Synergos at Twenty: A Reflection on Partnering to End Poverty

The challenges and opportunities facing global society today are more complex and interconnected than at any other time in history. The scope and pace of change -- accelerated by forces such as globalization and rapid advances in technology -- are lending greater urgency to the search for fresh approaches to problems such as poverty and social injustice, environmental degradation and conflict.

Participants in the Twentieth Anniversary Reflection

For 20 years, The Synergos Institute and its partners have played a pioneering role in building and supporting new models of collaboration that address the underlying causes of societal divides and give individuals and communities around the world a central role in creating their own sustainable solutions to poverty and inequity.

We all know, at least in broad terms, the kind of world we would like to inhabit: one where people can live in dignity with their basic needs met; where inequities are shrinking, not growing; where conflicts are managed and violence contained; and where humans live in harmony with the rest of the natural environment rather than sacrificing the resources and wellbeing of future generations.

It is less clear how to create this kind of world, but the experience of Synergos to date points to some key ingredients needed to negotiate this complex terrain. These include:

  • a climate receptive to inclusive collaboration and partnership
  • organizational structures to bring groups together to work to transform dysfunctional systems
  • bridging leadership capable of bringing people together across divides
  • collaborative problem solving that involves those most adversely affected by the current reality
  • processes that build trust and commitment among diverse stakeholders
  • emphasis on the underlying causes, not the symptoms, of problems
  • local capacity building to ensure the sustainability of needed systems changes.

On the occasion of its 20th anniversary in April 2007, Synergos convened a diverse group of partners, Senior Fellows, Global Philanthropists Circle members, board members and donors at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund Pocantico Conference Center in Tarrytown, New York, for its Twentieth Anniversary Reflection. The aim of the meeting was to examine two decades of work together and explore a path for the future.

The meeting was facilitated by Corazon "Dinky" Soliman and Ernesto D. Garilao of the Philippines, both longstanding members of the Synergos network and familiar with its past work. To guide the discussions, four papers were presented as background.

Participants were also invited to comment on the latest version of a strategic planning document prepared by Synergos.

Preliminary observations from the group were shared with a broader gathering of partners and network members, board members, donors and Synergos staff at the International Center for Tolerance Education in Brooklyn on the final day of the conference.

The meeting report, along with its supplementary documentation, offers a compendium of information and insights gathered during the Twentieth Anniversary Reflection. The report was prepared by Synergos and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund or other event supporters.

The report traces the evolution of Synergos' work over the past twenty years and highlights key lessons learned along the way. It also outlines some of the questions raised and challenges posed by conference participants concerning the proposed future path of Synergos.

Support for the Synergos Twentieth Anniversary Reflection was provided by the International Center for Tolerance Education, International Development Research Centre, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and The Rockefeller Foundation. Synergos thanks these organizations, and all event participants, for their support and engagement.

Download the meeting report Synergos at Twenty: A Reflection on Partnering to End Poverty