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The Power of Partnerships to Scale Impact: A Q&A with Sesame Workshop’s Sherrie Westin

Sesame Workshop, a Solve member, is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, with a mission to help kids everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. Today, Sesame Workshop reaches over 190 million children who often have no other means of quality early education with localized Sesame content, harnessing the power of media and our engaging Sesame Street Muppets.

What inspired you to join the Solve community?

I’ve been fortunate to have had wonderful opportunities throughout my career, from media to the private sector to the White House, but my most rewarding work has been at Sesame Workshop. As President of Global Impact and Philanthropy, I have the privilege of overseeing our efforts to help the most vulnerable children in the US and around the world through mass media and targeted initiatives.

In order to tackle the most pressing needs facing children, identifying the right experts and partners is critical. MIT Solve is doing just that: convening a community of leaders to move the needle on some of the toughest challenges of our time. We believe collaboration is essential in the work we do—we know we can’t do it alone.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

The best piece of leadership advice I’ve received is to be self-aware—know where you excel and what your weak spots are. Surround yourself with a team who complements those strengths and weaknesses so you can focus on what you’re best at and hit it out of the park!

New entrepreneurs will inevitably experience setbacks. What advice do you have for them?

Think of every setback as a learning opportunity and a chance to iterate. If you ultimately believe in the importance of the work you’re doing, those setbacks become easier to weather.

What role have partners played in the success of your venture?

Partners are critical to our success, particularly in our work to reach the most vulnerable children around the world. A recent example is Sesame’s partnership with the International Rescue Committee to provide critically-needed early education to help children and families overcome the trauma of war and displacement in the Syrian response region—for which we recently received the MacArthur Foundation’s historic $100 million 100&Change award.

Our partnership combines the unique strengths of our two organizations: Sesame’s proven, engaging educational content and IRC’s deep roots in refugee communities. With the MacArthur Foundation’s support, our two organizations will create the largest early childhood intervention in the history of humanitarian response—something neither of our organizations would be able to do alone.

It’s important to find partners who share your values, complement your strengths, and bring different skill sets to the mix. When partners share a common vision and truly complement each other, it’s possible to achieve so much more.

To connect with Sesame Workshop and other like-minded organizations, join the Solve community as a member. Learn more about membership here.


Image: Courtesy of Sesame Workshop

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