About the Author: Rob Lalka is Global Partnerships Liaison in the Office of the Secretary’s Global Partnership Initiative.
At her swearing-in ceremony as the first Special Representative for Global Partnerships, Ambassador Elizabeth Frawley Bagley said, “The time has come to take a bold and imaginative look, not just at the substance of our foreign policy, but at how we conduct our foreign policy.” She went further in a DipNote blog entry several weeks ago, where she discussed the reasons to pursue partnerships with the private sector and civil society.
Since coming on board, Ambassador Bagley has been working hard to spread the message to groups like the Global Business Coalition and the Business Civic Leadership Center. She outlined a new approach to partnering with faith-based groups at a conference on faith and malaria hosted by Tony Blair. She has been building coalitions to work on the U.S. National Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo and the Abruzzo, Italy, earthquake response efforts. And, from HIV/AIDS to blood testing to food security, the U.S. government has been tackling problems through partnerships.
This is our version of what FDR called “bold, persistent experimentation.”
As part of this initiative, we are partnering with individuals as well. We have hosted a series of discussions at the State Department with groups of remarkable young innovators and activists: the Synergos Arab World Social Innovators, the Yale World Fellows, and the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders. I don’t use “remarkable” lightly. Their projects are creative, and they are making a real difference. This has gotten me thinking: how we can stimulate more bottom-up innovation?
In a recent post on the White House Blog, I quoted President Obama’s address to the Clinton Global Initiative. During that speech, he talked about how individuals are often the ones who get the job done, saying, “real progress does not just come from the top down, not just from government, it comes from the bottom up -- from people. If you want to bring about change in the world, you can't just be an advocate of somebody else doing it. You can't just preach lofty goals and wait for somebody else to act. You have to step up.”
It’s kind of like apps for my iPhone. Apple created the platform, but it takes individual users to identify needs and write the apps to meet them.
I have a feeling that partnerships are going to work that way for us too. At the State Department’s Global Partnership Initiative, we are working hard to develop the tools, techniques, and incentives for global partnership building. But we need your ideas. And now, we are making it easy for you to send them to us online.
So we are asking you to respond to the President’s challenge. Pick a problem you know something about. Send us your ideas about how we can solve it together. And let’s work on a partnership so that one day we can say, “Yeah. There’s an app for that.”