University for a Night 2010
University for a Night 2010
University for a Night 2010 offered people from business, government, civil society, and philanthropy a space to learn from each other, to share experiences, and to make connections that will help address global poverty and other critical social issues.
We also used the occassion to honor and hear from two people whose many accomplishments represent what the event is all about. The 2010 recipients of the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Awards were:
- Sir Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Unite
- Zainab Salbi, Founder, Women for Women International.
Honorees: Sir Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group; Zainab Salbi, Founder and CEO, Women for Women International
Other Speakers: Peggy Dulany, Founder and Chair, Synergos; Robert H. Dunn, President and CEO, Synergos; Jed Emerson, Blended Value; Josh Mailman, Managing Partner, Serious Change; Douglas Mellinger, Co-Founder and Vice-Chairman, Foundation Source; Judith Rodin, President, The Rockefeller Foundation
Special Performance by Sing for Hope: Luciano Berio’s arrangement of Loosin Yelav by Ljova (famiola) and Inna Barmash (vocal)
Welcome and Introduction
ROBERT H. DUNN: Good evening, my name is Bob Dunn and I have the privilege of serving as the President and CEO of Synergos. To my left is our Founder and Chair, Peggy Dulany.
Throughout the evening, you’ll be meeting and enjoying the company of many of our Synergos colleagues, including several who worked especially hard to make this evening a success. I want to particularly recognize Anna Ginn, Elizabeth Brown, Justin Dake and John Tomlinson.
Most of the people you see around you, however, are a diverse group of extraordinary people from more than 25 countries who have in common a commitment to the betterment of our global society.
By being with us tonight, you are lending support to the work Synergos does with its partners. This work is so close to our hearts. It’s the kind of work that we are doing in Namibia to try to decrease maternal mortality and in India working with adolescent girls to ensure that their children and babies have adequate nutrition. It’s work we’re doing in Southern Africa to help children in distress, many of them orphans and vulnerable children with HIV and AIDS. It’s work we’re doing in the Middle East and North Africa to support social innovators who are creating employment, providing valuable services to their communities and preserving local culture. It’s work to promote corporate social responsibility in Mexico and Brazil. And really, the list is long.
It’s work we do around the world with change makers, philanthropists, social investors, civil society leaders, many of them are here in this audience tonight.
By being here, you are making a gift to all of them, to all of the folks we work with as partners. And I thought it might be nice to offer three gifts to you in return. The first is a little trick that someone taught me which will make it possible for you to see beauty wherever you are in the world. And if you’d like, you can experiment as I talk you through the instructions. So, the first thing I would ask you to do is just close your eyes and take a breath or two and sit quietly. And then, just a look inside yourself. And when you do, you’ll see something precious and beautiful, it’s with you all the time, wherever you go as your companion. That’s the first gift that I want to offer to you.
The second is one from the external world. We’re very pleased that we have here Ljova and Inna Barmash. They are gifted musicians. Ljova and Inna Barmash from Sing for HopeThey are here through an organization called Sing for Hope, a community of artists who appear at events like this to support the raising of funds to promote progress for all human kind. So with that, I’d like to ask them to come up to the stage. Thank you.
INNA BARMASH: I will sing a song in Armenian, Loosin Yelav, “The Moonlight.”
[LJOVA AND BARMASH PERFORM]
DUNN: Thank you so much.
There’s some more thanks I need to offer before presenting your third gift. There are some people who have been especially helpful in making this evening the success that it is for Synergos, and I just want to mention a few of them to you. Instituto Rukha from Brazil (the event underwriter), our champions David Rockefeller and Carlos Bulgheroni, The Rockefeller Foundation. And we’re so pleased that Judith Rodin is with us tonight. And, partners for this event, Charles Butts, Dorian Goldman and Marvin Israelow, Katya Goldman and Michael Sonnenfeldt, Vincent and Anne Mai, John Whitehead and Shell. We are appreciative of all of you and your support, and especially thankful for this collection of people of extraordinary generosity.
Now for the third gift: the writer Kurt Vonnegut received a letter many years ago from a woman who was pregnant, and she asked him whether he thought it was appropriate to bring a new child into such a troubled world. He wrote back and said that what made life worth living for him was the angels that he meets everywhere he goes, and talked about them as people of honesty and integrity and compassion. So my third present to you is one such angel, my dear and beloved friend Peggy who is going to come to the stage and facilitate the wonderful conversation that is about to happen, and also present to you the distinguished individuals who will offer the two David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Awards. So Peggy and Judith, if you would come to the stage. Thank you very much.
Presentation of David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Awards
PEGGY DULANY: Good evening everyone. I can’t say that I share Bob’s aspiration to appear on a Broadway stage, but it’s pretty interesting now that I’m up here. Tonight we’re gathered in the spirit of partnership and collaboration with a shared vision of improving the lives of many around the world. We’re also here to recognize the extraordinary work of two individuals who have done a lot to that end, Richard Branson and Zainab Salbi.
