PartnersGlobal Builds Civil Society Resiliency in Serbia

Washington, DC — PartnersGlobal signed a new cooperative agreement with the United States Agency for International Development to strengthen civil society resiliency in Serbia. Civil society creates channels of communication and cooperation between government officials, business professionals, and nonprofit organizations to overcome collective challenges and improve the lives of people of Serbia. It is the vehicle to elevate citizens’ voices and needs, and mobilize for change.

The five-year Civil Society Resilience Activity, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and implemented by PartnersGlobal, seeks to contribute to a more inclusive and pluralistic Serbian society. The project helps civil society to remain resilient in the face of closing civic space and perform its function as an effective watchdog, advocate, and monitor by:

  1. Equipping civil society with new knowledge, skills, and tools to fundraise, connect with different stakeholders, and communicate in complex operating environments;
  2. Building constructive dialogue between government and citizens;
  3. Bridging the gap between citizens and civil society through awareness raising, storytelling, and outreach; and
  4. Enabling the (re)emergence of civil society-government dialogue by improving existing civil society organizations’ participation mechanisms.

Building on two years of successful resiliency programming in Serbia under the INSPIRES project, this program will address the fragmentation of the sector through a cultivated blend of resiliency interventions that reach civic actors at the individual, organizational and sectoral levels. Targeting all three of these levels embodies the pillars of our ResiliencyPlus approach.

Project partners include the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), DT Institute, European Center for Not-for-profit Law (ECNL), Civic Initiatives, and Partners Serbia, all of which will provide strategic advice, legal, research, and technical assistance to dozens of civil society organizations and initiatives throughout Serbia. 

“This project reflects our commitment to ensure locally driven responses to complex challenges impeding civic engagement.” says Roselie Vasquez Yetter, Co-Executive Director at PartnersGlobal.  “With a combined three decades of Serbian civil society leadership across our consortium partners, we will collectively support civil society organizations’ resilience in the face of increasingly complex civic space challenges in Serbia.”

To learn more about the Civil Society Resilience Activity, please contact Program Manager Jessica Himelfarb directly at [email protected] 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 25, 2022

PartnersGlobal is pleased to announce the election of Chris Mitchell as Chair of its Board of Directors, along with the appointment of Elizabeth (Liz) Hume as a member of the board, effective immediately. Mitchell, who joined the board in 2014, will succeed current Chair Jonathan Davidson, who is stepping down from his leadership position after two decades of board service.

“For more than 30 years, PartnersGlobal has benefitted from some of the most talented and dedicated leaders across our communities, and today marks an exciting new chapter in our history,” said Co-Executive Director Kyra Buchko. “Chris’ experience and deep commitment to the mission of Partners will be integral to our organizational resiliency and growth as he builds on the legacy of Jonathan’s leadership over the last 12 years.”

Chris Mitchell serves as Vice President of Global Government Relations at IPC, the leading trade association for electronics manufacturing. He is responsible for development and implementation of the organization’s global advocacy efforts and public policy agenda with a focus on issues related to trade, industrial policy, workforce, and environment, health, and safety. He also oversees IPC’s expanding research program, which includes the organization’s longstanding statistical programs. He previously spent nearly a decade working for members of Congress from the State of California. His experience and insights will help usher Partners forward into our next phase of growth.

“It’s an honor to be elected chair of the Partners Board,” said Mitchell. “I look forward to working closely with our dynamic and talented Co-Executive Directors, as well as our experienced and dedicated Board of Directors, to further the important mission of the organization. With our longstanding focus on locally led development and organizational resiliency, Partners is uniquely positioned to support peacebuilding initiatives globally.”

Partners also recognizes the exceptional service of outgoing Chair Jonathan Davidson, who will be retiring from the board at the end of his current term in September 2022.

“We are deeply grateful for Jonathan’s long service as Board Chair,” said Co-Executive Director Roselie Vasquez-Yetter. “His vision and tireless dedication to Partners have been critical to our success, especially over the past two years as our communities have navigated the global COVID-19 pandemic.”

