Fellows On Moral Courage At The Skoll World Forum
“Moral courage comes with the joining of mind and the joining of the heart.” - Hildegard Vasquez
In our relentless pursuit of the possible, the journey toward change can be slow, unkind, and personally demanding. Cynics may question, challengers may contest, broken systems may resist. It takes bold leadership and courage to sustain us.
In a session titled "This Isn’t Easy: A Seminar on Exercising Moral Courage" AGLN Fellows and John P. McNulty Prize Laureates opened up a unique space at the Skoll World Forum to discuss their leadership journey’s and how they maintain the courage to drive forward with conviction.
The session, moderated by Hildegard Vasquez (Central America Leadership Initiative), featured a conversation with Brett Jenks (Catto Fellowship), Mehrdad Baghai (Henry Crown Fellowship), and Réjane Woodroffe (Africa Leadership Initiative – South Africa) on pivotal moments that tested their leadership. Each had their own take what guides them in the face of challenge.
“Sometimes the easy part is what to do, and you can get caught up in it. But what really sustains you through the tough times, is the why. Keeping in tune with why you do something.” – Réjane Woodroffe
Réjane founded Bulungula Incubator (BI), a non-profit organization which “incubates” development in four communities in South Africa. When she first arrived, villages had extremely limited access education, basic services such as water and electricity, or nutritious food for sustainable livelihood. BI seeks to address these challenges in a systematic way and has now built the infrastructure to do so, while preserving the positive traditional values and structures that exist in these villages. You can learn more about her story in her McNulty Foundation leadership case study.
Mehrdad reflected on how he made the courageous leap to leave the business world and go “all in” on his venture, High Resolves. High Resolves inoculates young people against racism and hatred through transformational learning experiences in and outside of the classroom. After founding the organization with his wife Roya in 2005, he split his time in the business world and the growing the program. Eventually, he reached a pivotal moment.
“Following a lot of in the incidence of hate in the world… I felt like a fraud. On the one hand, I was talking about [High Resolves] being so important, but, had I really believed that it is the most important thing I can do, why am I not all in?” he said on the panel. “If we are really coming from a place of integrity, then [I needed to] walk away. Which is what I did."
Mehrdad stepped into running High Resolves full-time and the program now operates around the world. Learn more about Mehrdad’s work with High Resolves and hear more about his story in his McNulty Foundation leadership case study.
Hear more from the Fellows and watch the full panel conversation below.
After the panel, the Fellows moderated seminar-style conversations for breakout groups of session participants where all were encouraged to reflect on questions around the role of moral courage in their life and work. These dialogues were guided by the classic reading The Seven of Pentacles by Marge Piercy. This combined with the historic backdrop of the Rhodes House in Oxford, gave Skoll participants a glimpse into the magic of an Aspen-style seminar.
To connect and learn more about the inspiring Fellows that led this session, click on their profiles below:
- Jacqueline Novogratz, Acumen, Henry Crown Fellow
- Mehrdad Baghai, Co-Founder & CEO of High Resolves, Henry Crown Fellow
- Brett Jenks, President & CEO of RARE & Fish Forever, Catto Fellow
- Hildegard Vasquez, President of Fundación Calicanto & Head Architect at Hache Uve, S.A., Central America Leadership Initiative Fellow
- Réjane Woodroffe, Co-Founder & Director of Bulungula Incubator, Africa Leadership Initiative – South Africa Fellow
This is the second year the AGLN and McNulty Foundation has put on an ecosystem event at the Skoll World Forum. Find out more about the World Forum here.