This award that we give is called the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award after my father who has inspired me a lot, inspired the work of Synergos and many other people. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to be with us tonight, although I bet he’s wishing that he could because he went to Dublin supposedly for the Trilateral Commission Meeting, but I heard that they closed the airport, so who knows where he actually is? He’s probably really wishing that he would be with us.
But, since he can’t be here to give the awards himself, we’ve asked two long term friends of Synergos to join us in presenting them. So the first at my right is Judy Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation who will introduce Richard Branson. Judy was the first woman to head an Ivy League institution as the President of the University of Pennsylvania, and has been ably leading the Rockefeller Foundation since 2005. So Richard, could you come up while Judy speaks about you?
JUDITH RODIN: Fantastic, if you would join me sir?
RODIN: Well, it’s wonderful to see Synergos in a theater and to see how this event has really outgrown its former quarters and to join so many of you in really celebrating Peggy and Bob and their colleagues and all of the really wonderful work that they do around the world.
It’s a great honor for me to present the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award to Sir Richard Branson.
The name Richard Branson, I think for all of us, is really synonymous with innovation. Richard has innovated in the airline industry. He’s innovated in the music industry. He’s innovated in the aerospace industry. And tonight, we are honoring Richard Branson for his innovative leadership in philanthropy. As one of the world’s most successful business entrepreneurs, he’s brought this same approach to bear on what seemed to many to be intractable problems facing the world today. From his Virgin Unite philanthropic foundation, to his founding role in The Elders, to his creation of the Carbon War Room, Sir Richard has time and time again brought people together around novel solutions to climate change, to human rights injustices and global poverty.
There is really no doubt that Sir Richard Branson is truly an innovative leader. As a recent example of this, we need only look to last week where Sir Richard ran the Virgin London Marathon leading a team of fellow racers across the finish line to raise money for Virgin Unite. Running a marathon and fundraising for charity and succeeding at both simultaneously, that is truly the Richard Branson way of doing business.
Sir Richard, for your innovative leadership, for your pioneering efforts in philanthropy, I am delighted to present you with the 2010 David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award.
SIR RICHARD BRANSON: Thank you very much.
RODIN: You’re very welcome.
DULANY: Thank you.
Josh Mailman who is a longtime friend of Synergos will introduce Zainab Salbi. Josh is an active philanthropist and investor and has helped found numerous organizations. He probably has a bigger network than all the rest of us combined. He also helped Synergos conceive a major initiative to support social innovators in the Arab world and he’s a member of Synergos’ Global Philanthropists Circle. Josh, would you and Zainab please come up?
JOSH MAILMAN: Good evening everybody.
I met Zainab about eight years ago and as an impertinent philanthropist I asked her what the budget for Women International was. And she told me it was four and a half million dollars. And I said to her, “Where did you get four and a half million dollars from?” And she said, “Well, I have 4,000 women contributing $120 a month.” And I said, “Where did they come from?” And she said, “Well, I’ve been on Oprah 14 times.”
MAILMAN: Well, this is why she was on Oprah. Zainab Salbi left Baghdad at the age of 19 to escape the terror of living under Saddam Hussein. Having survived the War in Iraq, she strove to rebuild her life as an immigrant in the United States. But, in 1993, she learned of the systematic rape of women in the concentration camps of Croatia and wanted to help do something, but found that there was no organization that existed to help.
So she flew to Croatia with cash and supplies, and spent months helping women survivors, and that was the birth of Women for Women International.
Women for Women International confronts some alarming facts. During and after conflict, women are particularly vulnerable to violence and exploitation with as many as 70% of casualties in recent conflicts being women and children. Women for Women’s work is based on the theory that when women are healthy, have an income, are decisionmakers and have strong social networks, they are in a much stronger position to advocate for their rights.
The organization’s programs combine counseling with leadership development and training in income generation. They work in Sudan, Rwanda, the Balkans, the Congo, and Nigeria, and in Iraq and Afghanistan. In her own words, Women for Women International is a bridge in connecting women to each other, in showing a simple and clear way where every woman can be a philanthropist, where every woman can be an agent of change, where every woman can be a diplomat as she reaches a woman in another part of the world and where every woman can take ownership of her voice and her resources in bringing peace and stability to this world.
Zainab Salbi has built her organization into a great force for good, and she has used her powerful gifts of connecting with most everyone she reaches - women, war survivors, world leaders, partners, supports and the public to deliver the message that stronger women build stronger nations. Zainab, I asked your friend Jodie Evans what makes you extraordinary. And she said, “She goes in and does what’s needed, and she does it with joy, and she does it in a new way every time and she does it again and again.”