Joining the PartnersGlobal Board of Directors as a new appointee is Elizabeth Hume, Executive Director of the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP). Liz is a conflict expert with more than two decades’ experience in senior leadership positions in bilateral, multilateral institutions and NGOs. She has extensive experience in policy and advocacy and overseeing sizeable and complex peacebuilding programs in conflict-affected and fragile states in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. Liz is also a seasoned mediator and a frequent speaker on topics including countering violent extremism, international conflict analysis, and peacebuilding in conflict-affected and fragile states.

“At a time of considerable democratic backsliding and a 30-year high in global violent conflict, I am honored to join the board of an organization working with hundreds of local peacebuilding groups through robust global networks to prevent violent conflict and build sustainable peace,” said Hume. “While conflict is inevitable, violent conflict is not, and It is organizations like PartnersGlobal that give me hope for the future.”

PartnersGlobal advances resilient civic space through authentic partnership and accompaniment, inclusive processes, and conflict sensitivity to bring about more peaceful, secure, and accountable societies. For more than three decades, our mission and vision for a more peaceful and prosperous world has centered on and assumes a preeminent role of local leadership and locally led problem-solving.

To learn more about our organization or to make a contribution, please visit www.partnersglobal.org.

by Kyra Buchko and Alyson Lyons

The resounding call for locally-led development by USAID Administrator Samantha Power resonated deeply with us at PartnersGlobal. In her speech from May 2022, Administrator Power reiterated USAID’s commitment to locally-led development as an approach that “prioritizes and elevates the roles of organizations, institutions, and people of the countries we serve” and is “the key to delivering the kind of results that will be visible years and years in the future, long after our programs have wound down.” At PartnersGlobal, we couldn’t agree more. 

For more than three decades, our mission and vision for a more peaceful and prosperous world has centered on and assumes a preeminent role of local leadership and locally-led problem-solving. It is the reason we founded The Partners Network of 20+ local, independently operated nonprofits based in Central and Eastern Europe, the Americas, Africa, and the Middle East. We all share what we call The Partners Way – a collective commitment to locally driven development that brings together people, communities, and institutions to jointly reach decisions and take action that build peace and transform conflict. At its core, The Partners Way adheres to the values of inclusion, accountability, resiliency, justice, and nonviolence.  In practice, we focus on process guided by principles of locally-led development and centered on the role of local leadership – no matter the issue, topic, or thematic area.

As we begin to feel a real shift across the international donor community, and specifically US government agencies, to adopt a more locally-led development agenda, we are optimistic and hopeful about the next chapter of development assistance. And since we’ve been doing locally-led development for some time now, we’d like to share a few insights from our experience.

Shift Your Mindset to Shift the Power

The first step toward embracing locally-led development is to shift your mindset from one dominated by Western values and priorities to one guided by community-driven needs. The movement to decolonize aid is intricately connected with this idea. The purpose of decolonizing aid is to transform unequal power structures rooted in colonial constructs that prioritize Global North mandates and perspectives, impacting resource allocation and perpetuating discriminatory norms and practices in the international aid system.

So how do we shift our mindsets? First, we must start by asking questions and listening actively to local organizations and partners about THEIR priorities and needs. While it may sound easy, active listening is one of the hardest soft skills to do effectively because it requires that you pay attention, put aside judgment, and withhold opinions or criticisms. Practice, practice, practice active listening and ask for feedback from partners.

Second, we need to reimagine our relationship to our partners by engaging local leaders as peers and colleagues instead of ‘primes and subs’ to our programs. In this way, we can reorient ourselves to learning from each other, valuing everyone’s inputs and experiences. Further, we need to facilitate diverse and equitable participation and involvement in decision making. This means reaching out to amplify and integrate the voices of women, youth, and indigenous communities and peoples to ensure there is meaningful consultation, as detailed in the Global Fragility Act Coalition’s recommendations on local consultation processes. For project-based collaboration, it is critically important to engage all partners consistently and equitably before the program begins, throughout implementation, and well beyond the project’s end date. 

