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citiesRISE featured at Smart Cities NYC ’17

GDI-incubated mental health initiative citiesRISE was featured on a panel at Smart Cities NYC ’17. Moitreyee Sinha, CEO of citiesRISE and former GDI director, joined several health experts on stage to address the intersection of mental health and urban spaces. The panel discussed the root causes that stand in the way of healthy communities and highlighted new efforts that are transforming access to health.

Watch the clip below or view the full panel here


Beware zombie partnerships! GDI on winding down partnerships in SSIR

Building on our study “More than the Sum of Its Parts: Making multi-stakeholder initiatives work,” GDI outlines when and how to wind down a partnership – especially in a sector with finite resources.

It’s essential to think critically about when and how an MSI should wind down—especially given that the global development sector lacks resources but is abundant in fragmented entities. These dynamics perpetuate what one interviewee described as “zombie partnerships.” He commented, “The conflation of an MSI’s strategy failure and execution failure exacerbates the problem, because it can come across as a failure of organizations to partner, compared with the failure of the partnership to realize impact. And people don’t like that, so they continue to partner for the sake of partnering.”

Read the full article at the Stanford Social Innovation Review.


GDI study featured in new research on MSIs for sustainable development

It’s always exciting to see our ideas bear fruit, especially when they help shape the latest global development thinking. A recent study titled “Multi-stakeholder initiatives for Sustainable Development Goals: The importance of interlocutors” features GDI’s landmark research on when multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) are the right solution to a given global development challenge, and how to design and launch them most effectively.
The study, authored by professors Alan Fowler from University of Wits in South Africa and Kees Biekart from Erasmus University in Holland, draws on 17 MSI case studies across 4 countries to argue that:
  • MSIs in the age of the SDGs require a unique type of host they call “an interlocutor,” which plays the facilitation role for MSIs – the interlocutor “recognizes and reconciles the numerous power asymmetries involved in pursuing collaboration towards the creation of public goods.”
  • Playing this role well requires strength in seven attributes: leadership and conflict management, trustworthiness and trust building, system sensitivity, governance awareness, long haul commitment, polyglot communication, and sovereignty.
  • The importance of these attributes varies over time as an MSI progresses – but the interlocutor’s overall significance increases as MSIs unfold
  • Investing in interlocutors will be critical for achieving the SDGs
Of course, we like to think the authors would recognize GDI as an excellent example of an interlocutor…but really, it’s thrilling just to see other leading development thinkers join the call for developing a discipline around MSIs when they have such enormous potential to drive sustainable development.


Behind the scenes at GDI: Our 2016 annual report

2016 Annual Report Cover

We are excited to release GDI’s 2016 annual report. Rather than simply summarizing our work from the year, we’ve tried to pull back the curtain on how incubation and innovation at GDI actually happen.

Highlights include:

  • A behind-the-scenes look at the making of several initiatives, including Convergence, mhNOW, and the Collaborative for Scaling Social Impact
  • An overview of our big ideas from 2016 (and where to find them online)
  • An honest of five successes and five failures-turned-insights from our year (we learned a lot!)


GDI on building bridges, not barriers

GDI was born to build bridges, not barriers. In our daily work designing and launching social impact initiatives, we’ve seen firsthand that progress rarely happens without collaboration and empathy. More often than not, systems change requires working closely with people and groups different from us, and pushing ourselves to understand points of view and experiences that differ from our own.

Recent political movements in the US and around the world reflect a different set of core beliefs that threaten to slow positive momentum of recent decades in areas ranging from economic empowerment to gender equality. As an organization that works closely with public, private, and philanthropic actors, we’ve thought carefully about our role in resisting unnecessary divisions in the global community.

We joined 440+ nonprofit leaders in publicly opposing the recent executive order banning immigrants from several Muslim-majority countries and now, we want to take a moment to be extra clear about what GDI stands for:

We believe in agitating for social change.

We believe in a free and critical press.

We believe in welcoming immigrants.

We believe in admitting what we don’t know.

We believe in equal pay for equal work.

We believe in the power of partnership.

We believe in looking beyond stigma.

We believe in democratic principles.

We believe in prioritizing impact.

We believe in taking a stand.

We will continue to express these core beliefs in all that we do at GDI, and hope our partners across sectors will join us.

Johnson & Johnson, GDI, and Dalberg share new report on reimagining the global health convening

Reimagining the global health convening coverFundamental shifts are changing global health as we know it, requiring diverse and disruptive groups of people from across sectors to collaborate on solutions. How can a “reimagined” convening most effectively bring these groups together to drive financing and innovation in global health?

A new report titled “Reimagining the Global Health Convening: What’s Next?” inspired by Johnson & Johnson and authored by the Global Development Incubator and Dalberg Global Development Advisors, features the perspectives of over 30 leading thinkers across sectors – from a sustainable finance leader at JPMorgan to a social entrepreneur increasing access to medical oxygen in Kenya – on this question.

2016 in particular saw major changes in the global health convening space, as one critical convening – the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) – wound down, and other new models of convening were tested, including the Financing & Innovation in Global Health (FIGH) forum, supported by Johnson & Johnson and other leading partners.

Together, the void left by CGI and our learnings from FIGH give the global health community the opportunity to step back and consider thoughtfully how to build a better convening. In reflecting on this opportunity, report interviewees shared a common sense of urgency around the need to set catalytic, transformative change in motion. Among other themes, they shared:

  • The best convenings avoid becoming echo chambers – a truly diverse group of perspectives in one place can go a long way
  • Neglected health challenges benefit enormously from the “stage and spotlight” convenings can offer, especially if events can facilitate connections to new resources
  • Openness around failures and lessons learned is critical to a productive convening – safe spaces should be interspersed with opportunities for visibility

It is the report authors’ hope that future convenings can incorporate these and other interview perspectives to more effectively activate participants for change. What do you think a reimagined global health convening should look like? Share your thoughts on Twitter using #FutureConvening.


Emerging Public Leaders expands PYPP model beyond Liberia

The Emerging Public Leaders (EPL), incubated by GDI, seeks to build a pan-African network of 500 young leaders in public service by 2021. Drawing on the model proven successful with the President’s Young Professionals Program of Liberia, the team hopes to create a tipping point for meritocratic and effective civil service throughout the continent. The EPL Leadership Team recently returned from a trip to Liberia, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, which confirmed the need and opportunity in each country for the EPL model of civil service leadership. They also explored existing organizational frameworks and new avenues for collaboration with the respective governments and partnering organizations, in order to achieve EPL’s vision of building a pan-African network of 500+ next generation civil service leaders.

Read more for highlights of the trip from Joanne Ke Edelman, EPL’s interim COO, and Betsy Williams, EPL’s founder.

read more…

GDI joins over 400 social impact leaders in open letter to President Trump

GDI was born to build – but we, along with over 400 other social agitators who signed an open letter to President Trump, believe in building bridges, not walls. Last week, GDI Founder + CEO Andrew Stern signed the letter on behalf of GDI. The full text is below.

Dear President Trump,

As leaders who have spent our careers pioneering innovative solutions for many of our nation’s and the world’s most entrenched challenges, we write to express our unequivocal disagreement with your Executive Order issued on January 27, 2017, which banned individuals from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. We believe the order violates one of America’s most closely-held values to block entry to a targeted minority, whether comprised of temporary visitors, immigrants, or refugees. This is especially true for those who live on the edge of survival in war zones and refugee camps and have waited for years to call this great country their new home.

Groups like ours exist to help lift up the poorest and most marginalized with innovative solutions. In our opinion, this ban will make our work to foster peace, sustainability, opportunity and inclusiveness much harder. This action has unfortunately intensified fear, bigotry, and division in communities across our nation and the world, giving our organizations still more challenges to overcome. It has also decreased trust of Americans as we travel — it conveys that America is a country that no longer values diversity but operates from a place of prejudice.

We believe that immigrants and visitors from these nations should be allowed into the US to help increase the efficacy of the work we do to build peace and prosperity both at home and around the world. Collectively, we employ tens of thousands of people, and we have always found that the most powerful solutions for societal ills only emerge with the intimate involvement of those whom we work to serve. Diversity is the lifeblood of social, economic, and political progress, and policies that impede this value weaken our ability to innovate and implement social change.

We fear that such policies limit opportunity, inclusion, and our nation’s opportunity to engage with the world. We stand with the millions of people around the globe who have joined hands in resistance to efforts to sow fear and create false divisions along the lines of religion, ethnicity, country of origin, gender, or any other degree of difference.

You have expressed skepticism about the government’s abilities to solve problems alone, so we hope you will listen to the voices of those of us who lead organizations on the front lines of social change each and every day, using business best practices and often partnering with government. We respectfully request, Mr. President, that you do not deny us the right of welcoming people, regardless of their religion or nationality, to our shores. We must continue to communicate the values of inclusiveness and opportunity for all, values that our nation has always worked hard to live and to model.

See all the signatories and share the letter by clicking here.

Visa, Dalberg, and GDI release new report, “Small Merchants, Big Opportunity”

Small Merchants Big Opportunity“Small Merchants, Big Opportunity: The Forgotten Path to Financial Inclusion” – a new report commissioned by Visa and authored by Dalberg and the Global Development Incubator – explores how micro and small merchants represent both a path to financial inclusion, as well as a huge commercial opportunity for financial service providers.

Drawing on conversations with over 400 merchants and 75 key financial stakeholders, the report concludes that existing digital payment platforms must improve their offerings, and new digital payment products addressing the specific needs of micro and small merchants (e.g., speed, interoperability) must be brought to scale. Financial regulators, governments, and businesses can introduce and support policies that reduce barriers and facilitate this cashless ecosystem, as well as promote cashless transactions by using digital payment systems in their interactions with merchants and customers.

> Read the full report here or check out the infographic below.

> Join the conversation on Twitter using #merchantmoney.

Contact us to learn more about this research.

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mhNOW makes Commitment to Action at CGI

GDI was pleased to be joined on stage by President Bill Clinton and representatives from some of our 20 cross-sectoral partners as we made a Commitment to Action with mhNOW, an initiative to engage 30 cities by 2030 to close the mental health gap, at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting.


Read the press release below and learn more about mhNOW here.

read more…

What an ‘exit’ means at GDI: EYElliance finds new home at Tides Center

eyelliance-logo-blogAs an incubator, GDI strives to ensure our initiatives are always working toward defined endgames. For some initiatives, this journey involves ‘exiting’ GDI after 24-36 months of partnership. We believe the focus on exits makes us more accountable to our funders and partners to help build initiatives that are sustainable beyond the first three stages of our “growth engineering” model. EYElliance – a coalition of multi-sector partners that collaborates to address the world’s unmet need for eyeglasses – recently exited GDI, and has now found a more permanent host at the Tides Center.

Exits like these are important learning experiences for GDI. Below, GDI’s Andrew Stern and Moitreyee Sinha reflect on EYElliance’s transition, and what it means to see our theory of change in action.

read more…

From graduates to government: success of Liberia PYPP verified in Princeton evaluation

Princeton’s Innovation for Successful Societies verified the success of the Liberia President’s Young Professionals Program in a recent report from their independent evaluation of the program. The case study tells the story of a newly-democratic country without a capable civil service. An excerpt is below:

In 2005, when Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became Liberia’s first democratically elected post-conflict president, she found her country’s government in shambles. Years of cronyism under military rule and a 14-year civil war had left behind a bloated civil service corps riddled with unqualified employees, most of whom did not have a university education and some of whom could not read or write. The president needed more-capable employees at every level of government. […] With assistance from international donors, Saah N’Tow, a Liberian working at an international consulting firm, set up a fair and transparent recruitment process and coupled it with strong training and mentorship to create the President’s Young Professionals Program. Beginning in 2009 and annually thereafter, the program placed 10 to 20 Liberian youth into government ministries for two-year fellowships. By 2016, 72 young professionals had completed their fellowships and about 75% were still working for the government. Many stood out as some of the top performers in the civil service and several had been promoted to positions as divisional directors and assistant ministers.


Convergence CEO Joan Larrea in ImpactAlpha

What is blended finance? Convergence CEO Joan Larrea admits she didn’t always know, and many others don’t either.

When I meet counterparts from development banks, philanthropic institutions, and the private sector, I find there’s still confusion about what exactly blended finance is. Where does it fit in the landscape of impact investing? How does it differ from the development finance that the World Bank Group and other multilateral institutions have been doing for decades?

This feature in ImpactAlpha breaks down the term, discussing the three signature markings of a blended financial deal, and makes a case for simplicity in finance.

Source: ImpactAlpha


Convergence mentioned in The Economist

“Private investors do not typically fund the construction of rural roads in Africa, say, or vaccination drives in villages, even though the returns on such investments are often enormous. That is because the returns are either hard to monetise, or the risks are too great for the private sector to tolerate. The point of blended finance is to use public or charitable funds to remedy those problems, allowing private money to flow to places and projects it would usually shun […] Few data exist on the scale and success of blended finance more broadly, but it is still a niche. Two global platforms were recently launched to match investors with projects. One of them, Convergence, has a database of over 150 blended transactions since 2000 with a total value of $40 billion, but says its list is not exhaustive.”