An Interview With James Eustace, Partner And Regional Director For Europe

“Our work in Europe is defined by the kinds of partnerships we have. We are interested in supporting big ideas to ensure lasting impact both now and in the future. We have a history of collaborating with large organizations because they offer the potential for immediate and scalable impact. Equally, we are becoming enthusiastic about partnering with smaller organizations with a proven model and bold ideas that can challenge the status quo and drive systemic change.” 

1. Reflecting on the impact potential of your team in Europe, tell us what most energizes you as Regional Director?  

I am truly excited about the broad spectrum of topics we address and about leveraging the diverse backgrounds of our team who hail from around the globe and now reside in key European cities like London, Paris, and Geneva. Their shared commitment to social impact significantly enhances our capacity to influence and connect Europe with global social impact opportunities. Approximately half of our projects involve collaboration with our teams in other regions; so, we engage Dalberg’s extensive global network to implement solutions that support communities both locally and internationally.  

2. What are your strategic priorities as Regional Director in Europe? 

Recognizing the need to extend our engagement beyond the initial strategy, we are now committing more deeply to supporting our clients through the implementation phase of their transitions. Over the past three years, we’ve refined our capabilities in this area, increasingly responding to requests for extended collaboration. Our ongoing partnerships, such as enhancing leadership capacities with Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) across its grantee portfolio and bolstering Unitaid’s COVID-19 response efforts, illustrate our ability to deliver impactful, longer-term results. I am looking forward to further developing this critical aspect of our work. 

Another strategic priority for me is expanding the impact we have in Europe itself—particularly in light of the direct and indirect impacts of global challenges like climate change, but also the increase in regional conflict. I’m keen to deepen our partnerships with place-based organizations, such as our work with Impact on Urban Health, a London-focused NGO. These are shaping a new era in Europe, emphasizing the need to effectively respond to and mitigate its societal consequences. As a mission-driven organization, we are intensifying our efforts to support reconstruction, manage immigration challenges, and foster peace in the region—including through our work with energy sector partners in Ukraine.

3. What do you see as the most pressing sustainability issues facing the region today, and which opportunities are you most excited about leaning into? 

We’ve observed how the widespread use of technology and social media are exacerbating major global challenges. These technologies are increasingly influencing political narratives, global health outcomes, and mental health, and altering our interactions within society. We want to work with our partners to find more opportunities to drive positive change. We are proud to have recently collaborated with the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), working alongside the CEO and leadership team to develop a growth-oriented business plan. The learnings from CCDH’s journey will be hugely valuable in efforts to harness the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in fostering beneficial outcomes for society. 

4. You’ve had diverse experiences fostering organizational change over nearly two decades. What changes have you seen in the impact sector and how is Dalberg adapting to them? 

Over the years, one consistent trend I have observed is the increasing pressure on international organizations and NGOs to “compete” for the same funding pool. This dynamic was particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we witnessed this first-hand through our work with WHO’s Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, a partnership between many of the major global health institutions. In the post-COVID-19 era, I’m expecting a consolidation of capabilities in which several institutions will combine forces and merge. Dalberg’s work to support mergers in the social impact space (for example, our work to support CGIAR move from 11 separate research centers to one unified organization) has underscored some critical insights for us. Primarily, it is critical to focus on bringing together the full breadth of disciplines necessary to succeed in the most effective way. However, the more profound challenge lies in adopting a country-first approach to an “upstream” merger. These organizations should start by defining the ideal operational model from the perspective of those served. By reversing the planning process, we aim to ensure that any merged entity is not just a confluence of capacities, but a transformational force tailored to serve local communities.

5. Tell us a little about Dalberg’s portfolio in Europe. 

We have a broad portfolio with strategic focus across various sectors and geographies. In 2023, it showcased remarkable diversity, as we addressed some of the world’s most pressing challenges from energy transition programs, climate change adaptation, environmental conservation, and agricultural finance to global health access. 

Our Geneva office, for example, serves as a focal point for our engagement with global health institutions. Here, we have collaborated with the World Health Organization (WHO) on critical initiatives, including a comprehensive review of the global COVID-19 response strategy, which can be viewed in the WHO Strategic Review. We also supported WHO’s COVID-19 response evaluation in the Middle East and Africa, detailed in this report: WHO’s Response in EMR. Our work with Unitaid involved partnering with their leadership to build their pandemic preparedness and response strategy and improve their approach to regional manufacturing of health products in Africa.  

In Paris, our focus spans three areas: e-mobility and infrastructure, climate change and conservation, and finance and investment in Africa. In London, a significant portion of our work centers on finance and investment, collaborating with major institutions such as British International Investment, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and UBS Optimus Foundation. We are also actively involved in the health sector, working with organizations like the Wellcome Trust and CIFF to drive impactful health initiatives.  

What truly excites me is our ability to integrate deep, localized work in Europe with our broader global influence, working alongside senior leaders of large institutions to foster growth and transformation. This is not only about providing tools and insights but also about empowering leaders to navigate complex challenges and lead their organizations towards sustainable impact and success.  

6. What is one thing you have seen clients do that you believe drives large-scale/transformational impact? 

Transformative change typically begins with bold and visionary thinking. In our experience, even small organizations have demonstrated the ability to drive monumental changes and shape significant global dialogues. An example of this is our collaboration with CCDH. This engagement provided us with firsthand insight into the profound impact a small group of dedicated individuals can have with a groundbreaking idea and their willingness to challenge established powers. They have shown just how much can be accomplished through smart research and courageous advocacy.  

Similarly, our collaboration with the Bellona Foundation, an international environmental advocacy foundation in Europe, involved strategizing with the CEO and COO on their business plan to scale their impact over the next five years. These examples illustrate our role in empowering young yet ambitious foundations and leaders to drive sustained growth.

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