Zainab, it’s my great pleasure to present to you - global visionary, communicator, advocate and social entrepreneur - with the 2010 David Rockefeller Bridging Award.
ZAINAB SALBI: Thank you for this nice introduction and I just wanted to say two things. One is, when you invest in the stock market, sometimes you lose, sometimes you win. But, when you invest in women you will always win and this has been the story...
SALBI: …this has been the story of my life. Never in my life did I think when Amjad Atallah and myself co-founded Women for Women International 17 years ago that 17 years later we’d be connecting more than half a million women to each other and sending $79 million in direct aid to women in conflict areas. And on a personal level, never in my life did I think that growing up in Iraq (and today my father is here with me from Iraq), so I’m very grateful that he’s here, that I will witness a day in which every day I can fly, and then every day I can die. And, life is beautiful indeed, but investing in women has been one of the best things that happened to me as well. So thank you very much.
DULANY: For me, what comes next is the fun part. For those of you who have been with us before, it probably is too. We have an opportunity to get to know through a dialogue people who really are committed change agents. And as you know, we choose these people on the basis of their willingness to take the risk to reach out across divides. So in some ways, you might think that Zainab and Richard are quite different, and maybe they are. But we’re going to find that out through asking a few questions about how they came to be the people that they came to be.
So the first question I’m going to ask each of you to take in turn is was it in your personal history or your personal experience that led you to be so passionately committed to the work that you’re doing today?
BRANSON: Well, I think it’s ladies first, or girls first.
SALBI: Not girls, ladies, women.
Well, I guess it’s three things for me. Growing up not only in Iraq, but under Saddam Hussein’s regime. As many of you know, my father was his pilot and we grew up very close to him. That meant seeing a lot of injustice and not being able to act on it and having to be silent. So, what has very much stayed with me are the images of injustice that I saw and being afraid to express it because myself or my parents could pay the price for that.
The second part is my mom. My mother was a very strong woman who would always grab me as a teenager. She said, “You always have to be strong and you always have to be independent and you should never learn how to cook or clean just because you’re a woman. No man should expect you to know that just because you’re a woman.”
But, her insistence that I be independent and her narration of the stories of how she evolved from my grandmother who was married at the age of 13 to my mother who graduated from college and yet still struggled between what’s the definition of a working mother and between expectations of a wife and a mother in Iraq, and to me who she really paved the way for me to sort of do what I want to do. I always say it’s like I’ve been married and divorced and married and divorced, and it’s not relevant to who I am and what my accomplishments are and how I see myself and I think how others see me.
And the last but not least is war. War very much shaped my life. I grew up in the Iraq-Iran War and I learned that we see war only from a frontline perspective and we don’t see a war from a backline perspective. And if the frontline is fought by men, the backline is really led by women and that we’re missing on the discussion of what war is and what peace is when we’re not including a woman’s voice. And so, these three stories of my upbringing very much impacted who I am, and my passion about doing something about it.
DULANY: Thank you Zainab. Richard?
BRANSON: My mother also played a big role, you know. I was brought up to have a conscience, but lots of love and stability in the family. And also, from a young age I went to Africa, visited hospitals in open inverted commas, and started to see the horrors of AIDS. The first thing you notice about these hospitals was that all the walls were funeral parlors, every inch of every wall, so anybody arriving in that hospital to get mended almost knew for sure that they were going to come out in a coffin. You would go into the waiting room and the waiting rooms would be full of women and men waiting for the people who died the night before in the wards to die so they could actually then go and lie in the bed rather than sitting in a chair. You went into the actual wards and they were maybe two or three people in each bed and all the indignity that went with it.
I don’t normally get angry, but it did make me angry and I spoke out against Thabo Mbeki and his health minister at the time. And with respect to Thabo Mbeki, he sat down and he wrote me a seven-page handwritten letter sort of justifying why he was doing what he was doing. And although I didn’t agree with his letter, we decided that something positive should come out of the correspondence and so we agreed to see if something positive couldn’t come out. And in discussions, decided that we should set up a Center for Disease Control, or a War Room in Africa to really try to coordinate all the various organizations that are working on these problems. And the day we were due to announce it, he actually had to step down, but Jacob Zuma and his new Minister of Health has taken it up. And hopefully by the end of this year we’ll have a Center for Disease Control set up in Africa.
DULANY: Great. That begins to answer my second question that I also want to make to both of you which takes it one step deeper. It’s one thing to develop the passion, it’s another to develop a strategy. The reason both of you are getting this award is that you have in fact, collaborated with people who aren’t necessarily in agreement with yourselves to try to find ways of improving the situation.
I’d like to think that all of the Synergos network are either already bridging leaders, or aspiring bridging leaders, so we really value hearing from people who’ve had the difficult experience of maybe feeling confrontational and angry, but then have somehow decided that the best strategy is in fact to forge at least where possible, the common ground. So, could you just go a little bit deeper in that, not necessarily the Thabo Mbeki example, but what in your life led you to choose that as a strategy, at least part of the time?
