With the new year quickly upon us, Matthew Swift, Concordia’s Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO, sits down to reflect on the key moments in what was a transformative year for Concordia, and explains how the organization is more poised than ever to foster, elevate, and sustain partnerships for social impact in 2018.
What has been your proudest moment of 2017?
Oh gosh, it’s difficult to pinpoint it to one thing! Firstly, I’m incredibly proud of how quickly and ably Concordia expanded its reach through overseas Summits in 2017. In February, we held our first-ever international convening in Bogotá, Colombia, during which we explored critical issues affecting the country and region more broadly. The Summit marked the first convening in five years that brought together the current President of the Republic of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, as well as former Presidents Álvaro Uribe Vélez and Andrés Pastrana Arango. Featuring three heads of state representing starkly different viewpoints on often polarizing national and regional issues marked a defining moment for Colombia, so it meant a great deal. I’m also very proud of the fact that we were able to hold our inaugural Europe Summit in Athens, Greece in June in a moment of uncertainty for the region given the political shifts in power, Brexit, and the migration crisis.
The second part, I would say, has been our ability to find our footing in this feeling of “radical inclusivity”: the idea that we are striving to be radically inclusive, that we are elevating the underdog, and that we are continually working to give power and a platform to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to this. This means a great deal to us and it’s exciting to watch this work come to fruition.
What was the most impactful partnership that Concordia was involved in in 2017, and why, in your opinion?
I would have to say the partnership between IKEA Foundation and The Home Project—that’s a very important one—and I am immensely proud that we hosted leadership from both organizations at our Europe Summit in Athens. The Home Project is working to provide shelter, education, and employment for unaccompanied youth refugees across Athens, and the partnership with IKEA will enable The HOME Project to double the scope of its work with the opening of five more shelters, allowing it to care for more than 200 children in secure environments.
I was also really touched that we were able to serve as the platform at our Annual Summit in New York for the announcement of the partnership between Mastercard and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Concordia helped bring these two organizations together three years ago when it became apparent that the HIV/AIDS epidemic was spreading to young women.
How is the current political climate shaping Concordia’s work?
Against the backdrop of an increasingly partisan world, we believe that partnerships and inclusivity are key to a prosperous future. I think that today—more than ever before—it’s apparent how powerful our convenings are to every element of the work we do, whether it be about raising awareness of global issues or facilitating partnerships. Each of our efforts to achieve social impact are born from the convenings that we host.
And what’s unique about Concordia is that we aim to curate a safe environment for all parties to come together and operate in. I fully appreciate the sensitivity around politics, and that’s why Concordia has always adopted a pragmatic approach to politics, with a genuine sense of nonpartisanship. The issues that we face today are so important that it’s critical for people from all perspectives and backgrounds to come and sit at the table.
What’s up next for Concordia in 2018?
Well, a number of very exciting things. First, is the rollout of our new partnering work—more information on this will be coming very soon. Second, is next steps as it relates to Concordia Americas. Third, is that we’re continuing our growth as the largest and most inclusive convening forum on the sidelines of the UNGA, and so building on that is really exciting. The 2018 Concordia Annual Summit will be our largest and most inclusive gathering to date, and I’m excited about the new voices that we’re bringing to the table and the old partners that are returning to double down on their commitment to creating positive social impact through partnerships.
What are the biggest challenges ahead?
Scale is always going to be a challenge, but it’s a challenge that I embrace because it’s a topic I’m very passionate about. Our membership has grown substantially, especially our patron membership, and continuing to scale this growth in our membership community is a challenge, but one I’m ready for and excited about. Our membership community is incredibly important to us and allows for voices from every sector and level to be heard. Bringing these individuals and organizations together to build partnerships for social impact is at the very core of our existence.
I would also say that I love that we’re a small team. We’re a small, entrepreneurial, hungry team, but one thing that will always pose a challenge when you’re covering a number of big topics is prioritization. So this year we will strive to make sure we are consistently making the right decisions in terms of prioritization, so that we can achieve the greatest social impact possible.
To learn more, take a look at Concordia’s 2018 Calendar of Events.