"My Business Is Partnerships"

This article is part of the Concordia Partnership Series that highlights the power of cross-sector collaboration to address some of the world's most intractable problems.

"Public-private partnership" is seemingly one of the "it" terms in diplomacy and development these days. In an era of constrained public resources and increasing global challenges, partnerships are touted as the new and innovative approach to find and implement the best ideas, avoid duplication of efforts, and achieve more together. While the federal government is embracing and formalizing public-private partnerships like never before - with 23 federal agencies now boasting a partnership office - they aren't a new concept. Rather, working together at all levels has been important throughout my career.

In my professional life, I've seen the value of collaboration at all levels of society. I've spent most of my life in Boston - living, studying, and working. I worked for many years in Boston City Hall for Thomas Menino - and I worked on everything from neighborhood services, and community relations, to Boston's redevelopment. Before I joined the State Department, I also worked for our Secretary of State, John Kerry - then Senator Kerry - as the director of his Massachusetts office.

My 20+ years working at the local level gave me a solid understanding of the importance of creative collaboration with local communities and a range of stakeholders, many of whom represent diverse views in our globalizing world - no matter how big or small the city or town. Collaboration allows for more sustainable solutions, inclusive outcomes, and greater impact than any one entity could achieve on its own.

I've benefited from these experiences at the ground level in my current work leading the Secretary's Office of Global Partnerships at the State Department. And in my almost three years here at the Department, I've seen partnerships become a priority within the administration. As I've said before, partnerships aren't just a new and exciting catchphrase, but are a critical mechanism for strengthening our diplomatic connections, enhancing our development work, promoting economic growth, and safeguarding our long-term security as a nation.

I've seen partnerships respond to key foreign policy priorities in every possible way at the State Department. I like to think of my office as a sort of "matchmaker," connecting the right people to collaborate on issues of mutual importance. For instance, Secretary Kerry asked my office to create a partnership around sustainable fishing around the first Our Ocean conference that he hosted in 2014; we are now deep in planning with scientists, coders, and seafood businesses for our third annual Fishackathon, to take place on Earth Day in over 30 cities worldwide. Our first-of-its-kind "WiSci" girls STEAM camp in Rwanda this past summer grew out of side discussions between African ministers of education and technology companies at the 2014 U.S. Africa Leaders Summit. We have grown the Diplomacy Lab partnership to include 20 partner universities (and soon more) providing research to the Department.

Beyond managing these many partnerships, my office serves as a resource and solutions platform for the rest of the Department and the interagency to advise on best practices, provide expertise and guidance in forming and maintaining partnerships, and promoting the power of partnerships. To that end, we host an annual Global Partnerships Week in March to celebrate partnerships around the world, publish an annual State of Global Partnerships report to highlight partnerships in the Department, and recognize exemplary partnerships that are achieving the most impact with an annual P3 Impact Award.

I've seen that partnerships require flexibility, resiliency, and risk-taking to successfully achieve their goals. I've learned a lot about the importance of collaboration over the years, and especially during my time as Special Representative for Global Partnerships, and I look forward to sharing some of those experiences, as well as some of the exciting initiatives that my office is working on this spring.