BRANSON: I’m not an enormously religious person, but at the turn of the millennium I was driving in a car and somebody was giving one of those short sort of five-minute sermons for the turn of the century. He urged that anybody listening to his sermon to, as the first thing they did in the new year, befriend an enemy, preferably anybody you’ve fallen out with in life.
We’d had a rather gruesome time with British Airways, so the next day I rang up the Chairman of British Airways and asked if he’d like to come to lunch. He couldn’t quite work out what I was up to…
….what the catch was.
But anyway, we had a good lunch. We became friends.
And you know, I think it was one of the best bits of advice ever. I think life’s too short to have anybody in your life whether it’s your ex-wife or anyone, or ex-husband, but to have any bad feelings about people. One should be able to bury the hatchets and it’s such a great feeling. So that was it, a good lesson.
DULANY: That’s a good example.
Zainab, because you’ve had some hard knocks and you’ve seen a lot of other people have hard knocks. What has enabled you to channel the passion, and I imagine the anger, into a way that really drew people in rather than just confront and push them away?
SALBI: So many things. I actually don’t know if there is one thing. I mean, the process of my mother dying definitely had a huge impact. She was very young. She was 52 years old when she died. She had Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It was her processing the fact that she’s dying that impacted me the most, of her saying, “I regret 90% of the things that I was upset about now that I’m dying.” And this always makes me think to your point, my ex-husband is actually here…
…that what are the things that you’re really going to remember in that moment?
The second part is that she said, “Life is so beautiful and sometimes we take it too seriously.” And so, she taught me how to enjoy life.
But it’s not only her; it’s the women that I work with. If in the midst of that horror that you’re talking about, if Congolese women with their legs cut off into pieces, to say the least, let alone gang raped and pinned on crosses as they are raped, if they can dance and if they can have joy, for me, it’s constantly a humbling experience. Who am I not to have joy as you do the work? So that was definitely part of it.
It’s how do you live life fully because you never know when is it going to go away? It’s very much intertwined I guess, my personal experience with my professional one. Two weeks ago was the first time my immediate family got together in 20 years at the same dining room table. When we got together we realized that we had lost every single thing we once owned. The house we grew up in Iraq had eventually become an execution center, a brothel, a military base and only recently they’d returned it with only the bare walls.
But we had each other and we had each other’s stories. And we what we talked about is how do you live every day with making it a good day to fly because life is so gorgeous, and making it a good day to die? And, to my mother’s point that if I die today, would I be dying a content woman? Would I be dying a fulfilled woman or person? And, how do you live your truth every single day? And so, for me, working with Women for Women International and making it possible for so many women to connect, that you don’t have to have lots of resources to be a philanthropist, the ask for us is for every woman to sponsor one woman survivor of war by sending her $27 a month and exchange a letter with her. And it’s the park ranger and it is the flight attendants, and it is Angelina Jolie, they’re all philanthropists who are saying, “I’m going to help one woman stand on her feet at a time and I’m going to exchange a letter with her and get to know who she is, but get her to know who I am.”
The simplicity of that is what makes me - and to see so many women who have been impacted by that, it’s what keeps me going, and it goes back to the personal, my mother’s death, the professional, the women in Congo and the women in Iraq and the women in Afghanistan, the women in America and in England, and so many other parts who are saying, “We’re all part of this simple action and simple movement.”
DULANY: This is something you and I have talked about, that in order to do that over and over and over again, your heart really has to be open. And the opposite, I think, probably of the heart being open is being in a place of fear or anger. So what you’re describing to me, and I’d just like you to comment on a little from your own perspective is that the inspiration you get from the women that you work with is a constant renewal. It opens your heart every day so that you can deal with those shadows of fear and anger. Is that a right way of characterizing it?
SALBI: Well, it reminds me of a Sufi poet. I’m a big fan of Rumi, a 13th century Sufi poet. He says, “Oh break my heart. Oh break my heart again so I can love even more.” And in my life, but also in the lives of so many women I’ve worked with, I learn that every misfortune has led to a fortune. Every time that I thought, “Why did that happen to me?” has actually led to something absolutely amazing. So, I learned in the breaking of the hearts, one can love even further.
DULANY: Richard, I don’t know if this is your language, the breaking of the heart, the loving, but would you care to comment?
BRANSON: No, I’ve been lucky. I haven’t had my heart broken very often, [LAUGHTER] but she said it so beautifully I’m not going to comment.
Zainab, I understand completely what you’re saying. That’s absolutely right.
DULANY: Did you want to say something?
SALBI: I’m sure your heart has been broken. When you go to South Africa and you see - I’m sure. You know? Yes?
BRANSON: Oh, well that kind of break. No, that’s true.
