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Collaboration: A Game Plan for International Development

A note for our readers: the views reflected by the authors do not reflect the views of ASPA.

By Lydia Asana

On May 7, 2014 the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a new partnership with the National Basketball Association (NBA) for a youth development program in Africa. This provides timely opportunity for a discussion on participants, perspectives and possibilities of international collaborations.

Teaming Up – Participants

Asana juneLive, Learn, and Play’ a basketball based youth development program was recently launched in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa. The USAID press release detailing this new partnership explains that the purpose of the program is to use basketball values such as character and teamwork to teach life and leadership skills to Senegalese youth who may one day take up leadership roles within their communities, region or even the nation. The report indicates a desire to see more of such programs established in other African countries in the future.

This is just one example of collaborative efforts geared towards positive social outcomes beyond U.S borders. As is characteristic of collaborations, the major contributors in the joint effort maintain their distinct characteristics. The NBA remains true to its focus on basketball while its philanthropic arm, NBA Cares, continues to use the sport as a vehicle for charitable projects. USAID is living out its mission of developing partnerships aimed at ending extreme poverty and promoting societies that are healthy and democratic for the security and prosperity of the American people.

After hosting the fourth Pan-African Youth Leadership Summit in January 2014, Senegalese officials represented at the launch of this event are continuing efforts to support the development of its nations’ youth. Gorgui Dieng, a current NBA professional, and former WNBA star Astou Ndiaye are also identified as key players. Both of these individuals hail from Senegal. Recent literature on the involvement of the African Diaspora in development projects in African may shed light on possible reasons for their involvement.

Strategic Perspectives

Africans in the Diaspora have been identified as having transnational social and political capabilities. These may be directed towards development efforts on the African continent. Diasporans may play a significant role in the security and development of programs in developing countries. The example set by Ndiaye, Dieng, and other well known members of the African Diaspora from diverse professional backgrounds may inspire others to seek opportunities to engage in collaborative development efforts. Their transnational characteristics may serve the interests of both their sending nations and their new host or home countries.

In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama suggested that providing assistance to developing nations is not only a gesture of good will, but also contribute to the safety of Americans. This may be a by-product of the economic, political and social stability promoted by foreign investment in the development of poorer nations. One could then argue that U.S. government agencies may have multiple motivations for involvement in the ‘Live, Learn, and Play’ initiative.

Nonprofits with development programs in Africa undertake such programs as an avenue to fulfill their organizational mission can and realize the vision of the same. The ‘Live, Learn, Play’ program may be of interest to nonprofit organizations who do not appear to be an active part of this initiative. As suggested by Geri Stengel in a 2013 Forbes article, nonprofit organizations stand to gain valuable resources by joining forces with financially stable businesses as suggested by Stengel. Businesses on their part can gain from the hands on experiences of nonprofit organizations working in their area of interest. In addition, Stengel sites additional mutual benefits including program efficiency improvement, leadership skills development and opportunities to enjoy skills and abilities that are complimentary between collaborating entities.

Winning the Game – Possibilities

Despite varied motivations for involvement, each stakeholder seeks a common outcome, youth development in Senegal. Collaboration between a U.S. government agency, representatives from African nations and members of the African Diaspora, may result in far greater success than if any of these parties initiated such a program on their own.  Adding an international nonprofit to this group that already boasts a public agency and public charity could further strengthen this collaboration.

For those interested in U.S. public policy, international development or improvements in the human condition in general, increased efforts in international collaborations may be well worth considering.  Government agencies, representatives from target African countries, established businesses, members of the African Diaspora and perhaps international and local nonprofit organizations may forge teams strong enough to move beyond the single and double point advances common in African development programs. Well-executed collaborations may lead to significant advances in the ongoing development challenges on the African continent and around the world. In addition, such exhibition of soft power, providing social sector benefits, may also lead the way to strengthened relations with foreign populations. As a generation of young Africans benefit from character, leadership, and skills development through ‘Live, Learn, and Play’ the safety and well being of Americans everywhere may be positively affected over time.

Successful collaborations result from diverse participants, each contributing something of value to realize an end to which all parties have a vested interest. Similarly, development efforts may also benefit from the input of a diverse set of stakeholders. The recent USAID – NBA partnership illustrates that collaboration between diverse participants with unique perspectives yield multiple possibilities.

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