Shared horizons: partnerships for change

Partnerships with the power to effect real difference on a global scale are currently being forged across the world. Vision examines some of those poised to create lasting change for generations to come

In our world of increasingly globalised cultures and economies, there is a growing awareness that the biggest challenges of the future can only be tackled collectively. The past decade has seen the formation of partnerships that transcend traditional geographical borders and bring together the private, public and civil society sectors.

So what kind of new partnerships really have the potential to create lasting and sustainable change to health, travel, education, security, livelihoods and culture? One organisation, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi – an independent university set up in 2009 – aims to find solutions to the challenges of clean energy and climate change, and create a new generation of sustainable-energy leaders.

The Institute works in collaboration with the US Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It now runs eight postgraduate programmes with 240 students drawn from over 40 different countries across the globe and is playing an invaluable role in creating a future in which sustainability and a global “green economy” will be key to dealing with the challenges future generations will face.

Global solutions

“Although we’re a very new institution, we’re well on our way to our goal of establishing the UAE as a leading light in efforts to put renewable and clean energy at the very heart of all global energy solutions in the coming years,” says Dr Steve Griffiths, Executive Director of Institute Initiatives at Masdar.

Last June a delegation from the Masdar Institute travelled to the Rio+20 Summit on sustainable development in Brazil to showcase the fruits of a range of international partnerships all targeted towards building more sustainable energy solutions and technologies.

Among them was a Global Solar and Wind Atlas, developed with partners who included the UK’s Energy Research Centre (ERC), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the US and the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy. The ground-breaking project gathers and disseminates information for renewable energy enterprises. Other initiatives are focused on creating global partnership programmes on sustainable biofuels projects, fresh approaches to aluminium production and new sister labs in Germany and Abu Dhabi to undertake pioneering work on semiconductor technology.

“It’s no longer acceptable to work in silos,” says Griffiths. “When faced with something like the future of energy, you have to work as a global community.

If you don’t share and collaborate, then there will be no chance of us finding sustainable solutions to the huge energy challenges that lie ahead.”

In the past year, collaborations in other sectors have also been launched, all rooted in this philosophy of a new era of global partnership. One is a new alliance between two of aviation’s biggest brands – Australia’s Qantas and the UAE’s Emirates – which is set to transform the ability of passengers to cross continents, connecting Australasia directly to over 65 destinations in the Middle East, North Africa, the UK and Europe. The two companies will collaborate on flight paths, lounges and frequent-flyer benefits.

An understanding of the need to create a new breed of business leaders, equipped to respond to fast-changing global dynamics, was at the heart of the launch of The Global Alliance in Management Education (CEMS) in 2005. 

CEMS, now encompasses 28 business schools and universities in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Australia, over 70 multi-national companies and four new “social” partners from the humanitarian and not-for-profit sectors. Collectively they deliver a Masters in International Management, now taught to more than 1,000 students in more than 27 countries.

“In the future, it is clear that the business world will be even more multi-faceted and complex than today,” says Roland Siegers, Executive Director at CEMS. Siegers says the recent launch of the CEMS social partnerships – currently with international aid organisation Care International, the Fairtrade Alliance, Transparency International and the UN Alliance of Civilisations – signifies a shift in focus.

Broad horizons

“Our social partners are bringing a new dynamic, contributing to learning through internships, projects and guest lectures. They are helping students broaden their horizons, discover new worlds and challenges, and contribute to finding solutions to issues they might not have been exposed to,” says Siegers.

A new wave of global partnerships is also attempting to pioneer a fresh approach to tackling some of the world’s toughest health challenges. One of these is the ONE project, which was founded by U2 frontman Bono and a coalition of humanitarian and advocacy groups. The project supports a broad variety of international development relief issues, including ending extreme poverty and tackling the Aids pandemic, as well as providing basic education for all and making trade more fair.

“The ethos of partnership has always been at the heart of how we approach global health challenges and was key to our mission of increasing government funding and participation in international aid and health programmes,” says Erin Hohlfelder, Policy Director for Global Health at ONE.

One of its most successful programmes is the Red project, which forms high-profile corporate partnerships with global brands such as Apple, as well as high-profile designers to launch branded Red products. The purpose of the project is to raise awareness of HIV/Aids among their millions of customers and persuade companies to donate money to the Global Fund.

“Recently with the Red project we’ve also been evolving the way that we work,” says Hohlfelder. “We are asking our corporate partners to engage in different ways, instead of just donating money or co-branding a product. We are trying to tap into corporate skill sets and see what kind of mainstream engagement in these health problems they can help us with, then try and infuse this kind of global health messaging into the consciousness of the brand.”