DULANY: We weren’t asking you about your personal life...
BRANSON: But yeah, there was a waiter in a game reserve in South Africa who was also a poet. He was from the local village. This was in the early days of AIDS. He got AIDS. And, it was early enough where we hadn’t spotted the problem. We hadn’t started trying to encourage all our staff to be tested and so on. But, anyway, he knew what he had.
When he died he actually left us some words which he sent to me and the person who looked after the lodge which simply said, “Let us work together as one to be proud of ourselves and have the same purpose in order to defeat our enemy. This is not a disease, but it is a war that is in Africa aiming to destroy our continent. I’m pleading with everyone reading this message to consider it and come out with something to help the nation. I am Donald, the affected one.” He died at 24.
Obviously things like that affect you and I think it had the right effect on me.
DULANY: Thank you.
Richard, I’ve been following The Elders which is an initiative that you founded that has touched me deeply when I hear about what it is that they’re doing around the world. Can you say a little bit about what brought you to that idea and how you see it operating in the world?
BRANSON: Well, it’s interesting sitting next to you, Zainab, on this one. As all of us were watching what looked like the inevitability of the Iraq War and the basic urge to get rid of Saddam Hussein I think you will agree was a good one. But, the idea of having to kill and maim 800,000 people in the process didn’t seem a good one. And, I just felt there must be another way in this day and age of getting rid of a leader that we don’t want, that the world doesn’t need. So we were trying to see whether we could think of another route to it.
Idi Amin had been persuaded to step down from Uganda and had lived his life in Saudi Arabia. And so, I spoke with Nelson Mandela who’d spoken out against the idea of the Iraq War, and asked if he would consider going to Iraq to try to persuade Saddam Hussein to go and live in Libya to avoid his people having to suffer and also so he could maybe leave with his head held high. And Mandela said he would go, but he wanted Kofi Annan to go with him. And we spoke with Kofi Annan, and he agreed to go.
And then, sadly, we sent the plane to South Africa the day they were due to go to see Saddam Hussein, the bombing started and the meeting never took place. But as a result of those discussions, Peter Gabriel and myself thought that maybe the world could do with a group of 12 women and men who had enormous moral authority in the world, who maybe were in the last 10, 15, 20 years of their lives who had, you know, put egos behind them, who had no axes to grind, but who collectively would be a much stronger unifying force than individually.
Mandela and Graça Machel and the Archbishop Tutu agreed to lead The Elders. The first 12 elders were chosen by Mandela and people like President Carter from here and Mary Robinson from Ireland and Ela Bhatt from India. An incredible group of people. They’ve been looking at conflict situations. When Kenya was falling apart, Kofi and Archbishop Tutu and Graça Machel went there and tried to get a coalition government formed. And then, behind the scenes in Zimbabwe, they’ve been trying to get the coalition government formed.
It is difficult to say “no” when those individuals collectively ring up and say they want to come and see you, or a number of them want to come and see you. And they’re also now speaking out on other issues they feel strongly about. For instance, all 12 of them feel extremely strongly that by the church not allowing women, - the Methodist Church, the Islamic Church, the Catholic Church, et cetera - by not allowing women into the clergy, that is setting an incredibly bad example, and that if you’re going to have true women’s rights you’ve got to start with the clergy. And so, they will speak out strongly on issues which, you know, some would view slightly controversially, but they feel very strongly about what is the right. They’re doing good work.
DULANY: Thank you, and thank you for starting it.
BRANSON: Thank you.
DULANY: It’s really an inspiration and I was especially struck by you’re saying that they don’t need their egos anymore.
DULANY: In our thinking about bridging leadership, that’s probably the first criterion to become a bridging leader is that you don’t carry your ego around in front of your face or next to your ears which prevents you from listening and actually really trying to understand what’s going on.
BRANSON: Yes, I think listening is one of the great attributes of being a good elder.
DULANY: Yes, no question.
BRANSON: There are some people in this room talking about collaboration. I think I saw Amy Robbins somewhere here, but there have been a lot of very generous people who’ve stepped in from day one and made it possible for The Elders to be completely independent of anybody and anything.
DULANY: Yes, thank you.
Zainab, I wanted to ask you about the flip side of what you do and whether you think the one could possibly lead to the other. You’ve been focusing on women who have been affected by conflict and war. Do you see the possibility - or how do you see the possibility because I’m sure you do - that the effects of your work with these women will at some point in the future help to prevent conflicts?
SALBI: I hope so. I absolutely, I hope so. But it depends on the reasons for conflicts. I do believe that women are literally the glue that keeps a society together, particularly in conflict and post conflict areas. And, if we go right into the heart of that and make that glue stronger, then we can prevent conflict, so to give you an example, food production as an example. Women are 70% of the farmers in the world. They produce about 66% of the food in the world and 90% of the food staples - rice and maize and things like that. They earn only 10% of the income and they own less than 2% percent of the land.