Third, let’s be intentional about the language we use when communicating to donors, partners, and peers. Language matters. At Partners, we seek informal and formal input from our partners about the optics and impressions created by the language we use in proposals, discussions with peers, and other communications.  This helps ensure that our messaging about our work and our values – including how we talk about local leadership – resonates with and is authentic to local perspectives. And it requires that any new or improved terminology and messaging are translated accurately in local languages and placed into appropriate context.

Progress through Partnership, not Programs

At the end of the day, trust is built and strengthened when we focus on partnership over projects. And trust is a necessary prerequisite for sustaining a locally-led development agenda. Partnership transcends transactional cooperation based on specific activities and forms the basis for continued connection well past the end of a project.  Not only do we work toward sustainability of project results and impact, but we view durable and resilient organizational and personal relationships as an ongoing benefit for all parties. 

One way to build and maintain trust over time is to collectively design your process for collaboration rather than focus on specific project activities or objectives. The end goal is important, but how you get there matters more in the long run. Ask your partners HOW they view and approach collaboration. What is important to them in terms of process? Where is collaboration needed and not needed? How can systems for program implementation be set up that encourage and foster inclusive participation and input? The emphasis on collaborative process helps to decentralize power and facilitates shared responsibility. It places decision-making more equitably in the hands of the local partners and communities impacted by a development or peacebuilding program.

The locally-led development agenda calls on all of us to be far more ambitious in expanding who we work with, and changing how we work so that collectively we drive the sustainable, lasting change that we all seek. This is how we at PartnersGlobal will continue to support local leadership to inspire and guide communities to peacefully manage change.

by Roselie Vasquez Yetter and Alyson Lyons

Civil society organizations come together to form networks and coalitions for a variety of reasons – maybe they are looking to maximize impact by collectively advocating on a particular issue or they are interested in sharing resources and skills, or simply just want to learn from one another. While it is one thing to form a network, it is quite another to maintain its existence during times of uncertainty and dynamic shifts to the funding and operating environments.

Our own Partners Network story is one of resiliency and renewal. Over the years, the needs of our network have shifted, and in 2020 we were faced with the challenge to adapt and thrive or remain static and decline. We called upon the PeaceNexus Foundation to facilitate a network strengthening process that forced us to come to terms with some major questions about who we are as a network and why we are together. Reimagining our purpose opened our minds to how we want to work together and resulted in new structures for leadership, collaboration, and communication.   It also opened our eyes to aspects of our structural and financial models that were in need of a bit of a renovation and upgrade.

One of the main aspects of network resiliency is the ability to leverage peer networks for mutual sharing and learning. Connectedness, unsurprisingly, is one of the factors in our ResiliencyPlus Framework that we expand upon regularly.  Our 32 years as a network brings the awareness that being in a network isn’t enough – the intentionality of the purpose for joining and engaging is the key to activating the potential of the network and making participation worthwhile. 

Recently together with the PeaceNexus Foundation, we co-facilitated a learning opportunity with peers from other civil society peace and development networks to share our own story and collect insights from others. The result was a rich and honest exchange of the major challenges, lessons, and adaptations networks are making to not only survive, but thrive in our ever-changing environment. Below are two main outcomes of the exchange.

Distributive leadership instead of command and control

Let’s face it. The age of the rigid, hierarchical leadership structure is a thing of the past. While the command and control model worked primarily to generate resources for a network, today these funding pools are no longer as widely available as they were fifteen years ago. Command and control style of centralized leadership also creates layers of bureaucracy, stifling collaboration and creating unequal power dynamics amongst network members that serve to create competition rather than build trust and collaboration.

