In 2009 three people sat down together to ask a question as relevant today as it was then. How might we build new platforms that unite and magnify people’s abilities to solve the challenges that are most meaningful to them, and in the process upend the old models of the social sector to offer something more collaborative, more open, and more innovative?
This question intrigued GKI’s co-founders: Nina Fedoroff, a biotechnologist and former Science and Technology Advisor to the US Secretary of State, Sara Farley, an innovation strategist who’d helped the World Bank, United Nations, and other organizations craft their innovation strategies and programming, and Sam Pitroda, a world-renowned telecom entrepreneur. And so, GKI planted its flag at the edge of the frontier, dubbing the dawning of “The Collaboration Era” and heralding the power and necessity of a new flavor of innovation, one that is deeply rooted in partnership, sharing, and collective action.
The decade that followed has offered a rich learning journey and spurred the formation of a growing community of thousands of partners who’ve counted on the Global Knowledge Initiative to help them transform themselves and their organizations into “Super Collaborators” — people and institutions adept at uniting disparate ideas and resources to solve challenges in complex systems.
Since its founding, GKI has never shied away from walking its talk, driven by a global team that’s grown over the years and fueled by the conviction of a passionate Board. Over the years…
We built things
Systems mapping processes, innovation labs, collaborative networks, playbooks, toolkits, interactive experiences, and communities. GKI has been a sandbox and a laboratory for innovation for more than a decade. We believed if it didn’t exist, we could, with the help of our stakeholders, construct it. For example, through network formation and the production of systems analysis, GKI unified the people, processes, and innovations successful in solving a mysterious problem in Rwandan specialty coffee, minimizing the challenge for tens of thousands of farmers and their families. It was a network that took years to build and became a sustainable feature of the coffee system through ongoing partnerships with the University of Rwanda, Michigan State University, Rwanda’s Agriculture Board, various coffee cooperatives and exporters, and thousands of farmers.
We broke things
For some, collaborating comes naturally. For others entrenched in disciplinary, industrial, cultural or geographic silos, boundaries thwart collaboration. The result: misaligned incentives, untapped resources, and duplicative efforts. Some of GKI’s most provocative and successful work has been in silo-busting, as we did in Pakistan and Afghanistan and in Malaysia where we focused on skills building and facilitation to overcome power asymmetries and cultural barriers to connect scientific research to food security and water challenges.