Leveraging Public-Private Partnerships to Expand Higher Education Collaboration and Academic Exchange in the Americas

This post is also available in: Español 

Cover report: Leveraging Public-Private Partnerships to Expand Higher Education Collaboration and Academic Exchange in the Americas

An Impact Study of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund

Educational exchange initiatives have long been used as a tool to both foster international cooperation and promote the development of the technical and linguistic skills needed to operate in an increasingly globalized world. In spite of the potential benefits, opportunities for educational exchange within the Americas are not always universally accessible or particularly robust when compared with other regions of the world.

To address these limitations, the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) at the US Department of State (DOS), under cooperative agreements and in collaboration with Partners of the Americas (POA), has developed and managed the hemisphere-wide 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund (the 100K Fund). The 100K Fund is a large public-private partnership that has leveraged over US$22 million in contributions in the last seven years to support academic collaboration and exchange opportunities.

Building on findings from previous studies, this report evaluates the fund’s success in achieving its goals by focusing on three impact areas: student development and access; higher education institution (HEI) development and growth; and donor-partner motivations and perceived impact. This study offers new perspectives by amplifying the voice of Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) grantees alongside US grantees.

  • STUDENT DEVELOPMENT AND ACCESS. 100K-funded programs have undoubtedly had a lasting, catalytic impact on the academic and professional development, as well as the future trajectories, of participating students. 100K student cohorts are consistently more diverse than the general student population at their institutions.
  • HEI DEVELOPMENT AND GROWTH. 100K grants have served as a platform to increase collaboration within higher education institutions; set a successful precedent for expanding international education initiatives; and fuel conversations about the importance of intra-regional cooperation between HEIs.
  • DONOR ENGAGEMENT AND PERCEIVED IMPACT. Donors interviewed and surveyed for this study expressed interest in continuing to support the 100K Fund, including possibly increasing their investment along with their level of involvement to fulfill the potential of the 100K model.

This study identifies several recommendations to maximize 100K’s impact:

  1. Monitor and strengthen inclusion-focused student recruitment and selection strategies by offering technical support to HEIs.
  2. Continue to connect 100K to other DOS programs to address systematic barriers to student participation in academic exchange programs, such as lack of language abilities or low interest in LAC countries.
  3. Curate a more active alumni network, for both HEIs and students, to sustain the catalytic effect of the grant beyond initial participation. 
  4. Consider extending some 100K grants to cover two to three-year funding cycles for institutions without established international education operations.
  5. Build more systematic relationships between private sector donors and grantees in order to expand skills development opportunities.
  6. Further utilize 100K Fund donor-partners’ operational capacity and expertise in higher education and international education programming.
  7. Create an Innovation Fund Donor Network to exchange best practices and foster higher donor engagement.
  8. Explore the possibility of adding a mentorship component to complement 100K-funded programs by taking advantage of existing skills development pipelines in donor companies.



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