Enter the distributive leadership model. Distributive leadership is a shared management model that decentralizes leadership at the top and disperses decision making from one individual to a collective group or groups. Distributive leadership empowers members who, under more centralized structures, may not have an opportunity to step into a leadership role – upending deeply rooted power structures and impacting resource allocation. The Partners Network adopted a distributed leadership model as a result of our self-evaluation process.  This created new leadership pathways for members to step into decision-making roles, such as the Young Professionals Group. Today, the YPG is made up of mid-level professionals and is responsible for organizing network wide trainings on topics of interest, such as a skill like mediation or thematic area like conflict transformation.

There are still situations where command and control might be more effective, such as with crisis management. However, being able to implement this form of leadership for specific circumstances rather than employing it as the overarching model may be more effective for the challenges of today. Leadership does not need to reside at the top. It can emerge at all levels of an organization if the right leadership model is in place.    

Decentralized governance structure in the virtual space

Closely related to the leadership model is a network’s governance structure, which tells us how a network organizes and regulates itself. Traditionally, civil society networks adopted formal governance structures and practices that set up rigid policies, agreed upon business development goals, and membership parameters. But does this approach still make sense as we operate more and more in the virtual space? Networks always had some aspect of online operations, but the pandemic forced the accelerated adoption of practices that generally were in person such as annual conferences or regional meetings. And it doesn’t look like we will be turning back. Combined with the decline in general support funds, maintaining a network today falls heavily on the shoulders of its members. More often than not, member-driven administrative and operational roles are voluntary and often struggle to remain at the top of the priority list.

From our own experience and those shared at the learning event, many networks are adapting to their new virtual reality and transitioning from more formal governance structures to more flexible, decentralized ones. Decentralized governance allows for new modes of collaboration, communication, and coordination to evolve organically. It also levels the playing field and invites input from diverse voices, creating a more equitable and inclusive network culture. For example, our own decentralization process inadvertently led to strengthened ties amongst network members located in the same region. We reflected on the expression of regional sub-network coordination and decided to lean in. This was achieved by creating a Liaison Group comprised of regional representatives that serve as a voice for members in each region when needing to make decisions on issues and opportunities that affect the entire network. This new process has created space for more authentic conversations that take cultural sensitivities and norms into consideration in a more intentional and organic way.

The future of networks

If there is one thing that most analysts agree on, it’s that we will never go back 100% to our pre-pandemic reality. Dynamics will continue to shift, impacting how we as civil society actors come together. And we need to continue to find ways to join forces and collaborate. Networks are a conduit of civil society resiliency. We must adapt to not just survive but thrive.  Resilient networks not only weather crises – they emerge stronger and more unified.  Inter-organizational network sharing and strategizing is an even more effective determinant of resilient network outcomes.  What we all agreed during our learning and sharing session was that each of the networks represented was able to recover from sudden crises that we encountered.  What we realized was that more important than recovery is the need to learn to develop the ability to make use of the opportunities brought on by a crisis.  By doing so, we can turn the obstacle into an opportunity for growth and learning.  In a network, that growth can be amplified and magnified. It’s our responsibility to our members to help transform the deflection of the shock to an embrace of the potential for positive change in a world of endless disruption.

Rasha Abdel Latif, Director of MENA and Civil Society Strengthening at PartnersGlobal, was recently appointed as a member on the Board of Directors at Amnesty International – USA (AIUSA). We could not think of a more deserving person to step into this leadership role at one of the most well-established and well-respected human rights organizations. In this leadership role, Rasha will contribute to the development of a clear vision for AIUSA and provide stewardship for the organization, establishing appropriate and constructive working relationships with staff and ensures the financial health of the organization through fiscal oversight and fundraising.

Rasha brings nearly seventeen years of experience to this leadership role, working in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with local and international organizations and activists to amplify citizen voices, increase participation in decision making processes, advocate for human rights, and create innovative solutions to social problems. Throughout her career, Rasha led and coordinated many local and national human rights campaigns and initiatives.

