By: Matthew Swift, Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO, Concordia
In the wise words of Secretary Rumsfeld, “Learn to say ‘I don’t know.’ If used when appropriate, it will be often.” As an organization, Concordia has learned to say these words consistently as we have worked to adapt to these uncertain times. Although it has been a long and arduous process, Concordia has been able to continue the cross-sector collaboration that we are known for. We have learned to move the organization to a digital format, and reach audiences that we have not before, merely through the leveraging of digital technology. Public-private collaboration is critical to finding solutions to problems resulting from COVID-19. Collaboration and cooperation across the public and private sectors is required for the global community to find sources of light amid the pandemic and the many challenges it presents.
Across the world people are looking for leadership and guidance, but with governments and businesses alike struggling to maintain functionality and effectiveness, collaboration across sectors, industries, and geographies is key. As a nonprofit dedicated to fueling this very type of collaboration, this is the role Concordia plays most proudly.
Centered in New York City, Concordia strives to create a global community where challenges are solved collaboratively and inclusively.
Concordia was founded in 2011 by myself and my best friend, Nick Logothetis, in the midst of the 10th anniversary of September 11th, to explore the role of public-private partnerships in combating global extremism. We are most known for our Annual Summit, which takes place each September and brings together global C-suite and non-profit executives, politicians, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders to spark dialogue, inspire change, and transform conversation into action.
What stands us apart, in many ways, from other social impact-focused organizations is our Department of Partnership Development, which leverages the conversations we host into future partnerships. By strengthening and growing the partnership ecosystem, we firmly believe that we can achieve real social impact. Concordia is a member-based organization, with our community made up of Fortune 500 companies, leading nonprofits, and government and public sector organizations. Led by our Leadership Council and strong board of Advisors, we have built an advisory board-type group that includes CEOs, non-profit leaders, and former heads of state that advises on strategy, programming implementation, and partnership building.
Over the past 10 years, Concordia has grown more than I could have ever imagined. Where the inaugural Annual Summit in 2011 featured only 17 speakers and a handful of attendees, most recently the 2019 Annual Summit featured over 300 speakers, over 3,500 attendees, and over 50 partner institutions. We have developed a strong membership program, which includes nearly 100 patron member organizations. We have hosted regional summits in Spain, Greece, Colombia, and Miami and we have recently launched the Concordia Africa Initiative with the hope of hosting a Summit on the continent in 2021.
What has helped Concordia grow over the years is the development of our partnership, sponsorship, and membership programs. Concordia works with world-renowned think tanks, non-profits, and private sector entities to amplify and grow each summit’s programming. These groups are the knowledge experts on a wide range of topics, and Concordia is the platform upon which these great ideas can be amplified. Concordia works with these partners to make sure that the most pressing challenges to effective public-private cooperation are being adequately addressed.
Concordia has had the privilege of collaborating with the Rumsfeld Foundation on several occasions. I had the pleasure of interviewing Secretary Rumsfeld, himself, on his private and public-sector work at our 2016 Annual Summit, where he emphasized the importance of collaboration. He also shared an important message around how the U.S. can achieve greater democracy: “Democracy can work, but it can only work if people understand what’s going on, are willing to engage and participate, and use their best judgement as to where they want to be supportive.”
Concordia also hosted a reception in New York City for a group of the Rumsfeld Foundation’s Central Asia-Caucasus Fellows in October 2018. Several of these Fellows, as well as some of the Foundation’s Graduate Fellows, have attended Concordia Summits over the years. One of our team members, Paul Roveda, also participated in the Rumsfeld Foundation CAMCA Regional Forum in Baku. We are so proud to work with an organization that places such an emphasis on leadership and public service—qualities that are more important today than ever before.
Concordia has adapted quickly and flexibly to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our team has worked tirelessly to ensure the organization is well placed to become fully digital, while continuing to prioritize the critical conversations that we are known for. These conversations have ensured that Concordia will remain an incredible platform for cross-sector collaboration, and I could not be more proud. In the words of Secretary Rumsfeld himself, “The success of an organization will depend on the people you surround yourself with.”
We have established a webinar series designed to highlight innovative partnerships that are supporting the global response to today’s pandemic. While COVID-19 has hindered the ability to come together physically, it is important to recreate the connection points of in-person gatherings to the best of our ability in a digital setting. We’re also in the process of rolling out the Concordia Action Alliance, a body of organizations dedicated to addressing disaster response and resilience.
In response to the reignited conversations around racial injustice in the U.S., we recently released a five-step plan detailing how we can contribute to creating a more just and equitable society. Racial injustice will be one of this year’s programming focal points at the Annual Summit. In this time, we must all come together to both oppose and actively fight all forms of racism, intolerance, and bigotry.
This year marks Concordia’s 10th anniversary, and we are excited to be holding the 10th Annual Summit in a digital capacity from September 21-25. Expected to be our largest gathering to date, we look forward to providing the leading global platform for leaders to engage, debate, and collaborate and, ultimately, to create lasting solutions to the unprecedented issues facing the planet today.
I am so proud of what we have accomplished over the past 10 years, and know that Concordia will continue to provide a platform for those difficult, but necessary, conversations our world is in dire need of during this turbulent time.