And so, there is something wrong with that issue, so that if you look at Darfur or different conflicts where there is a land issue in here and you have the women who are the majority of the ones who are farming it, but they have no say in it not financially and not legally, not ownership wise. And that what we’re trying to do is change that dynamic and say, “Well, we actually have to increase women’s control over land, and we have to increase their income, and we have to get their voices at the negotiating tables.”
And so for me, that’s how I see prevention of the conflict is that actually if you give women their room, their deserved room and their deserved space in that room, then whatever goes on in places like Darfur for example, then you do change the dynamics of it. So one of the things that we’re trying to do, the program entails the very basic principle that each woman sponsors one woman at a time. The sponsored women go through an intensive training program, an education program about her rights, her health, her education, her politics, votes, run for election, health, nutrition, all of these things to vocational and business skills that aims at getting her a job. So, do a market assessment, see what the local economy is really spending their money on and tailor these job skills for her.
One of the things that we are doing, and in the spirit of partnerships and all of that, is that we’re actually saying, “Okay, how do we change that dynamic as a way of conflict prevention?” So we are going to countries like Rwanda or Sudan, or even Congo where we are leasing land from 20 to 100 years from the governments for free, then teaching women organic farming and where they are having both sustenance farming for their own daily needs, but we also are distributing that land to women as a way of cooperatives. And here, the trick is that we’re finding commercial buyers for them.
And so, we’re hitting many birds with one stone. We’re increasing their income. Their income is doubling. It’s double the per capita income of that country. We’re having land control for them, and we’re having them have complete food. And that hits your question about - does that impact conflict? Yes, if they have more stability, yes, what happens to their children, we’re measuring are they sending their kids to school? You know, we cannot talk about the conflict in Congo if we are not addressing the fact that the rebels’ children are now teenagers and that we have to address what’s happening to these teenagers, or these children are angry at what happened at the killing of their father in front of them. And so, the way we do it to say, invest in women and stabilize lives through women and empower women, or give them the power that they deserve. And then we do believe that when they are stable they do bring the society together.
One last word on that - I really believe women are bellwether for the society. I believe violence often starts with women because we are simply, we’re like the kitchen door to a house, it’s when it enters, no one pays attention.
But, I also believe that progress starts with women and that leads to an ultimate stronger country when we invest in women.
Question & Answers with Audience
DULANY: There are so many other topics we could cover. I wanted to ask about youth, about entrepreneurs. But, I think what we’ll do is give the audience a chance to ask some questions and you could work in whatever answers you want. So Bob, would you be willing to….
DUNN: I’m here.
DUNN: Yes. I feel a little like Scrooge putting an end to this conversation, but we’d really like to invite you into the discussion. And there are staff with microphones in each of the aisles. What I’d like to do is just collect a handful of questions and then we’ll invite the folks on the stage to respond as they choose and can. So, is there anyone here who would like to affect the conversation that’s been taking place? You can just raise your hand and someone will come to you. Please, in the back?
DULANY: And if you could state your name please?
JED EMERSON: My name is Jed Emerson. Both the examples of The Elders and then your work really focus on individual to individual action and empowerment. How does that get translated up to systemic change and really challenging the unsustainability of capitalism and a whole host of other issues that really need to be addressed in a more kind of global systemic level in addition to one by one?
DUNN: Thanks, so how does -?
BRANSON: Should we just do it one at a time? I think it would be easier if you don’t mind.
SALBI: It’s easier.
DUNN: We’re very accommodating.
BRANSON: Okay. Well, capitalism is by no means perfect, and I suspect it’s actually good to sort of examine capitalism to see whether there’s a better form of capitalism and to look at company structures and to see whether companies should be set up to have laws and regulations that are not just profit driven, but there to help the environment, to help employees maybe cap what the highest person earns and the profits from companies. Maybe individuals shouldn’t get the vast amounts of money that they currently get, so I suspect that there needs to be an organization that re-looks at capitalism to see whether there’s another form of capitalism which still can incentivize people, but incentivize people in other positive ways apart from purely financially driven.
I think it’d be dangerous to sort of throw capitalism out all together because I think the alternative systems, Socialism, Communism just haven’t worked. But, I definitely think we should be open to examining Capitalism and seeing particularly after what’s happened the last few years and see if there’s a better way forward.
DUNN: Down in the front row….
SALBI: Do you mind if I take it?
DUNN: Do you want to comment?
SALBI: Yes, only because I agree with you actually. I think for change to happen we really need to address three layers of the discussion and one is the people who are impacted, and in my case it’s women. One is create a public mobilization which, in the case of women, I don’t think there is a public outrage at the injustice women are going through, and that there is the leadership. And to your point then, what do you do with the system? And to your point earlier of working within the system to try to adjust it and change it, and this is one of the things that Women for Women International has done.