“I strive every day to be a catalyst for change and am driven by making a difference through advocating for human rights issues and for safe environments for women, youth, human rights activists, and marginalized communities.” – Rasha Abdel Latif

Rasha is Arab-American and was born and raised in Jordan. She has Palestinian roots and a passion for global citizenship. Rasha started her journey with The Partners Network in 2009, working at PartnersJordan for eight years. In 2019, she joined PartnersGlobal as the Director for MENA and Civil Society Strengthening where she oversees a portfolio of regional programs focused on social accountability, governance, transparency, anti-corruption, and protecting and defending civic space. Based in Washington DC, Rasha is an active member of the Arab American community and loves the opportunity to showcase and share her cultural heritage and customs with others. You can follow Rasha on Twitter at @RashaAbdelLatif.

At PartnersGlobal, we believe ordinary citizens have a right and a role to shape the decisions and outcomes that affect them. We know that building a resilient civil society is essential to achieving inclusive, just, and prosperous societies based on democratic principles that respect the rights of all citizens. That’s why we work in service of local leaders and organizations to bring about peaceful change to their communities. Because locally led change leads to more sustainable outcomes. And a resilient civil society is a catalyst for change.

During March, we celebrated the powerful and resilient women who have strived to make changes for the sake of making an equal and fulfilling space for all of us. Women have been the backbone of many political, economic, and social movements. They have been the faces and voices that have made us look inward and ask ourselves, “Are we the best of who we can be?” As we leave March 2022 behind us please take a moment to reflect on this question. And check out all of the ways we celebrate women in peacebuilding and civil society resiliency spaces.

Resilient Conversations

Resilient Conversations is a forthcoming podcast organized and hosted by PartnersGlobal that explores different facets of individual, organizational, sectoral, and systemic resiliency. The short video series above includes clips from different episodes. Featured guests on the podcast will include our own staff like Co-Executive Directors Roselie Vasquez Yetter and Kyra Buchko; ResiliencyPlus colleagues and coaches Alexa Brand, Olivia Baciu, and Susan Njambi Odongo; and civil society colleagues such as Zuza Fialova of Partners for Democratic Change Slovakia and Carole Frampton de Tscharner and Heloise Heyer of Peace Nexus Foundation.

MENA Women’s Roundtable

Recently, MENA and Civil Society Strengthening Director Rasha Abdel Latif of PartnersGlobal sat down (virtually) with women peacebuilders and Partners Network colleagues from Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and the US to talk about women’s role as leaders and peacebuilders in the MENA region. Enjoy this 20 minute conversation between these incredible women as they reflect on what inspires them to work in this space.

Co-Leadership Model as a Resiliency Approach

We are on our own resiliency journey at PartnersGlobal as we navigate the shifts on our operating environment. One way to shore up our resilient capital is to build in innovative leadership and operating models like co-leadership. This approach both builds in redundancies AND creates space for inclusion and diversity of thought, which contributes to more effective problem solving and organizational management. Get to know our co-Executive Directors Roselie and Kyra by watching the short video above!

Women Peacebuilders Blog Series

Below are a series of blog posts by staff and partners at PartnersGlobal that depict the real stories and impacts of various women peacebuilders across our portfolios. Enjoy!

Partners has been appointed for the three-year Regional Secretariat function of Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) in North America. GPPAC is a network of NGOs actively working on conflict prevention and peacebuilding. The network promotes multi-stakeholder collaboration and local ownership of strategies for peace and security and it also serves as a community of practice to advance new knowledge, share ideas, and convene regular reflection spaces between peers.

GPPAC is organized around regional subnetworks and we have been involved in GPPAC North America for the past three years. GPPAC North America includes very well-known and respected organizations in the peacebuilding and human rights spaces in Canada, the US, and Mexico:

  • Alliance for Peacebuilding
  • Peace and Conflict Studies Association of Canada
  • Mennonite Central Committee
  • Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative
  • Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation (SWEFOR)
  • Servicio Internacional para la Paz (SIPAZ)
  • Servicios y Asesoría para la Paz (SERAPAZ)
  • Comisión de Apoyo a la Unidad y a la Reconciliación Comunitaria (CORECO)
  • Centro Fray Bartolomé de las Casas
  • Centro de Colaboración Cívica (CCC)
  • PartnersGlobal

