We had the good fortune of connecting with Joanne Sonenshine and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joanne, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I’m a development economist by accident. Before 9/11 I was an investment banker living in London. When 9/11 happened, I knew I had to change directions. Once I began my Masters program in Economic Development, I knew I would devote my life to making the world a better place. I tried in many ways to do just that — through a government position as a trade policy economist, as a lobbyist in Washington, and finally as an international nonprofit program director and fundraiser. None of those positions gave me a sense that my work made a difference. I knew that our planet needed collective efforts. That working in silos, and wiling away billions of dollars of corporate and philanthropic funding, not to mention taxpayer dollars, wasn’t the answer. I launched Connective Impact to pair companies, nonprofits and governments, as well as impact and traditional donors, to solve problems together in more collaborative ways built on the concept of comparative advantage.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Connective Impact is a partnership strategy and fundraising advisory firm. Founded in 2014, I developed a methodology for bringing unlikely partners together to solve complex problems facing our planet. We are laser focused on addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through effective collaboration and leveraging comparative advantage to find the right types of partnerships and funding models. Unlike other consultancies, we focus squarely on connection building and relationship creation. In the end we are all individuals with strong opinions and perspectives. We have to tap into that reality to make the kind of change we all want to see. My path to founding Connective Impact was definitely not linear. In fact in my book, ChangeSeekers, I share a lot about the forwards and backwards movements that got me to where I am today. I also hope that today is not the end point for me. I always want to be growing and evolving… and learning! I love to learn. It’s what makes my job so exciting. There’s so much to challenge me and inspire me to do more for the people of our world. Connective Impact, like most small businesses, has been going through an evolution over the last year. We are adjusting our model a bit, drilling down even further into the connection element of our work. I am really excited to share more of that soon.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Washington, DC has so much to offer visitors. That’s almost an understatement. Obviously with COVID there’s a lot that’s limited to us, but I would love to take my friend on a walking tour of the monuments downtown. Even if someone has seen DC before, there’s something magical about taking an hour or two and just walking down on the Mall and feeling the power and energy around us. I would take her to the water front for lunch or drinks and then do some people watching in Georgetown, one of my favorite parts of DC. We would spend one day hiking either out in Great Falls or even a couple of hours away in the Shenandoah. We’d also take in a few historical visits perhaps to Mount Vernon or even Gettysburg, which is only an hour and a half away. We’d park by Gravelly Point and watch the planes fly over our heads into National Airport. That’s my kids’ favorite thing to do on a beautiful day. From there we’d walk along the river and enjoy a good coffee. DC has amazing coffee!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am inspired by so many people that it’s hard to pick just one. I name a few particular heroes and mentors in my book, ChangeSeekers, but by all accounts the reason I am doing what I am doing today, and loving it so much, likely stems from my High School experience in Model UN. Participating and competing in Model UN throughout high school afforded me a view of the world that I would never have had otherwise. I learned about new cultures, and saw the world as the vast complexity that it is — as well as a never ending challenge that I could try to meet. I also learned about the power of the written and spoken word, and the need for collaboration, to solve those complex problems. In my career as a negotiator, policymaker and program leader, I relied on those same skills. I am still challenged by what faces us as a global community. But I am still inspired to do my part and solve our biggest problems in collaboration with people from all over the world.