The commercial farming, or the farming initiative that I just talked about, it’s a public-private- nonprofit partnership. The government leases the land, the commercial buyer who is just a commercial buyer is buying from thousands of women, and the nonprofit, and in this case us, is mobilizing not only individuals, but in mobilizing Bloomberg Family Foundation for example and a major investment in Women for Women.
We have a partnership with Kate Spade, you know, a high-end designer in America. And, the logo is, “our designs, her livelihood, your support.” You can buy her nice clothing and she’s employing 300 Bosnian women who are earning part-time more than a full-time average employee in Bosnia is earning. So there is a way to work actually both in partnership and in collaboration where you do take on people’s good will and try to adjust the system beyond the one-on-one connections.
DUNN: Down in front?
MAILMAN: Josh Mailman. Sir Richard, you’ve done more to sell more people more things than probably anybody in the world with the Virgin Brand on it. And, one of the things that Muhammad Yunus said about capitalism is that, capitalism is good, but then the poor people have to have access to capital. As a result he started Grameen Bank, really the popularizer of microcredit in the world. So I guess my question for you is, you’ve been incredibly successful branding so many things, what about a Virgin microcredit brand? Because, so many people would learn about microcredit if there was a Virgin label behind it in the spirit of Kiva in the United States.
BRANSON: Yes, I mean, well, I happen to agree with you. We have in Johannesburg a University of Entrepreneurship for kids that come out of the townships where we’re teaching them, as best you can, how to become entrepreneurs and then we’re offering seed money small amounts of money to them, but slightly larger than Muhammad Yunus does with his army of women and Ela Bhatt does in India with her army of women and then other people do around the world. But, you know, I’ve actually been talking to Jean at Virgin Unite because I think there’s still large tracts of the world, I mean, Morocco, lots which could do with - it’s such a successful formula. It should be rolled out throughout the world and I think we should do something more, so we will. Thank you.
DUNN: Two rows back here in the center and then off to the right.
DOUGLAS MELLINGER: Hi, my name is Doug Mellinger.
BRANSON: Hello, Doug.
MELLINGER How’s it going?
You know, if you look over the last 50 years and you look at most of the major measurements whether it’s in healthcare, education, poverty, climate, whatever it is, we’ve not made huge progress in many of the measurements we’re no better off or worse off. If you look at the environment and the systemic issues, you’ve got a million and a half, some people say 1.9 million organizations today, most of which are trying to work on big world problems operating like corner grocery stores.
You’ve got donors who are primarily spraying and praying where they’re not - they’re acting more charitable than they are philanthropic. And so, you have a system today with very little collaboration both amongst the donors as well as amongst the recipients. And so, I’d love to hear your thoughts upon the systemic issues that are out there as to how do we really start taking on some of these major problems? I mean, Richard, you’ve done a wonderful job of bringing together some of these donors to actually work in collaborative ways. Synergos is doing this. But, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how do we start doing this in a more scalable way? Because, each of the organizations are working with so few people today and most are not operating in this fashion.
DUNN: Zainab and Richard, perhaps both of you would like to comment.
BRANSON: Sorry. I think if business leaders who are good at setting up entrepreneurial businesses also spend some of their time looking at some of these problems and then using their entrepreneurial skills to see whether they can tackle some of these bigger problems in the world in a more efficient way than it’s been done in the past. I think more could be achieved. And also, not thinking that we’ll just leave it to the social sector, we’ll just leave it to the politicians to do.
On climate change, I mean, we felt there was a need for an organization to help coordinate the attack on carbon, carbon being the enemy. So, in Washington we set up something called the Carbon War Room with a fantastic team of people. It would be just like setting up another business, you know, an excellent Chairman in José María Figueres, an excellent, excellent Chief Executive in Jigar Shah. A fantastic team of people.
We’ve empowered them to then look at all the major industries, you know, shipping, aviation, you know, the IT industry, and then to look at like the major cities and go after, you know, gigatons of carbon which they think they can extract from these industries without damaging the industries. So, don’t attack the industries as some of the green movement does, but actually, you know again, embrace the industries, get them to work together to look for the most practical ways of dealing with a problem.
And so, in shipping, they’ve got Maersk and a whole lot of their big shipping companies together. They’ve got them to agree to start registering the ships based on either the environment or the efficiency and how well they’re performing. And then, they’re talking to the ports about giving preference to those ships that are environmentally friendly. If they’re completely unfriendly, you know, they may go as far as saying they can’t come into the port, but trying to use the carrot rather than the stick as much as possible.
With cities they’re trying to arrange financing with banks to try to help cities aimed towards getting 30, 40, 50 % more environmentally friendly buildings, and so on and so on. But, they’re taking very much a business approach to the problem. And, I think that a lot of the big problems in the world, if one takes that approach, one might be able to be more systematic in getting on top of these problems and try to coordinate all the wonderful organizations that are working on these problems then just leaving lots of little organizations which are doing their thing.
