Joining from the Tony Blair Institute (TBI) for Global Change, Dr Eva Thorne starts her journey as managing director at Xynteo, leading its Europe Delivers partnership.
With her BA from Harvard University followed by a PhD in Political Science from MIT, Eva is thrilled to join Xynteo to combine her roots in political science and innovation to create good growth at Xynteo.
“The fact that we live on a planet with nearly 10 billion people, that the Earth is heating too much, and that the physical environment in which we live can take only so many stresses, means growth may have limits”, shared Eva.
“Good Growth takes these hard realities as the starting point and seeks to enhance the environment and not destroy it. I can’t wait to do just that with Xynteo and its partners.”
At TBI, Eva held various roles, including directing policy and innovations. She led a team that focused on politically actionable research and prototyping on Africa and the 4th industrial revolution, digitalisation strategies for inclusive economic growth and innovative partnerships that convene government, universities and the private sector. Most recently she also worked on policy work connected to the pandemic.
As she joined Xynteo’s London office, we sat down with her to learn what drives her, and how to use the intersection of policy and innovation to reinvent growth.
You have deep experience in the intersection of policy and innovation. How can we best use both of these forces to reinvent growth?
Form should follow function. Policy should allow for innovation. The reality is that technological change has quickly outstripped legal frameworks and public policies.
Government is seen as slow, laden with red tape and insufficiently responsive at times to the needs of business. There is alignment between the two with respect to driving good growth, creating jobs and generating revenue for the public good.
Innovation in the service of unlocking good growth, job creation, and raising revenue for governments should be supported through flexible, smart policies. This can be achieved through a collaborative approach where businesses and governments start from a place of mutual interest.
Can you tell us about the journey that led you to Xynteo?
For my entire professional career, I've been committed to social justice, with a focus on how those without resources could access them.
I've explored this challenge from various perspectives. I was an academic at one stage and focused on big international development institutions such as the World Bank and how its projects affected communities such as indigenous peoples and rural producers in regions such as Latin America. That led me to years of on-the-ground work in the Americas on indigenous and Afro-Latin land rights.
This highlighted social, cultural and environmental issues around what kind of projects would lead to economic growth that wasn't destructive for these communities and the environment in which they lived. These infrastructure projects generated power to fuel economic growth, but at the cost of cultural and environmental heritage.
From my work in the Americas, oil, gas and mining projects kept coming up. I decided that I needed to understand how they operated so I created a course on non-technical risks in oil and gas. That was eye-opening as I came to see that many in the industry had good intentions but did not know what to do. They needed to generate business value but wanted to do so in ways that minimised corruption and environmental damage while maximising revenue.
This led to living and working in Liberia for two years through Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative. My Liberian counterpart and I worked on a new petroleum law and engaged with the President, line ministers, oil companies, policymakers, civil society, international NGOs and the US government. It was the experience of a lifetime! Ebola closed my son’s international school in Monrovia and we came to London, where I headed the policy and research team at Mr. Blair’s consulting company. Mr. Blair then closed that business and set up the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, where I worked for more than five years. I directed an incredible team that worked on policy and innovations, which was about generating new business models that convened businesses and governments to find common purpose and unlock value.
All my work has been about using every lever – NGOs or civil society, universities, governments and businesses – to push for better equity, more just outcomes. So, when Xynteo’s Tony Markowski encouraged me to look at Xynteo, I was intrigued. The more I learned, the more intrigued I became. Xynteo’s mission aligns very well with my personal values. I loved the idea of Europe Delivers, which takes an ecosystem approach, and that is very much how my policy and innovations team worked. All the pieces just came together, and I can’t wait to lead Europe Delivers with its incredible partner network.
What has motivated and inspired you in your life?
I'm a person of faith who believes that we are supposed to contribute to the world beyond our personal well-being and comfort. That's the foundation for what I do and the reason why I do it. Putting my shoulder to the plow and pushing to try to make things better and seeing even a little positive change is the fuel that keeps me going.
I've been inspired by people who move beyond the ordinary to do extraordinary things. People like the Ladner sisters from Mississippi who were so central to the civil rights movement in the US; or Malala who took an attempt on her life and doubled down on advocating for girls to get an education; and others whose character is forged in the crucible of adversity, yet somehow use that to surpass expectations and help drive change, are the kinds of people who inspire me.
What else do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
Ha! I like to keep busy and active. I play classical piano, which is a real tonic for the soul. I knit – not very well – and really enjoy the mindful, relaxing nature of it. I'm tackling socks now and feel like I'm in hand-to-hand combat. I love going to live music (jazz, classical, operas, funk, Afro-Latin), reading, theatre, travel, cooking, swimming and walks along the Thames. I have a condiments start-up, called Garden of Eva. The first product line is pickles inspired by global flavours, starting with chow chow (an American southern relish) and pickled watermelon rind, which I made growing up with my mom who was from Virginia. And last but not least, I have a 16-year-old son, Brooks, who takes a lot of my time. He's the apple of my eye!
To learn more about Eva or her take on innovation to create good growth, connect with her here.
Or contact us to find out how we can help your leaders and organisation create planet-positive and inclusive growth.