Having joined Concordia in 2013 and followed its journey from the very early stages, our Events Manager, Jon Benítez, has a unique perspective on how the organization has grown in different dimensions, as well as interesting insights into the team’s efforts to promote and position Concordia’s work to its members, partners, and event attendees.
You joined Concordia in 2013, when the organization was just beginning its journey. What’s your perspective on Concordia’s evolution over the past five years?
Concordia’s growth has been exponential, and also strategic. In that sense, the organization— from a personnel standpoint—has grown from 5 people to 15, and this process has been organic. We have made sure that our growth has been sustainable, while also keeping an eye on the fact that we are a non-profit, and that we optimize our resources. What we have been able to produce with 15 people has been a testament to the job we have done in recruiting. We have hired a ton of talented people along the way, which is evidenced not only in the daily management of the organization, but also in the way our events are hosted and developed.
In your opinion, what is the main difference between planning and developing a marketing strategy at a for-profit company and a non-profit organization, such as Concordia?
Concordia takes a different approach in the way it operates: the organization’s strategy is mission-driven and goal-oriented, given that it is led from an entrepreneurial standpoint. While private organizations are focused on making a profit, Concordia is focused on enhancing its mission, and I think that is reflected in our growth—from both a social media angle as well as from a brand awareness side of things. During my time here, Concordia has grown from holding a summit with 300 people to now hosting the largest covening on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, which last year welcomed 2,500 people. This is partly due to the fact that we are able to effectively communicate our mission and our value add, with both remaining at the forefront of our work.
Acting as the space in which we showcase our work, our events are our main way of presenting Concordia’s value. It’s a very tangible thing: if someone is familiar with Concordia and attends our Summit, this person sees that we are a mission-based organization that is trying to achieve social impact across several different fields. Moreover, our strategic dialogue format clearly highlights the benefits of our membership, bringing together individuals in a high-level room that wouldn’t otherwise have access to such a setting. This ties in directly with our mission to create an inclusive community, convening people from many different backgrounds and economic levels. Actually, I used to get comments from Young Professionals who never thought they would be in the same room as a Head of State because of how expensive that exposure would be and how difficult it would be to organize, and I think Concordia bridges that gap.
How does Concordia approach the organization of its events in order to make them engaging, effective, and action-oriented?
One of the premises we have at Concordia is that in everything we do we take a holistic approach. So, the first question we always ask when it comes to producing an event is ‘What is the goal?’ We highlight this objective and then explore how our event can complement those goals. That is how we started with our strategic dialogue model. We wanted a more inclusive and engaging experience for members, and started brainstorming how we could have people participate in an engaging conversation. Our strategic dialogues have been very successful, and we’ve even seen other conferences adopt this model! So, I’d say having an open, honest conversation with the entire team is what enables us to develop our events in a creative and unique way. Concordia does a great job of allowing everyone to share their thoughts and ideas.
How does your passion for mission-driven initiatives relate to your daily activities at Concordia? What do you feel is your personal mission at the organization?
I have been with Concordia for almost 5 years, and during that time I have worn many hats in the organization, from communications and marketing to logistics and membership, among other roles. So I like to think that, in a way, I have a few arms in different areas of the organization that are all working together through events and mission-driven initiatives. We have taken the organization from a point where our events were free but invitation-only, to becoming a member-based organization, giving us a more sustainable funding model while also involving people that are invested in our mission. I am proud of how we’ve elevated Concordia’s brand, raising awareness of our work to people who might not have known about us and turning this into a partnering potential. We’ve seen the results of this over the last two to three years in particular—not just through our social media presence, but also in terms of international expansion through events in Athens, Greece and Bogotá, Colombia.
I would say that my personal mission is to support the team. When I joined Concordia as an intern, I very much molded myself into what the organization needed at the time, but my mission has always been to help the organization grow to where I think it can grow. Concordia is at the precipice of really taking off and having profound social impact, and a lot of the hard work during the past five years has got us to this point. So, my mission is to support that cause, and also help the team realize the potential of working together towards a shared objective.
You hold a double citizenship in the US and Colombia; regarding the current political situation in Colombia, what, in your opinion, will be the impact of Concordia’s initiatives in the country?
I take a huge amount of pride in Concordia’s work in Colombia, given my roots there. I think the Americas Initiative in Colombia will have profound impact on a local level, again going back to the theme of inclusivity. At our previous Concordia Americas Summit 2017 in Bogotá, we were able to give a voice to folks that would not have otherwise have been heard, and I think that is a huge element of Concordia: bridging the gap between stakeholders. For example, if you’re missing that student or that nonprofit in the conversation, it’s not going to be as effective as it could be. So, having Concordia give a voice to those who would otherwise not be heard is what will have the most impact for me.
To learn more about the 2018 Concordia Americas Initiative, click here.