Pictured: Åsa in Johannesburg in June 2015 during a meeting co-hosted by The Hunger Project and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Last week I was a speaker and attendee at “Leading for What’s Next,” a day-long conference held at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York organized by Duke Corporate Education and Foreign Affairs. The event, which drew over 100 people from the private, non-profit and public sectors, was intended to foster a discussion on what’s needed from today’s leaders to confront the challenges facing our global community.
In the morning, I led interactive sessions with attendees around how leaders can unleash human potential and cultivate inclusive leadership in our organizations. Leveraging some of the learning from The Hunger Project’s gender-focused and community-led approach to rural development, I drew parallels from our approach to the importance of empowering individuals at every level in the private and public sectors in order to generate sustainable culture change and leverage talent through aligning around visions and working values based.
Key learnings I took away from the conference include:
Strong leadership is strong leadership: Whether from the perspective of corporates, institutions or the National Basketball Association, there are common characteristics that define strong leadership that cut across siloes, such as building teams with trust as a core value, and creating and aligning on purpose and meaning.
For me, this is a reminder that at the heart of leadership and sustainable change are people. While we may face different challenges in different environments, people will always be the drivers of this change. When we unleash human potential and talent, we unlock leaders and create change.
Risks of de-democratization: There are unfortunate set-backs happening around the world today, which threaten democratic principles and institutions. “De-democratization” compromises and erodes basic human rights, destabilizes peaceful regions and further excludes marginalized populations.
We must prioritize securing the rights of all citizens, while holding local, regional and national governments accountable to promote and secure local democracy. Only by ensuring that democracy is flourishing across all levels, will we be able to secure human dignity and create a world free of hunger for all.
The power of public-private partnerships: The day concluded with representatives from The Coca-Cola Company and The Goldman Sachs Foundation sharing their learnings from establishing public-private partnerships and discussing the need for new definitions of “philanthropy.”
The importance of establishing local partnerships aligns with The Hunger Project’s approach of working cross-sector at the local level – with people, the community and government. Similarly, in the need to evolve traditional definitions of “philanthropy,” we must continue to break down siloes and re-envision the impact of resources, people and institutions if we will meet the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. And we need to start seeing people not as the problem, but as the solution and relate to everyone not as beneficiaries but key actors for their own future.