SALBI: Here are, if I may, a few things. All the crises that you have mentioned and all the issues that you have mentioned, women are probably disproportionately impacted by all of them. And yet, one cent out of every dollar is actually invested in girls. So, there’s absolutely a disconnect between the fact that there’s the majority of people impacted, it’s actually most efficient to invest in them. They’re getting the least and they’re doing the most with that money - women and girls - and that they are completely marginalized from resources and decision making. So, I really do believe that for once we really do need to engage women at the core of it because they’re basically impacted the most - one.
Second is, we’re probably living in an era in which we are starting much more collaboration than we ever had. And you are right, that we hadn’t had that much collaboration. And when I say we, it’s not only the nonprofit sector, it is the time where the nonprofit needs and is cooperating, it’s probably the beginning part of it with the for-profit sector.
The examples I mentioned, for me, it is about - how do we accomplish our goals which ultimately, we’re trying to get women get jobs with good income so they can send all their kids to school and go to the hospitals in conflict and post-conflict areas. How can we accomplish our goals? But, by really talking to the private sector in a serious way, not in an investment way, not in a charitable way to deal with our skill and our efficiency and all the models that you are talking about.
The partnership that I talked about with Kate Spade for example, is one of these things that’s trying to accomplish our goals as well as your goals.
I think we are living in an era in which there is much more of a beginning of a dialogue. I would say we are in the early phase of it, not in the middle of the phase of it - of really looking at things together, not thinking that “nonprofit” social means only these impacts, and “for-profit” means impact. We all need to measure our impact in a measurable way, you know? What happens socially, but also economically? What’s the impact of our collaboration? So I do think there is a lot of movement in that discussion.
BRANSON: It is interesting. I mean, microfinance is obviously working dramatically, but I’m not sure there’s any microfinance organization that gives money just to men. I think - well, almost every single one of them, it’s armies of women and they’ve found that when they have tried doing it with men, it just hasn’t worked that well. So, hopefully the microfinance will address the balance somewhat I think.
SALBI: Well, if you don’t mind, there are two things actually. One is, how do we engage it more?
SALBI: When we talk about development and social change in the context of the other world - I hate to call it the third world - we are not engaging them and generally. And I think the engagement of men to stop violence against women and to increase education of women and girls is vital. And I’m in that stage of my life where I actually feel so bad that the fact that we’re not reaching out.
To give you an example, we have a men’s training in Congo where we say, “In order to change we not only need to service the women directly, but we need to service men in leadership positions.” And we have a program called if you want to be a good leader you need to understand what 60% of your population are saying, and that is women.
And the one that changed my attitude about how do we really need to invest much more in reaching out to men was a military commander. Now in Congo hundreds of thousands of women are getting raped every single day as we speak today. And there is this military commander and he says, “Before I entered this program every time I entered another man’s house and I had a gun and he didn’t have a gun I never thought twice about raping his wife. I always raped his wife until I got HIV, until I had learned I could get HIV and that I could die and I could kill my family and half of my soldiers would die.”
And he, as a result, punishes any soldier who would rape, and he forbade them from raping. So he moved from a military commander who was saying, “That’s part of it,” to someone saying, “Absolutely not because you could die out of HIV.” And that gives the example - now, it’s very pragmatic decisionmaking, but that man actually evolved into very moral decision making eventually.
But, to your point about men, we do need to actually look into a much more proactive engagement of men in the context that we’re working in, not as only the bad guys who are causing a lot of these problems, but also as part of the solutions. And the second part I wanted to say is, microfinance is a great model, but it is not the only model. And we have to look - and one of the things as a group that does microfinance in both Afghanistan and in Bosnia - what the challenge is we really do need to look at greater market access to women, and we do need to look at women who are not entrepreneurs. Not every woman is an entrepreneur. Not every man is an entrepreneur, and that we really have got to look into those who want the nine-to-five jobs, and that we have to find diversity of options. And microcredit is an amazing model that worked.
My worry is that it’s one way and it doesn’t fit all sizes, and that we really need to look at opening the market opportunities for all women and men in order to really move out of poverty.
DUNN: I know there are many more questions in the audience and I regret that it’s not possible to engage with our guests in this plenary session. However, for those of you who are new, one of the aspects of University for a Night that’s distinct is that you’ve had a chance to select topics of interest, and we’re going to adjourn in a moment, head to dinner and interesting conversation that always leads to the exchange of knowledge and experience, and often, opportunities for people to identify ways to collaborate.
But first, I hope you’ll join me in thanking our guests for such a lively and informative conversation. Thank you.
We thank our honorees and Peggy. And we look forward to lively conversation over dinner. Thanks so much.