Courtney Spence on How Clinton Global Initiative Holds Non-Profits Accountable

In Chapter 7 of 15 of her 2010 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit executive and Students of the World founder Courtney Spence answers "How is working with the Clinton Global Initiative enabling your organization’s purpose?" Spence shares how participating in the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) has provided her organization both accountability and purpose. The three-day CGI conference brings together public and private sector organizations and leaders to share resources and collaborate. CGI measures participant action each year, rewarding teams that execute against goals with return invites to the conference.


Erik Michielsen: How is working with the Clinton Global Initiative enabling your organization’s purpose?

Courtney Spence:  I think a part of our approach at Students of the World is collaboration.  We collaborate with our students, we collaborate with other non-profits, we collaborate with post-partners here in Austin.  We really value collaboration and we definitely don’t have the corner on the smarts and we can’t do it alone. We are a non-profit. So, the Clinton Global Initiative, I was really struck with this idea that President Clinton was creating a conference, not to just talk about issues but hold people’s feet to the fire and say, “You’re going to do something about this.” 

So, basically the concept of the Clinton Global Initiative is you go for three days.  You have incredibly high level, inspiring, intensive conversations that always end with practical solutions that we can implement all over the world.  And then your responsibility is to partner with someone from there, start a new initiative, fund a new program.  And then for the following year, the CGI Staff, - the Clinton Global Initiative Staff – makes sure that you do what you said you were going to do, and if you didn’t, “Why was that?”  And if you just didn’t try, you’re not invited back.  So, it’s this concept of “Let’s talk about it, but let’s do something about it.”  So that really resonated with the purpose of Students of the World and seeing what they were doing, we recognized that we might be able to provide them with some media proof points – the storytelling of their member organizations and the progress they were making. 

We also recognized the need for ourselves to have a larger organization to partner with us to help us vet the organizations we work with.  In this day and age it’s very easy to throw up a website and say you do one thing and the last thing I want to do is to send a team of University of Texas students to Zimbabwe to find out that this organization isn’t doing what it said it was doing.  So, and we really were inspired by the membership of CGI, the organizations.  They take big organizations, small organizations.  So, really we kind of found a really great two-way partnership where they helped us identify incredibly innovative non-profit organizations to work with, and we in turn helped them in their storytelling of the conference with media and videos and photography.