What is the Brave Leaders Project?
Jessica has extensive experience in nonprofit management and journalistic writing. She is currently developing a platform for nonprofits to collaborate on community projects through data-driven matching. She is the Chief Communications Officer of GreyBox, a nonprofit based in Montreal that provides wifi network technology and data management services by partnering with social businesses, entrepreneurs and innovation projects to minimize the technological gap felt marginalized communities. She has worked with several social good startups at the incubator phase in Montreal.
Some of her previous employment includes working for EEM on the community consultation process of resource projects in Eeyou Itschee in Northern Quebec, Thunder Bay, Chapleau in Ontario, and in Guinea. She worked with the Grand Council of the Crees, the Métis Nation of Ontario, and the First Nations Councils of Shibogama and Windigo. She also participated first hand in the drafting of a social and environmental impact assessment (ESIA) and resettlement action plan (RAP) mandated by the IFC and the World Bank, a social baseline study, and stakeholder engagement plans. She also worked at the McGill University Office of Sustainability, where she was in charge of developing a monitoring and reporting framework for benchmarking sustainability performance at McGill, for which she received a Faculty of Arts Internship Award.
Margareta Barchan is an entrepreneur who has started several successful companies and foundations, always with a focus on the human side of change and an emphasis on environmental and social responsibility.
Her work and her studies have taken her around the world and given her a global perspective that she draws on every day. She is a co-founder, past president and CEO of Celemi International, a global learning design company. Her efforts to grow Celemi earned her the title of Sweden’s Business Woman of the Year. She also currently serves as the director on several corporate boards and nonprofit committees, and her work monitoring and measuring intangible assets has been widely published.
She is an affiliate professor in Sustainability at the Lorange Institute of Business in Zurich, and in Leadership & Management at Business School Lausanne (BSL). She holds an MSC from HEC Paris, and is a graduate of advanced studies in Corporate Social Responsibility from the University of Geneva, as well as from Harvard Business School and Oxford University.
Can you tell me a bit about yourselves and how this led to starting the Brave Leaders project?
Margareta: I have been teaching for a long time. I came to realize that people tend to say that they are doing so much when it comes to the future, whether it be for example to address pollution or equal pay for the same job, but in reality, it was more talk than real action. It made me decide that in my last phase of my professional life, I want to give back to society. There are some real brave leaders who stand behind their values, beliefs and knowledge, whose stories should be shared. I envision the future new leaders continuing this tradition, standing up for what they know is the right thing to do.
Jessica: I come from a family of activists, academics, and doctors and so I’ve been surrounded by people who have a strong sense of social duty. I’ve therefore always felt this strong responsibility to devote my professional life to meaningful work. When I met Margareta, Brave Leaders presented itself as a unique opportunity to find and showcase the stories and experiences of the people in our society who are making a huge difference, who are devoting their lives to meaningful work. I see Brave Leaders as a way of enlarging this community of socially-minded and passionate people.
Can you explain in one sentence, what the Brave Leaders project means to you?
Margareta: It is about the future- gathering courage and caring for the future
Jessica: Changemakers from all ages and all backgrounds going against the grain and relentlessly pursuing what they believe in despite other people telling them they will fail.
What does “Brave” mean to you?
Margareta: Someone who is going against the norms and decisions made by the board, the general opinion in society, or whoever is opposing them. Someone who has the courage to stand up and go against the tide. Bravery manifests itself as having the maturity and confidence to act on it.
Jessica: You believe in yourself and what you stand for and have the patience and drive to pursue it despite everyone else telling you that it’s impossible.
What does ‘sustainability’ mean to you today? Do you think it has kept its intended meaning?
Margareta: I tend to not use the word that much anymore because people equate it just with environmentalism. But sustainability has to do with long-term goals to sustain everything for the future. Sustainability is still important as a term because of the implications for the next generation. The decisions you make in your daily activities are what generate sustainability or not.
Jessica: What I initially learned about sustainability back in university has now lost its intended meaning. It’s become a blanket buzzword and an extension of the environmental movement, but it’s not quite just that. I think it’s important to educate people on how sustainability applies to current day issues, and to be aware of its evolution from the UN term “sustainable development’ to today’s pursuit of sustainability.
What to you is the biggest differentiator of today’s leadership?
Margareta: Many leaders have an ego and think of themselves and their next step in their career. The big differentiator is the desire to serve and be part of a bigger assignment. When you as a leader have enough self-confidence to think of others before yourself.
Jessica: With today’s decentralized IT technology, anyone can start a social movement, and this access to knowledge and expertise allows for more people to take part in social projects. It empowers people because this access gives them the information that allows them to be leaders. Access to information and resources differentiates leaders today. It’s not just the elite and people in power in formal institutions that have leadership roles now; more grassroots and bottom-up initiatives can thrive.
What are your hopes for the younger generation of leaders?
Margareta: I know that millennials are very connected to their core family, but they also have a huge network. The younger generations to me demonstrate that they do not accept things the way they are and they have a unique opportunity to help and stand up for what they believe in. Millennials know they will be affected if people continue to live the way they are now.
Jessica: I’m very hopeful about the younger generation of leaders. I rarely meet millennials who are disinterested in the subject. I hope they stay motivated and don’t renounce their dreams. One of my biggest inspirations is my 97 year-old grandfather who is still an optimist and until very recently, a social activist despite enduring hardships and confronting challenges throughout his life. If he is still an optimist today, then I see no reason why the younger generation cannot be optimistic as well.
What is your biggest goal with the Brave Leaders project and what would you like its legacy to be?
Margareta: My biggest goal is to inspire young leaders with the stories we share. I will be satisfied with the fact that we attempted to bring stories to young people who need encouragement to pursue their leadership goals.
Jessica: My biggest goal is to inspire ongoing and real change. I hope that the stories we showcase will help connect our readers to the leaders whom we interview and their projects, and will show them the way forward to initiating or continuing their own personal and professional projects.