Carmen Barker Lemay is the Head of Strategic Partnerships at IIRR. Carmen has more than 20 years of consulting experience with a dozen of those specifically supporting energy efficiency, renewable fuels, and natural climate solutions. In this short interview, Carmen tells us about IIRR’s ethos for pursuing effective partnerships: “My belief is that the global challenges we face… require us all to engage in systems thinking and systems change. We need big ideas to match the scale and complexity of the challenges. No one person, organization, or sector, can solve these alone.”
Q: What is a strategic partner?
A: A strategic partner is committed to establishing a relationship over many years, sharing information and resources, as well as providing significant unrestricted funding to invest in the big challenges of our times.
Q: Why does IIRR pursue strategic partners?
A: System change requires a broad coalition of partners. No sector has all the answers. My belief is that the global challenges we face such as climate change, disaster relief, universal education, food security and nutrition, equitable access to the global economy and its supply chains, modern slavery, women’s empowerment, require us all to engage in systems thinking and systems change. We need big ideas to match the scale and complexity of the challenges. No one person, organization, or sector, can solve these alone. This is where the broad coalition of partners becomes useful.
Q: What types of strategic partners?
A: IIRR believes in the value of diverse partnerships: with corporations, philanthropic foundations, impact funds, technology or technical service providers, other NGOs or CBOs. These are complementary to, and not a substitute for the more traditional grantors. To identify potential partners, I source leads via online research, webinars, conferences, anywhere potential partners engage with the issues we care about. My colleagues also reach out and discuss private sector leads with me, and that’s always very welcome.
As I engage with potential partners, I try to discern is this someone we can work with? Do they fund our priority programs, at levels we know will achieve impact? Are they reputable? Will they trust our process of centering community members’ voices and allowing them to articulate their own needs? If so, I convert the lead to a contact. Whether or not the contact has immediate access to funding is not the point. By making them a contact, I will flag them for quarterly follow up to communicate IIRR’s program achievements and eventually we’ll identify the funding opportunity.
Q: What is the impact of partnerships?
A: With diverse points of view based on very different lived experiences, and improved access to resources including continuous funding, we are hoping to empower people in rural communities to live to their fullest potential.