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Partnerships & Networks


In today’s interdependent world, no single sector or force is responsible for creating the challenges we now face. At the same time, no single sector nor entity can tackle these problems alone. Rather, solutions require deeper integration and coordination of actors working together to apply their unique and specific skills, talents, and advantages. In this way, creating and supporting strategic partnerships, coalitions, and networks is a core part of our strategic approach.

How We Partner

The Rockefeller Foundation looks for potential collaborators who can help us reach new audiences and beneficiaries, and, together, achieve outsized impact that we could not accomplish on our own. Given our systems-based approach, we engage fully with the entire spectrum of actors in a particular space. Potential collaborators may include project grantees and beneficiaries, local stakeholders, governments and multilaterals, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, academic institutions, and other philanthropic organizations. The Foundation works with these partners in a variety of ways, including as a funder or co-funder, thought partner, or provider of technical expertise. Sometimes, as in the cases of 100 Resilient Cities and Smart Power India, we create new free-standing organizations that become our partners on the ground.

The Foundation also builds networks that bring together representatives from a range of stakeholders to form collective, self-guiding institutions around key social, economic or environmental goals. These networks are typically developed with Foundation funding and guidance, infused by our thought leadership and designed to spread and share knowledge and best practices, as well as scaling innovations. Given that networks can be powerful engines for change, The Rockefeller Foundation also supports innovative network thinking and techniques. For example, the Foundation supported the creation of Gather: The Art and Science of Effective Convening, a guide and toolkit published in 2013 by the Monitor Institute to train groups on how to  convene effectively.

Typically, these networks become self-sustaining institutions. Examples of successful Foundation-sponsored networks include the Joint Learning Network for Universal Health Coverage, the disease surveillance networks now active in Southeast Asia, East Africa and southern Africa, the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN), and the Global Resilience Partnership (GRP).

Another type of collaboration that the Foundation has been actively involved in are public-private partnerships, where we work in concert with government agencies and the private sector toward shared goals. As one example: the Foundation had a pivotal role in bringing together federal agencies, local governments, and private sector actors through the National Disaster Resilience Competition, which catalyzed innovative resilience-building solutions in communities across the United States.

Why We Partner

Working within a partnership framework provides the Foundation with multiple benefits:

  • Partnerships increase influence, flexibility, and options since coalitions offer multiple resources and perspectives that can be drawn on to expand, adjust or refocus the Foundation’s efforts as projects evolve.
  • Partnerships and networks help ensure the sustainability of The Rockefeller Foundation’s initiatives and other grant-supported activities. As a specific initiative concludes, the Foundation’s partners are often in a position to carry on that effort. Partners help the Foundation stay connected with projects as needed once its specific initiative has ended. Our continuing involvement with the World Bank as a funding partner of the Joint Learning Network, for example, has enabled the Foundation to maintain an active and informed role in spearheading the cause of universal health coverage around the world.
  • The relationships created through the Foundation’s past and present partnerships also help support our influence as a thought leader and catalyst as we seek new avenues for impact. It also allows us to return to those partners to take on new areas of work and capitalize on new opportunities.
  • Collaboration spurs innovation. Often innovation emerges from reframing problems in new ways or recombining ideas from different sectors. What works in one sector to solve one problem might help unleash transformations in another. For example, the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), which The Rockefeller Foundation helped found, brought together a previously disparate group of investors to set standards for what is essentially a new sector of the finance industry.

  • Through our emphasis on collaborative efforts, the Foundation also facilitates unlikely partnerships or introduces those who might not have otherwise met. For example, The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) initiative, launched in 2013, has facilitated collaboration among municipal governments, as well as over 60 platform partners from the private, public, academic, and nonprofit sectors, who are providing the participating cities with access to resilience-building tools and services. It is through our leadership that this diverse group—which includes such institutions as the World Bank, Microsoft, the World Wildlife Federation, Swiss Re, and MIT’s Climate CoLab—is now working together.

Learn How Funders Can Support and Leverage Networks for Social Impact


“Partnerships are critical for innovation. It’s often the partnership itself that is the innovation—recombining the unique capacities of each sector for new ways of bringing about more powerful solutions.”

Judith Rodin, Rockefeller Foundation President

The Evolution of Partnerships & Networks

  • At the start of the 21st century, The Rockefeller Foundation recognized that working with a wide-range of actors would be a core part of our strategy for addressing the emerging challenges of globalization. Partnerships were seen as an important tool for optimizing our impact and resources and for implementing broad, multidisciplinary solutions to benefit the poor or vulnerable. This approach also fit well with the evolving concept of “entrepreneurial philanthropy,” in which philanthropic funding is used to seed socially constructive commercial investment that can lift up disadvantaged communities.
  • One early and significant step in implementing this approach took place in 2006, when The Rockefeller Foundation partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to launch the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The initiative’s initial $150 million commitment to support the development of innovative seed technologies was one of the largest single grantee projects ever launched by The Rockefeller Foundation. This collaboration between two major philanthropies also marked the first time we had employed our new strategic approach on such a large scale.

