Reflections From the Field: A Visit to Washington, D.C.

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of visiting our nation’s capital to represent the Center at two fascinating events that discussed scaling solutions to critical domestic and global development issues.

My day began at the Center for Global Development (CGD) and the British Embassy’s Girl Summit DC 2014, where a standing-room-only crowd heard from experts on the prevention of socio-cultural practices that harm young girls, namely female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage.  These experts represented a slew of field-leading organizations like the International Center for Research on Women, USAID, Tahirih Justice Center, Equality Now and the Clinton Foundation.

“There is cause for great optimism if we work together.” – Patrick Davies, Deputy Head of Mission, British Embassy

A few key takeaways from the conversation:

  • While we tend to associate these practices with communities outside the U.S., we now know that genital mutilation and forced marriages affect thousands of girls living in the states each year.  And that may be just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Programs that empower girls to know their rights and mobilize affected communities to prevent violent practices are demonstrating the best results.
  • To bring an end to these practices in the U.S., key players have to think about coordinating policy efforts and engaging the justice system.  There need to be political and legal frameworks in place to support the needs of potential or actual victims (e.g. what is a legally and politically viable way to rescue and repatriate young women who are taken overseas for the purpose of mutilation or forced marriage?)
  • One way the private sector can support prevention is by raising awareness.  Companies that employ members of communities where these practices are common, both domestically and abroad, have the opportunity to spark dialogue about violence against girls through workplace campaigns and other means.

CGD’s summit was a satellite event of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Girl Summit hosted with UNICEF in London to rally multiple stakeholders in a global movement to end female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage in a generation.  The U.K. has emerged as a leading voice in the effort to mobilize the international community around these issues.

“Small is the new big.” – Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator, Small Business Administration

I spent my afternoon at the Capitol Building for JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s roundtable discussion on boosting small business growth and job creation.   JPMorgan Chase leaders formally announced the firm’s Small Business Forward initiative, a $30 million, five-year plan to create clusters of support for small business owners and entrepreneurs across the country.

Why small business?  The U.S. will need to create 24 million new full-time jobs by 2020 in order to bring national unemployment back to pre-recession rates (see Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020), and small businesses are generating jobs at high rates: 63% of net new private sector jobs have been created by small businesses since 1993 (see the Small Business Administration).   The Small Business Forward initiative leverages this opportunity to invigorate job creation, and if implemented successfully, could have a positive impact on U.S. economic recovery.  I look forward to keeping track of their progress as the initiative goes to scale.

For more on both events, check out the Twitter feeds from the day using #girlsummit and #smallbizfoward.