A contentious politicial climate
The political climate in the United States continued to be contentious in 2019. This affected people’s feelings of socio-political and financial security within the US, as well as relationships with neighbouring countries, Canada, Mexico, and Central America. However, the economy was considered to be strong and there were ample opportunities in investment, aid, and philanthropic giving.
Key issues for Solidaridad North America – sustainability within supply chains, climate change, gender inclusivity – needed to be highlighted in the media as key campaign issues in the upcoming 2020 election. Though our current administration has not championed these issues, nor does it seem to value an international facing humanitarian agenda, there is potential for this to change based on results.
Calls for transparency, sustainability, ethics
With regards to the private sector, North American consumers and investors continued to push companies to promote transparency, sustainability, and ethics within their supply chain. This was particularly apparent within the tech sector (gold, cobalt, and other minerals), textiles, and within large food/sourcing companies (e.g. soy, palm oil).
This presented a tremendous opportunity for Solidaridad to build partnerships with both philanthropic and government entities, and market actors. Thus, Solidaridad is aligned with current trends, while also being nimble-footed to meet new opportunities, and design initiatives together with strategic and committed North American partners.
Winners of USAID's WomenConnect Challenge
Solidaridad North America’s proposal won the USAID WomenConnect Challenge, which is part of the US Government’s prestigious Women’s Global Development and Prosperity initiative. As one of three winners of the challenge for 2019, Solidaridad will implement a programme focused on digital financial inclusion and technical assistance provision for women dairy farmers in Bangladesh.
This was a huge win for the organization, as we built a new partnership with USAID and DAI Global LL., the manager of the challenge fund. It also marked a new step for Solidaridad’s Digital Solution and Gender Inclusivity programmes.
Co-hosts of innovation in agrifood conference
Solidaridad North America reprised the role of co-host for the conference on Innovation in Agrifood Supply Chains: Finance, Profitability, and Sustainability together with UC Berkeley. The event led to several meaningful collaborations, especially for our global Impact Investment programme.
We also participated as a panelist in a session on “Harnessing Finance for Responsible Minerals Trade“ at the Responsible Minerals Initiative conference and presented the highlights of our study on barriers to financial access in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector.
Strengthening and expanding relationships
Additionally, the North America team was delighted to strengthen existing relationships with partners such as the Walmart Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. We have also seen expanded relationship building with Ceres, Acumen Fund, Kiva, and Google, among others.
This all took place in the midst of a significant transition period with the recruitment and onboarding of Rebecca Kaduru, our new regional managing director, during the third quarter of the year. Despite being a very lean team, North America hit the ground running under this new leadership and poised itself well for growth and impact in 2020.
Stronger external and internal relationships
Solidaridad North America emphasized strengthening existing relationships with partners, as well as scoping potential new partners aligned with Solidaridad’s mission and vision.
We also focused on strengthening relations with our regional offices and building regionally relevant programme strategies, emphasizing the integration of Solidaridad’s innovation areas including Gender Inclusivity, Climate Change, Digital Innovation, and Impact Investment.
The team identified several opportunities that fit well with its strategic goals, and went on to develop new proposals and initiatives.
Support for our work in cocoa, palm oil and sugar
Long-standing relationships with the Mastercard Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and PepsiCo continued. These supported a variety of initiatives including:
- improving youth engagement in Ghana’s cocoa sector
- supporting best practices in palm oil production in Indonesia
- improving climate-smart sugar production in India.
The new relationship with USAID, managed by Development Alternatives Inc, will support digital innovation and women’s empowerment programmes in Bangladesh.
Building partnerships around tech
North America has also increased its focus on building partnerships around digital innovation, leveraging the presence of technology companies such as Google in the US. This is expected to grow in the next year, in collaboration with other technology and non-profit leaders in the sector and Solidaridad offices around the world, enabling cross-pollination of learning and innovation.
The North America team experienced a significant transition in 2019 with the stepping down of the financial controller and importantly, a change of managing directors. The incoming director, Rebecca Kaduru, adds new expertise to the team, with a background in agribusiness and entrepreneurship, as well as organizational development and research.
Despite the changes in staffing, work remained uninterrupted and significant progress, including development of proposals, building partnerships, and contributing to notable events, was made. With bigger goals on the horizon for the coming year, the team developed plans to increase staffing, with a focus on business development and communications early in 2020.
Getting ready for growth
The second half of 2019 also saw a thorough review of existing human resource materials and the organization structure, with a focus on filling gaps. The structure for employee compensation and benefits was reviewed to meet national and industry standards, and greater attention was given to resources such as onboarding materials.
COMMUNICATION AND CAMPAIGNING
Solidaridad at the White House
As one of the three winners of the USAID WomenConnect Challenge in 2019, Solidaridad participated in the announcement event of the initiative, which was held at the White House in November. In her presentation, Rebecca Kaduru, Solidaridad North America’s managing director, emphasized the need for gender inclusivity and access to resources for women in supply chains.
We brought the Golden Line Exhibition to North America for the first time, hosting it at the 2019 Responsible Minerals Initiative conference in California. The exhibition, which had initially travelled in Europe, highlights the impact of our programmes with women miners working in Africa’s artisanal and small scale mining sector. We were sponsors at the conference and participated in a panel discussion. We also represented Solidaridad at the annual member meeting of the Public Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade.
Spotlighting our Impact Investment Programme
We participated in the 2019 ANDE Conference, held in Washington DC, together with representatives of Solidaridad’s global Impact Investment team. We raised awareness about Solidaridad’s work with social enterprises and corporations by contributing to the session on Impact in the Supply Chain at the Innovations in Corporate Social Impact event organized by One World, in California’s Silicon Valley.
Overall, Communications emerged as a significant need during 2019; with a lean team, this has been a challenge point. This directly resulted in the decision to bring on a communications-focused team member in 2020, to better share information about Solidaridad’s programmes and impact in North America, and contribute to regional conversations in the sector.
The availability of audited financial statements has been delayed due to COVID-19. They will be added as soon as possible.