The Rockefeller Foundation's Strategic Model

  • Over this same period, the Foundation’s increasing focus on systemic change has reinforced the importance of creating coalitions that engage the full range of actors across a given system. This is particularly critical in building resilience, which requires collaboration across broad geographic regions and a wide range of stakeholders, from designers, urban planners, government officials, and private sector leaders.

Partnerships & Networks in Action


Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)—Launched in 2006

Why This Initiative

  • Africa's predominantly small-scale farmers face many challenges, including food insecurity, rising poverty, and natural resource degradation.

Africa is the only major region of the world where the absolute number of people in poverty is increasing and food production per capita is declining. In most sub-Saharan African countries, rapid population growth and climate change are outstripping the ability of traditional farming systems to meet food demands and generate income for the nearly 500 million people (two-thirds of the region’s total population) who depend on small-scale farms for their livelihoods. As the funding catalyst for the original Green Revolution in Latin America and Asia in the mid-20th century, which tripled agricultural productivity at that time, as well as our long-standing presence in Africa, our expertise, relationships and influence placed us in an ideal position to lead a new major effort in this area.

The Solution

Achieve food security and rural economic growth in Africa—and advance the Foundation’s overall goal of promoting inclusive economies—by delivering technologies to small-scale farmers that significantly increase the productivity of their staple food crops, and also by building profitable output markets for the farmers’ surplus production.  

Partnering for Impact

In 2006, The Rockefeller Foundation was looking to renew our support for agricultural innovation in Africa, but we recognized we needed additional funding to operate at the scale necessary to achieve meaningful change. At the same time, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, already active in Africa through its malaria-prevention efforts, was interested in pursuing an agricultural initiative on the continent, but lacked expertise in that area. Leaders of the two foundations met and agreed to pool their resources, with The Rockefeller Foundation spearheading the logistics and Gates supplying additional funding.

While its structure was straightforward, the AGRA partnership represented the first attempt to marry our new strategic approach to an effort on such a large scale and with such singular focus. The initial $150 million commitment to AGRA ($50 million from The Rockefeller Foundation, $100 million from the Gates Foundation) went to fund the Program for Africa’s Seed System (PASS), aimed at improving the availability and variety of seeds and producing higher and more stable yields in sub-Saharan Africa. The program included funding to develop improved crop varieties for local environments, train a new generation of African crop scientists, ensure the production and distribution of improved seeds to smallholder farmers, develop a network of African agro-dealers, and create a program monitoring and evaluation unit.

With ongoing support from the two foundations and other funding partners, AGRA has since expanded its efforts to include soil fertility and water management, investments in infrastructure to build domestic markets, and policies that discourage imports of food aid and highly subsidized crops that undercut the ability of local farmers to sell their produce at a profit. AGRA’s supporting coalition has also grown to include a large number of national governments and private donors. In addition to The Rockefeller and Gates Foundations, the coalition includes:

  • The U.S. Agency for International Development, corresponding government agencies of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Kenya, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, the Department for International Development, Partners for Seed in Africa, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Millennium Development Authority, the New Venture Fund, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Econet, the MasterCard Foundation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
  • Development partners—some of whom are funders as well—such as the U.K. Department for International Development, the IDRC, the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the Consultative Group on Agricultural Research, and the Association of Europeans Parliamentarians for Africa.

Numerous African national governments and universities, the African Development Bank, and other regional financial institutions.

Learn More About AGRA

Joint Learning Network (JLN) for Universal Health Coverage—Launched in 2010

Why This Initiative

The Joint Learning Network was established as part of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Transforming Health Systems (THS) initiative, which aims to create broader access to affordable health services in developing countries. An estimated 1 billion people around the world currently lack access to basic health care. At the same time, more than one out of twenty individuals in low- and middle-income countries are suffering from extreme poverty due to their out-of-pocket expenses for health care. These issues are directly addressed by instituting universal health coverage, which guarantees a nation’s citizens access to affordable health care. Because universal health coverage improves health among lower-income populations while reducing the likelihood that someone will become impoverished due to health care costs, it is seen as a key to furthering The Rockefeller Foundation’s goal of advancing inclusive economies around the globe. As part of our work to achieve universal health coverage, the Foundation funded successful efforts to get the leaders of 193 countries to unanimously pass a ground-breaking United Nations resolution in 2012, urging all member nations to develop affordable universal health coverage systems that provide treatment for all citizens, regardless of income, location, and gender.

The Solution

The JLN brings together practitioners and policymakers from low- and middle-income nations on an ongoing basis to share ideas and practices that will catalyze and facilitate their implementation of universal health coverage. Through this use of shared learning, it is helping to realize the global commitment to universal health coverage that was made in 2012 at the United Nations.

