re:focus partners was launched in late 2012 as a new type of design + finance firm focused on bridging the gap between the public and private sectors in catalyzing sustainable investment in cities around the world. As former political appointees in the Obama Administration, re:focus Founder & CEO Shalini Vajjhala and Partner Elle Hempen played instrumental roles in developing and managing the US-Brazil Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability (JIUS). This bi-national initiative, announced by President Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in March 2011, was a cooperative effort and experiment to catalyze investment in urban sustainability in the US and Brazil.
This collaboration brought together federal, state and local government officials with private sector innovators to find new ways to develop and finance green infrastructure in the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Philadelphia, PA. Despite their many differences, these two cities face similar challenges when it comes to designing and financing new water, energy, and transportation systems. Thanks to the leadership of both of these cities, the lessons from the JIUS (pronounced juice) were successfully highlighted at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012.
Through this process, it became clear that there was both a need and an opportunity for a new type of firm to take on the role of designing and brokering public-private partnerships for sustainable infrastructure. re:focus was born to continue this important work.