the trenches with them. And then the fourth stage is when that partnership is really in existence and can be self sustaining. Here, we have much more of an amplification role, in terms of raising awareness about the partnership and its impact, leveraging our powerful platform.


  • Is there a partnership Concordia is involved in currently that you’re particularly excited about seeing play out this year? Which one is it, and why?


As it stands currently, there are two projects that are really taking up my time and my passion. The first one is around developing an environmentally- and socially-conscious model for the cocoa industry. We’re looking at Cameroon, and we’re working with over 60 cooperatives to look at how they’re growing, processing, and selling their cocoa. The Cameroonian cocoa industry—and the cocoa industry broadly—is struggling right now, and we therefore have really strong enthusiasm from the Cameroonian government for this initiative, which is essential. We’re working with a number of potential buyers and market interlocutors that are making this partnership very promising.

The second one is on the subject of displaced adolescents around the world. We’re looking at the refugee and IDP crisis, which is personally something I’m quite passionate about, and we’re exploring how partnerships can provide meaningful solutions to integration challenges. The focus is on the 12-18 cohort, because in our research and through conversations with key stakeholders in the refugee response community, the response has been lacking towards this body of people. There are some fantastic programs out there, but there’s traditionally more of an emphasis on younger unaccompanied minors, or there are programs that are really hyperfocused on certain geographies or demographics. We’re also seeing the refugee population becoming segmented, with a lot of focus on Syrian women and girls. But what about a 14-year old male from Iraq? This is a not ignored but underserved population.

For this project, we’re using a beautiful film produced by Concordia Member Nicole Riggs that captures the narrative of three unaccompanied youth, and we’re leveraging the film to catalyze discussion among policymakers and the donor community, looking on a local level as to how these challenges are manifesting themselves. So, what does it look like in Stuttgart, Germany? What does it look like in Amman, Jordan, specifically? And then we’re looking to bring together community stakeholders based on the community context to explore different partnerships that could address the challenges. So it’s meant to be really catalytic and hyper local, which is exciting.