For us, GPPAC North America represents a community of practice and learning created to promote new knowledge, approaches and methodologies to advance peacebuilding and peace consolidation, share ideas and experiences on concrete interventions, as well as enable spaces for reflection among peers on situational and structural issues that impact stability and peace at the regional level. In this sense, our affiliation and formal participation allow us to take better advantage of the vast experience of the members of the network to strengthen our programs and interventions and strengthen ties with organizations working on issues of peace, violence prevention and promotion of human rights in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

In October 2021, PartnersGlobal launched ResiliencyPlus in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. ResiliencyPlus is one of PartnersGlobal’s signature methodologies for transformative organizational development in times of change and uncertainty and is especially relevant for civil society experiencing the impacts of closing civic space.

The virtual three-day workshop brought together twenty civil society leaders within the Partners Network – a coalition of some of the world’s leading peacebuilding and democracy organizations – including PartnersJordan, PartnersYemen, PartnersLebanon, and PartnersIraq. The purpose of the workshop was to introduce the ResiliencyPlus Framework and process to our network members and begin to sow the seeds of a future cadre of Regional Resiliency Coaches and Facilitators. Institutionalizing the methodology through local leadership helps to build understanding about the ways in which organizational resiliency manifests in the MENA region and how best to adapt the framework and process to respond effectively to regional dynamics.

“The workshop showed us how important it is to understand the internal factors the organization faces,” noted Fahd Saif, Deputy Executive Director of PartnersYemen. “In Yemen,” he continued, “we are definitely in need as individuals and as organizations for such analysis to serve our community better.” The participants from Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon agreed with him. 

The ResiliencyPlus methodology analyzes an organization’s internal vulnerabilities and external threats that must be mitigated and managed adaptively to remain viable in the face of shrinking civic space. It then explores an organization’s level of resiliency as it relates to seven key factors related to internal and external dynamics – adaptive capacity, contextual awareness, communications, staff commitment and capacity, legitimacy, entrepreneurial mindset, and connectedness.

Closing Civic Space in MENA

The MENA region faces various levels of closing civic space which impacts civil society in different ways. Some countries in the region that have well-established, long-standing civil society organizations are experiencing excessive responses by security forces against recent anti-government protests organized by civic actors and activists demanding accountability and justice. Other countries are witnessing a rise in the detention of journalists and human rights defenders, as clampdowns on freedom of speech increase. And for others that rate among the region’s most closed civic space environments, civil society is faced with navigating complex civic space dynamics in addition to the destabilizing elements of protracted conflict.

Throughout the workshop, network member participants reflected on the similarities and differences at the individual, organizational and sectoral levels of resiliency. Not surprisingly, the Resiliency factors resonated in both shared and nuanced ways, depending on the country context. For PartnersIraq, a relatively new member of the Partners Network, public image and legitimacy were front and center. For PartnersJordan – the oldest MENA Centers in the network – financial stability, preparedness, and contingency planning were the most pressing needs. All participants agreed that the ResiliencyPlus framework and process was necessary for their organization and throughout the region to better prepare for, adapt, and respond to changing civic space dynamics.

Going Forward

At PartnersGlobal, we are committed to authentic partnership and locally-led change. This workshop was the first step in a journey the PartnersGlobal team will take with the regional centers of the Partners Network. Our vision for 2022 is to invest in a Regional Resiliency Coaching Team by selecting a specialized group of seasoned facilitators/trainers and civil society experts to lead the charge and become certified Resiliency coaches – thus localizing the methodology in the MENA context and guaranteeing that there will be an ever-deepening capacity to undertake ResiliencyPlus long after our inaugural initiative is complete. 

PartnersGlobal is currently implementing ResiliencyPlus in East Asia, Eastern and Central Europe, East and West Africa, and Latin America. Adding the MENA region to existing efforts is paramount, as individuals, organizations, and the civil society sector around the world face increasing government restrictions that impact their ability to work freely and independently. 