Partnering for Impact

The JLN helps participating nations overcome challenges to achieving universal health coverage by sharing the experience of practitioners who have implemented similar reforms, and by synthesizing this knowledge-sharing into practical guides and tools. It currently has nine full member nations and 14 associate member nations from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. Network members participate in a variety of joint learning activities, including regular workshops, with guidance provided by technical facilitators.

  • A doctor consults with patients. (Photo credit: Jonas Bendiksen)

As the JLN’s founding funder, The Rockefeller Foundation’s seed funding supported the initial Joint Learning Workshop in February 2010. The Foundation has played a key leadership role in the JLN, providing funding for administrative resources and supporting the creation of the Joint Learning Fund for bilateral exchanges, site visits and other forms of on-demand learning and exchange. In 2012, the Foundation commissioned an independent strategic review of the JLN. The following year, we hosted a gathering of representatives from the JLN’s member nations and supporting partners at the Foundation’s conference center in Bellagio to go over the review’s results and refine the network’s strategy and operations moving forward.

Today, in addition to The Rockefeller Foundation, the JLN’s supporting coalition now includes Germany’s international development agency, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the U.S. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, PATH, PharmAccess, R4D, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Learn More About Our Work in Health Systems

The Global Resilience Partnership—Launched in 2014

Why This Initiative

The number of weather-related disasters has tripled in the last 30 years, with the estimated worldwide cost now standing at $250-300 billion per year. While low-income countries were hit by only 9 percent of these disasters, they represented 48 percent of all fatalities. Building resilience is one of The Rockefeller Foundation’s goals: In recent years we have been a global leader in working to enhance the capacity of individuals, communities and systems to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of catastrophic events, and to bounce back more quickly and emerge stronger from these shocks and stresses. A paradigm shift from traditional humanitarian relief in response to crisis is based on the realization that building resilience is a far more effective use of resources than simply waiting for disasters to happen and then responding after the fact. Research has shown that every $1 invested in developing resilience infrastructure produces a “resilience dividend” of $7 in savings on reduced need for post-emergency aid following a natural disaster.

During this same period, The Rockefeller Foundation has also become a leader in employing competition challenges—in which ideas for innovative solutions to critical problems are solicited from a broad group of potential problem-solvers, and then judged on a competitive basis—as a way of surfacing new approaches to technical, economic or social challenges.  The Global Resilience Partnership (GRP), founded by the Foundation together with USAID and the Swedish development agency Sida, combines these two concepts in a novel partnership aimed at promoting resilience to crises and other chronic stresses in developing regions.

The Solution

Use a combined innovation and scaling model to identify and scale innovative, locally driven, high-impact solutions that will enhance the capacity of vulnerable populations in Africa and Asia to withstand catastrophes related to weather and other causes, to take them to regional and global scales, and to transform the paradigm of humanitarian and development assistance for greater resilience.

  • As climate change and population growth continue, disasters will strike faster and chronic stresses last even longer.

A central component of the partnership is the Global Resilience Challenge, which attracted nearly 500 proposals for resilience-building efforts around the world. In September 2015, ten winning teams were announced. Each team will receive significant funding from the partnership to demonstrate how their solution could be scaled and adopted by others in the future. A second challenge, conducted with the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DfID), yielded another 10 awardees whose work will focus on resilience in slums and other vulnerable urban communities. A third challenge, supported by Zurich Insurance Group, was launched in March 2016 with a focus on flood resilience solutions. Awards are expected to be announced in late 2016.

In addition, the partnership has piloted innovative resilience solutions through direct grants to partners in the target regions (Sahel, Horn of Africa, South and Southeast Asia).  One example is the African Risk Capacity’s Extreme Climate Facility, which has been recognized as a key tool for building resilience to climate change. Members of the G7 have committed to scaling this tool globally with an initial commitment of providing coverage for at least 400 million beneficiaries by 2020.

Partnering For Impact

Established in 2014, this public-private partnership brings together multi-sectoral teams to develop collaborative, locally driven resilience-building solutions in developing regions. It was founded with an initial $100 million in funding—$50 million from The Rockefeller Foundation and $50 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). At the time it was announced, the two founding partners emphasized that this funding was considered a starting point, and that they were in discussions aimed at generating further support from the private and development sectors. The partnership expanded to include the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), which is contributing another $50 million. In addition to its many local collaborators the GRP is supported by a Partnership Council that plays a key role in scaling the viable interventions surfaced and tested by the partnership, serving as advisors and providing leveraged resources. Council members currently include the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the U.K.’s Department for International Development , the Stockholm Resilience Center, Africa’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), the Permanent Interstates Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), and the Zurich Insurance Group, which has committed an additional $10 million to the partnership.

Learn More About the Global Resilience Partnership

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