The nature of diplomacy and development is changing rapidly. While the United States was once the primary source of resource flows into the developing country, partnerships with the private and non-profit sectors are playing an increasingly prominent role. In this new landscape, collaboration across sectors has become crucial in the international work we engage in every day at the U.S. Department of State.
That rationale guides everything that the Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships (S/GP) does, and is the primary motivation behind our annual Global Partnerships Week (GPW) celebration, held last week from March 7-13. Every year, we recognize the role that public-private partnerships play in diplomacy and development around the world. And GPW is a partnership of its own; this year, we partnered with USAID’s Global Development Lab, Concordia, and PeaceTech Lab to organize events and activities to encourage the collaboration needed to tackle global challenges, promote innovation, and recognize the impact of partnerships worldwide.
The week began with the Global Partnerships Practitioners Forum here in Washington at the U.S. Institute of Peace, held under the theme “Innovators, Changemakers, and Disruptors: New Ideas in the Partnerships Landscape.” The day brought together practitioners from all sectors to discuss best practices in partnership building, especially looking to the future as the field continues to evolve. At the event, a plenary panel led by USAID’s Ann Mei Chang discussed how to (and how to not) engage the tech sector; officials from the State Department, USAID, the National Security Council, and others gave five-minute DevTalks on the future of partnerships. A highlight of the day was CIA Director John Brennan’s lunch keynote address, in which he discussed the CIA’s approach to partnerships and innovation, particularly in national security.
But the week didn’t stop there. It featured more than 30 self-organized events held in Washington, New York, California, abroad, and online throughout the week. Some highlights—
- To celebrate GPW and International Women’s Day on March 9, Meridian International Center hosted a webinar highlighting the reasons behind the success of the first-ever WiSci Girls STEAM Camp this summer in Rwanda, PYXERA Global organized a webcast panel discussing a current partnership between IBM and Peace Corps in Ghana to support the Let Girls Learn initiative, and the Calvert Foundation hosted a webinar on investing in clean energy access for women.
- Diaspora engagement was a big theme during GPW, with USAID’s Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI) convening a panel on “Diaspora, Disasters, and Partnerships,” two webinars by the International diaspora Engagement Alliance, and an event on the potential role of the Congolese diaspora to partner around the upcoming presidential election in Congo.
- Online events included a Twitter chat with the Intersector Project, Concordia, S/GP, and PeaceTech Lab to discuss what innovation really means (hint—it’s not all about technology), and Deputy Special Representative Thomas Debass hosted a Google Hangout to announce the finalists of the Diplomacy Lab partnership’s upcoming WonkTank event, in which university students can pitch their best foreign policy ideas to Department officials.
- And the U.S. government definitely represented the “public” side of public-private partnerships. Brookings Institution held an event presenting a new report analyzing data on USAID’s public-private partnerships, including a panel with USAID and private sector partners stressing the importance of shared value. USAID Honduras held two trainings on strategic alliances between the private sector and vulnerable populations. And State Department colleagues hosted a roundtable and lunch around “Business commitments to make the 2030 SDGs real,” facilitating dialogue among key actors on what is needed to ensure success and scale impact of private sector initiatives to advance the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
These are just a few of the great events held during GPW, demonstrating that the power of partnerships is universal.
I encourage you to view the full roundup of the week at p3.co. Catch up on the GPW blog, featuring posts on collaboration and innovation from a variety of perspectives, and read my office’s third annual State of Global Partnerships report, hot off the press.
GPW may be over for this year, but our partnerships work continues. Reach out to my office anytime with ideas, questions, or your own partnership story at email@example.com or on Facebook or Twitter.
About the Author: Andrew O'Brien is the Special Representative for Global Partnerships.
For more information: