Playing the role of a “joiner”: the importance of connections in the social sector

By Angela Rastegar Campbell

Angela Rastegar Campbel

Angela Rastegar Campbel

Collaboration is a simple and powerful tool in the social sector, yet even when groups have common goals, there is a persistent gap between the potential for collaboration and the actual amount of partnerships that create joint action.

But while it is easy to say “we need collaboration,” how do novel global partnerships actually get started? Dalberg recently witnessed the birth of an effective partnership firsthand through our work with Intel on addressing the internet access gender gap. What began as a Dalberg-authored report commissioned by Intel has grown to an announcement last month from Hillary Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting describing Intel’s bold commitment to Bridge Africa’s Gender Gap.

So how did it all begin? Intel has long been interested in supporting equitable internet access, and in 2012 commissioned Dalberg to quantify the disparity in internet access between men and women globally. The study, Women and the Web, revealed a drastic gender gap in the adoption of technology and the internet in developing countries. On average across the developing world, nearly 25 percent fewer women than men have access to the internet; that number grows to almost 45 percent fewer women than men in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa. The report raised awareness about the technology gender gap through abundant publicity in outlets from Slate to the Guardian.

To follow up on the report, Dalberg and Intel hosted a roundtable discussion in March 2013, where implementing organizations, experts, and funders discussed how to translate this groundbreaking research into real programmatic action. An array of organizations such as World Pulse, Verizon, BRAC, and CGI discussed the ways in which their organizations strive to bridge the gender gap, sparking a novel dialogue about opportunities for partnership. The conversations at this convening – and a number of related discussions – led to Intel’s 2013 CGI commitment to action to reduce the gender-based gap in technology. CGI is predicated on the need for players in business, government, and the social sector to cross-pollinate, and it was thrilling to see partners such as Telecentre.org Foundation, CARE, World Vision, World Pulse, and ChangeCorp join Intel as partners in the commitment.

CGI’s Head of Technology and Human Rights, Danica MacAvoy commented after attending this roundtable discussion, “After years of estimating women’s access to the internet based on proxy information, Intel’s Women and the Web report quantified the internet access gender gap and allowed us to see how wide the gap between men’s and women’s access is around the globe. The report enabled important discussions—such as the roundtable hosted by Dalberg in New York this spring—that gave those in the sector the imperative to act, resulting in the development of Intel’s collaborative project and 2013 CGI Commitment, ‘Intel Connecting Women to Bridge Africa’s Gender Gap.’”

Women and the Web cover

The impact from this collaboration didn’t stop on the CGI stage, however. In conjunction with the CGI commitment, Intel also announced She Will Connect, a new program that commits to expanding digital literacy skills to young women in developing countries with a diverse set of partners. Intel will begin the initiative in Africa, where the gender gap is the greatest, by aiming to reach 5 million women and reduce the gender gap by 50 percent.

The journey from a report, Women and the Web, to a full-fledged program, She Will Connect, illustrates how simple yet elusive real collaboration can be. Dalberg’s previous work — including a recent project on harnessing private funding for clean water — has demonstrated that bringing together novel compositions of individuals and organizations around a common cause can often lead to unexpected progress and even solutions.

At times, translating research into global change can be as straightforward as bringing the right people into a room together. In other cases, it can require many thinkers to figure out how to change the way people and organizations think and behave. Regardless, true impact requires ideas, people, and a mechanism for change; it is rare that one organization alone has all of these components. As we move ahead, we will continue to seek out opportunities to play the ever-important role of a “joiner.”

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One Response to Playing the role of a “joiner”: the importance of connections in the social sector

  1. Pingback: D. Capital, Aon, and Hollard Insurance announce world’s first social impact insurance entity, HUGinsure, at 2013 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting | D. Blog

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