After spending five years in conflict and post-conflict countries working on development issues for non-profits in close partnership with different governments, to my peers and family, Coca-Cola seemed a strange place for a summer internship. However, I believe our rapidly globalizing world requires that civil society, government, and the private sector work together to solve the challenges of our time, and I wanted to learn about partnership building.

Every Drop Matters

Every Drop Matters is an innovative partnership with the UN Development Program to address water scarcity.

Coca-Cola, specifically the Eurasia-Africa Group (EAG), has established a number of partnerships. This summer, I had the opportunity to support these endeavors, develop a greater understanding of how EAG builds partnerships, and learn about the challenges they face. These partnerships veer away from a traditional donor-recipient relationship, instead taking a collaborative approach.  At the Sustainability Awards I was introduced to Every Drop Matters, an innovative partnership with the UN Development Program that brings together two organizations with different strengths and styles to address water scarcity through a steering committee management structure.

Following the Awards, I encouraged my bosses, to follow-up with a partnership regarding youth development and vocational training because my experience has led me to believe that the private sector has a lot to offer the education sector in readying young people for the job market. At a subsequent meeting, although we agreed to a partnership, both sides walked away unclear as to exactly what it would look like.  I learned that partnership success requires continuous communication and understanding of both sides.

Additionally, I was better able to understand how Coca-Cola uses its vast network to provide value to different partnerships. The UN Millennium Campaign is attempting an ambitious goal of reaching six million people worldwide to determine future development priorities through My World Survey. Coca-Cola is spreading the word for the campaign through its communications and marketing systems. In return it receives data that will allow it to better support communities through projects to empower women and provide clean water. Without partnerships, Coca-Cola is aware it would not have the same sustainability impact.

I came into the summer understanding the value of partnerships, but am now better equipped to build bridges and partnerships between the private sector and civil society to tackle problems. Whether I work for Coca-Cola in the future or not, I feel that I have found a partner in working to solve some of the most challenging development issues today.

Anne DeVine has been working and volunteering in the field of international development since the 1999 Kosovo crisis.  She is currently a candidate for a Master’s Global Human Development and a Global Social Enterprise Fellow at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. Anne just finished her summer internship with The Coca-Cola Company which is an internship partner of Georgetown University’s Global Human Development program.

Find another Georgetown intern's perspective on partnerships here.