Politics have recently been rife in the headlines: not just in the UK and Europe, in all quarters of the globe there has been much unsettlement – exactly what will this mean to our relationships around the world, and indeed will we still have those ‘special relationships’?
American reaction to Britain’s referendum on membership of the European Union was divided sharply along party lines on Friday. Republicans mostly sympathised with the desire for greater sovereignty. Democrats struck a more exasperated tone.
Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton stressed the endurance of a special relationship with the UK and their respect for its decision, but hinted at challenges ahead.
“Yesterday’s vote speaks to the ongoing changes and challenges that are raised by globalisation,” said Obama during a trip to Silicon Valley, revealing he had called David Cameron and Angela Merkel to discuss the referendum and Britain’s “orderly transition” out of the EU.
“Our first task has to be to make sure that the economic uncertainty created by these events does not hurt working families here in America,” said Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in a lukewarm statement.
In an apparent swipe at the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, who welcomed Brexit during a visit to Scotland, Clinton added: “This time of uncertainty only underscores the need for calm, steady, experienced leadership.
“It also underscores the need for us to pull together to solve our challenges as a country, not tear each other down.”
Later, a senior state department official told the Guardian newspaper: “This is obviously not the outcome that either of our governments wanted but it’s democracy and so we’re moving on. We have to. It’s just too important not to. The relationship’s too important, the issues that we’re working on with the UK are too vital. “You name it: Afghanistan, Ukraine, Syria, the Asia-Pacific region. The Brits are such a key partner on so many issues that it’s just too important to allow this to derail a lot of that cooperation.”
We often hear policy-makers talk of the ‘special relationship’ between the United States of America and the United Kingdom, and it’s easy to dismiss this as politician speak, yet the truth is the US and UK have a deep, complex and successful partnership that has benefited both sides economically, socially and culturally for many years.
The UK imports around £43bn in goods from the US each year, alongside receiving more than £440bn of direct investment from American individuals, institutions and companies. As a nation, the UK has invested more than £330bn into the US, and it’s estimated that British investments account for nearly a million US jobs. If you add to this the number of tourists we exchange each year, plus our shared culture, media and more, you quickly see that the US and the UK have a dynamic and deep connection.
I visit the US frequently and have a business partner in the States, so I am fortunate to have the great pleasure of seeing some extraordinary work done by startups and entrepreneurs on both sides of the Atlantic, whether it is Silicon Valley, Tech-Start up’s in Phoenix or UOA (University of Arizona) or elsewhere. One of the ideas you hear often is that in America there is a culture where not only is it ok to fail, but it’s almost expected – like a badge of honour. This is true to a point, but that implies a cut-throat culture that is more legend than reality and is actually bad for innovation. It is important to remember the human element in attempting to get a business off the ground – both in the UK and in the US. Whatever the culture, people struggle and work hard and need all the support they can get, whether that be from family and friends, mentors, other businesses, government grants and resources.
I personally believe there are major opportunities when it comes to shared opportunities and collaboration. Certainly, a key one is the maturing of the digital economy. Advances in AI, robotics, the IOT, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nano- and bio-technology, materials science, quantum computing and financial technologies are creating new opportunities. And there will be increasing importance for companies to do business in environments and markets with transparent intellectual property protection, and predictable rule of law. As strong trading partners with shared and enduring values for attracting and supporting companies from each other’s jurisdiction, the UK and US are well-positioned to be mutual winners in this new digital age of opportunities.
The key to all of these ideas is cross-border collaboration, collaborating with colleagues across borders brings the benefit of new perspectives, further expertise and experiences, as well as a potentially different approach to the profession as a whole. There may be differences of culture, in the language that we use with donors or many other contextual differences.
Even once those differences are understood, theoretical knowledge can be quite different when it is put it into practice. You will need a strong dose of flexibility and capability to adapt to other ways of conceiving your job as well as your approach.
For example, working on corporate fundraising in one country could differ widely in another country – not better or worse, simply different. Understanding the context requires hours of back-office study before starting a project abroad. For example, fiscal regulation determines different advantages – and perceptions – for those donors interested in donating to certain projects. A deep understanding of such points will determine the most suitable ways to engage donors and, as a consequence, to set a proper fundraising strategy.
The truth is that it’s not always easy. Sometimes there is a lack of information about common or shared objectives and the opportunities for collaborative working.
Of course, working internationally could be costly in terms of time and effort and, most of all, it is certainly demanding, and will be dependent on your overall objective for export, company development and expansion, I have worked internationally for 25 years and can honestly say the benefits outweigh the barriers to entry.
Watch out for misunderstandings. Even if your language skills are second to none, the English language – which is often used even when it is not the native language of the parties involved – can mean that the same word has a variety of meanings.
To conclude, it could be said that collaborating across borders is a challenging way to share concerns and objectives with colleagues, learning more about cultural approaches to problems and causes and different ways to cope with them. This process brings added value to the organisations involved.
As Simon Mainwaring once said:
“Creating a better world requires teamwork, partnerships, and collaboration, as we need an entire army of companies to work together to build a better world within the next few decades. This means corporations must embrace the benefits of cooperating with one another.”