October 2016

By Karen A. Tramontano and Jeremiah J. Baronberg

This September, Sally and I had the honor and pleasure of attending the 12th and final Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting in New York City. After over a decade of supporting its mission, many have used this milestone to reflect on its incredible legacy, which truly has changed both “the conduct and the impact of modern philanthropy,” as President Clinton acknowledged in his closing address.

As the president spoke, I agreed with his recollection that none of us who were there at the initiative’s early beginnings could have imagined the trajectory this journey would eventually take. The final tally counts over 3,600 commitments that are improving more than 435 million lives across more than 180 countries. These numbers are truly amazing.

But what is just as impactful is the undeniable imprint that CGI has made in building what President Clinton has referred to as a “culture and spirit of possibility.” CGI helped usher in a new approach to philanthropy by bringing together people and organizations that before had too often looked at the subject from a zero-sum orientation. That is, they saw their philanthropic endeavors from a narrow, competitive perspective in which one person’s gain was another person’s loss.

CGI championed the exact opposite perspective—ideas which the president recalled from the book “Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny,” by Robert Wright—that in the 21st century, the games that work best in an inter-dependent world are non-zero-sum games. That is, in order for you to win, others have to win too.

It is with this ethic and value proposition in mind that CGI has had its greatest impact. By bringing so many diverse participants to the table—from across business, labor, government, multi-lateral organizations, foundations, nongovernmental and civil society organizations, who had previously operated too often in their own spheres—CGI fostered a new spirit of collaboration and creative cooperation that opened the door to limitless positive impact.

While this model of partnership may sound simple and obvious to us today, it most certainly was not a given, nor the norm, when CGI first started down this path.

At Blue Star Strategies, the model for our work is similar. Partnership, partnership, partnership. We know that none of our work would be possible without it.

As I watched the president’s closing address at this year’s gathering, I felt inspired and grateful to be part of this community yet also sad that this unique platform is coming to a close. It is vital that its mantle live on, in some way, to continue to enable, encourage, and foster opportunities for people to come together in a spirit of collaboration and partnership.

In President Clinton’s words, “You have to keep the spirit alive, the work alive, the spirit of possibility…”

Let us each pledge to do all we can to keep the spirit of CGI alive and well for generations to come.