After 13 years at the helm of PartnersGlobal (previously Partners for Democratic Change), President and CEO Julia Roig will be stepping down at the end of the year. During her tenure, the organization enjoyed a period of impressive growth, increasing ten-fold in size and global presence while staying on the cutting edge of sustainable impact investing to support local leaders and civil society advance democracy and peacebuilding around the world.

The Partners’ board and staff wish Julia well as she embarks on a journey to develop The Horizons Project to focus on the intersection of social justice, peacebuilding, and democracy in the United States. After its successful launch under the PartnersGlobal Institute in 2021, Julia will continue to expand the reach of Horizons to a broader array of domestic constituencies. PartnersGlobal will remain focused on its core mission to support civil society to bring about peaceful and democratic change.

“Under Julia Roig’s leadership, PartnersGlobal has grown to impressive new heights. The board is proud of the way this nimble organization has adapted and thrived over the years, with Julia’s stewardship embodying our Resiliency Ethos. On behalf of the Board, I want to say how fortunate PartnersGlobal is to have had such innovative and inspirational leadership from Julia, and how pleased we are with the very strong executive team Julia has nurtured to carry us forward. We have every confidence that under the co-leadership of Kyra Buchko and Roselie Vasquez-Yetter in the months ahead, this entrepreneurial and agile spirit will continue to grow and spread throughout our programs and network.”

– Jonathan Davidson, Board Chair

Julia took the mantle in 2008 from Partners’ beloved founder Raymond Shonholtz and established new Partners Centers for Change and Conflict Management throughout the Middle East, West Africa, the Balkans, and Latin America, with support from long-standing partners at the General Electric Foundation. Committed to the values of distributive leadership for a global civil society, Julia worked closely with the expanded group of Partners Centers to shepherd a new era for the Partners Network. In collaboration with an international team and the Peace Nexus Foundation, Julia helped our Network of 20 Centers adapt its relational and operational practices for the 21st century.

PartnersGlobal’s entrepreneurial spirit is integral to its organizational DNA and is an ethos that Julia consistently embodied in her leadership model.  By building multi-sectoral collaborations with our many partners in the US and globally, the organization is a thought leader in designing and delivering new frameworks for Security Sector Reform, Anti-Corruption, Women’s Leadership, Cooperative Advocacy, Positive Peace in Action, Sustainable Mediation, Business for Peace, and Narrative Engagement. Our most recent flagship program in Civil Society Resiliency to combat closing civic space takes our investment approach in local leadership to the next level, as we work with existing organizations to adapt and respond to their rapidly changing environments. 

“When I joined Partners, I was compelled by Julia’s commitment to establishing authentic partnerships.  This approach is embedded in our organizational culture at every level of program implementation and partner engagement thanks to Julia’s model of inclusive partnership.  Kyra and I are inspired to continue this way of leading and learning as an organization and a network of peers.”

– Roselie Vasquez-Yetter, Co-Executive Director

Julia’s departure marks an important new phase in the organization’s history and builds on Partners’ commitment to our own organizational resiliency. The transition is coming at a time when PartnersGlobal has a deep bench of capable leaders and a strong global portfolio of programming. With the full support of the board, the current Co-Executive Directors, Roselie Vasquez-Yetter and Kyra Buchko will remain in their roles and continue their exemplary leadership of the organization.  

Partners’ mission and experience are uniquely suited for this moment — when the peacebuilding and development space is grappling with shifting power dynamics and a movement to decolonize aid; when resiliency support is essential for civil society to survive and thrive amidst a global pandemic, rising authoritarianism, and toxic polarization; and when peacebuilding and conflict transformation competencies are desperately needed across the globe.

“Julia’s dedicated service as President has shaped our organizational identity and leaves a lasting impact on Partners’ approach to peacebuilding and support of democratic actors across the globe.  I am honored to be working with Roselie to build upon the partnerships and achievements of Julia’s tenure and lead the organization in the months ahead into our next exciting phase of growth.”  – Kyra Buchko, Co-Executive Director