Could you introduce yourself?
My name is Andrew Sweet and I am an Associate Partner at Dalberg, a global development strategy consulting firm. I am based in Johannesburg, but am often traveling around the world.
How did you start your career?
I had the good fortune of starting my career as a Peace Corps Volunteer. For two-and-a-half years, I served as a Natural Resource Management Volunteer, working with farmers on the Togo-Benin border. It was a life-changing experience and one I look back upon with great memories. I went to Maxwell following the Peace Corps and learned from the greats, such as Catherine Bertini, Peter Castro, and Peg Hermann. It was energizing to learn from people whose careers were highly practical, and who could help structure and deepen my thinking.
After Maxwell, I spent a few years at the Center for American Progress (CAP) on the National Security team. I co-authored a number of publications on the future of U.S. global development policy. At the time, CAP was housing a number of key thinkers for both the Clinton and Obama campaigns. After President Obama was elected, a lot of the CAP National Security team went into the Administration at the White House, State Department, and USAID. I received an appointment at USAID, where I served as a Conflict Advisor for West Africa, focused on Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire. After two years in this role, the USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, asked me to serve as his Senior Advisor. For the nearly three years, I was one of his closest aides, traveling with him on each of his trips, foreign and domestic. In the last year alone, we went to 24 countries. In this capacity, I also helped to establish two major Presidential Initiatives, Power Africa and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.
How did you become a David Rockefeller Fellow, and what is the Trilateral Commission?
I was nominated to be a David Rockefeller Fellow by former USAID Administrator and current Rockefeller Foundation President, Dr. Rajiv Shah, and a great mentor and former professor of mine at Maxwell, Catherine Bertini. I have kept in very close contact with both and am fortunate and humbled to have been nominated by them.
The Trilateral Commission was established in 1973 to bring together leaders from the private sector to discuss issues of global concern for Europe, North America and Asia. It still includes a range of leaders from the private sector, but also from the public, and social sectors as well as prominent journalists. Members include Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, Michael Bloomberg, David Gergen and Eric Schmidt.
Have you had any memorable experiences while working in the field?
I love helping put together coalitions of institutions and individuals with the intent of doing something big in global development. To this end, I enjoyed being part of putting together Power Africa and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. My experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer also helped inform my thinking and grounded my experiences in the reality.
One of the highlights from my current work is helping the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation put together Emergency Operations Centers in West Africa. The goal of this work is to capacitate emergency response workers and help ensure future crises, such as Ebola, can be prevented or better managed.
I also have been fortunate to meet and learn from a number of global leaders. I have drawn great inspiration from people like Kofi Annan, Catherine Bertini, and Bill Gates who have all dreamed big and accomplished great things.
What advice do you want to give Maxwell students?
My advice is to focus and dream big. Global development is too large a field for this to be your specialty. Think about the sector (e.g. energy, health, good governance) and a region of the world you are passionate about, then think and do big things. Develop language skills that are relevant to your passions. Build your networks and learn from leaders to draw inspiration and insights. Be a voracious consumer of information. Travel the world and spend significant amounts of time with people whose lives you are working to improve.