The Power of Partnership

The story of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan is now so idealized it barely seems real. But the miracle worker who broke through the isolation of a child understood something profound that lies in all of our hands: the power of coming together.
“We live by each other and for each other,” Keller used to say as she toured the United States with Sullivan. “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.”
This global truth is shared by cultures and communities that are separated by distances as great as the ones that kept Keller isolated as a deaf and blind girl. In Zambia, in southern Africa, there is a proverb that echoes the same learning: “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, walk together.”
It is no coincidence that these simple, yet powerful truths are associated with people who face and overcome profound challenges. For when it comes to meeting our basic human needs, we can only do so by walking and working together.
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Water, food, shelter, energy, disaster relief: for millions of people around the world, these are not abstract issues. They are a daily struggle to provide for themselves and their families. These essential requirements of our lives can never be met by individuals working independently; the groups having the most impact on those struggles are the ones that have adopted a collaborative approach.
Take the most basic necessity of life: water. Around the world, more than twice the population of the United States lives without access to safe water. The results can be measured in the most shocking numbers: diarrhea caused by inadequate drinking water, sanitation and hand hygiene kills around 2,300 people every day.
But the impact is even greater when you consider what Benjamin Franklin called the lost time that is never found again. Every day in sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls will lose 21 million hours fetching water for their families. In an average village, that can mean four or five hours a day for every woman.
When a group like charity:water installs a clean water access point, those women and girls fulfill more than the basic human need to drink and use water. They get back their time: time to go to school, to start a business, or to raise a family.
Scott Harrison, founder of charity:water, tells the story of a woman called Bintou from a village in Mali. Before his group installed solar-powered pumps, a water tower, and a series of tap stands, Bintou used to wake up before dawn and spend three hours every day waiting in line to collect dirty water from an open well. Now, with clean water right outside her home, Bintou has better health and more time to work on her pottery business, which has doubled her income since the clean water arrived.
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“There is a powerful and humbling clarity that takes place when we’re able to slow down and appreciate how precious our time truly is,” says Harrison. “It’s even more powerful when we are able to give that gift to others in order to reach their fullest potential.”
Charity:water sits at the heart of a series of partnerships, joining forces with community-owned water projects around the world who can deliver sustainable, local solutions. The group is supported by international collaborators who themselves sustain networks of partners.
The Caterpillar Foundation believes in this model of partnerships, creating a world of shared prosperity through collaborative action to transform lives in communities around the world where we live and work.
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Where Caterpillar, Inc. works to develop infrastructure, the Caterpillar Foundation works to build the human infrastructure for our most vulnerable communities. That means partnering with businesses, non-profits, governments and citizens to help lift 50 million people out of extreme poverty by 2020.  We are Together.Stronger.
Through partnerships, we can create a stronger life together by improving access to clean water, reducing hunger, building more affordable housing, and responding to natural disasters.
We can build a strong future through access to a quality education, especially for women and girls: from essential numeracy and literacy, mentoring, workforce readiness, and entrepreneurial support.
Ultimately we can build stronger communities through sustainable, environmental solutions to natural disasters, energy, communications, and conservation.
The scale of these global challenges may seem daunting but the solutions can be remarkably simple. As simple as giving women and girls more opportunities to get an education or start a business.

Around the world, some 65 million girls are not enrolled in school. Almost half a billion girls over the age of 15 years cannot read or write, even though we know that each year of extra education can increase a girl’s eventual wages by between 10 and 25 per cent.
Educating girls can break the cycle of poverty in a single generation, providing better healthcare and prosperity for an entire household. Educated girls marry later in life and have fewer children, reducing the number of pregnancy-related deaths.
The contrast is striking between the fortunes of an educated and an uneducated girl. Nearly one in five girls with no education become pregnant before they reach 18 years old. Compare that future to an educated girl, who reinvests 90 per cent of her income in her family. When the number of girls attending school rises by 10 per cent, the entire GDP of a country increases by 3 per cent.
How does that vision become reality?
Through the work of groups like Girl Up, which helps girls in developing countries reach their full potential through access to health care and education. And through women-centered partnerships like Opportunity International, which offers financial education and access to capital to millions of women entrepreneurs across Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Opportunity International knows that poverty disproportionately affects women. As a result, 94 per cent of its loans go to women, who in turn invest almost all their income into family essentials like sending their children to school, providing better quality food, and improving the homes their families live in.
In Uganda, the story of one woman demonstrates the power of this approach to help people help themselves. Suzie Wandera, a grandmother of six, spotted an opportunity when she saw a university getting built in her town: the place needed a student hostel. She used a loan from Opportunity International to expand a building to hold 17 rooms, each housing several students. And she used other Opportunity loans to pay the school fees for her grandchildren.
Suzie’s entrepreneurial spirit, supported by Opportunity, has helped more than 50 students go to school. Along the way, she has created jobs at the hostel, supporting in turn even more families. Opportunity, with the help of the Caterpillar Foundation, has transformed more than 5 million women’s lives in India alone. That all starts with the power of a single woman.
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“There’s unstoppable power in partnering with organizations like the Caterpillar Foundation, who look forward with vision and optimism, and share their energy, wisdom and enthusiasm for a bigger, brighter world for everyone,” says Vicki Escarra, CEO of Opportunity International. “Together, we’re not only stronger, but smarter and more effective in ending extreme poverty in our lifetime.”
Those lessons are just as true in developed countries as they are around the world. An extra year of secondary school can boost a girl’s eventual wages by between 15 and 25 per cent. With greater education comes better health outcomes: 2.8 million children’s lives could be saved each year if all women had access to secondary education. The economic loss to countries that do not educate girls to the same level as boys is $92 billion a year.
There are tremendous partners already working at providing educational programs at every stage of life: from early childhood through to training employees to be ready for the workforce. Traditional groups in this field – the YMCA, The Boys & Girls Club, and the Urban Leagues –have a demonstrated track record across the United States through their local presence.
Partnerships are even more central to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which sees access to high quality public education as the foundation for healthy neighborhoods. Without strong public education, there can be no meaningful community development.
LISC is a nationwide organization with local offices in 31 cities, as well as hundreds of rural communities. In collaboration with local groups, LISC identifies priorities and challenges for low-income neighborhoods, creating comprehensive strategies to meet the needs on the ground. With support from the Caterpillar Foundation, LISC is now putting those principles into action in Peoria, Illinois, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Phoenix, Arizona.
Every dollar LISC invests in grants, loans and equity, attracts another three dollars from the private sector. Since 1980, LISC has invested $15 billion, generating another $44.1 billion from the private sector. That translates to more than 5 million Americans living in stronger communities.
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This is the power of partnerships that combine the innovation and expertise of a local non-profit, with the catalytic effect of a foundation like Caterpillar, paving the way for the private sector to scale the solution to some of the world’s biggest challenges.
The great Nelson Mandela believed this work was not only possible; it was essential. “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice,” he said. “Like slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
Together, stronger.
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