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Cooking up Peace, Hope & Impact in Colombia

Craig Zelizer

May 13, 2019

For the next two days I am fortunate to be attending the Concordia Americas Summit. This is a unique gathering of over 1500 people from around the world (mostly from Latin and NorthAmerica  but from countries as far away as Nigeria) who gather in a non-partisan and non-political environment to engage in deep dialogue and foster collective action around some of the key global challenges facing the world.

I am a huge believer in the importance of stepping outside of one’s comfort zone and often too narrow sectoral focus to engage in debate, dialogue and learning with people from diverse sectors. The Concordia Summit is an ideal format as the foundation of the event and network is fostering connections and action. While I certainly don’t agree with the political views of some of the participants, it is an important place to engage and learn. I will be posting a few short posts from the event which gather current and former political leaders, entrepreneurs, civil society actors, media and many more. I also hope to do some interviews on PCDN’s media channels (FB or Twitter Live) with inspiring people who I meet.

The opening session featured the co-founders of CONCORDIA Nicholas M. Logothetis and Matthew A. Swift discussing their vision for the summit and the background of the organization. They started in 2011 with a goal of actively fostering, elevating, and sustaining cross-sector partnerships for social impact.

The impressive opening speaker was Juan Manuel Barrientos Valencia, the Chef and Owner of ElCielo restaurant. Since opening his first restaurant about a decade ago he has expanded to 15 locations (soon to open in Washington, DC).  A strong part of his business  includes working closely with communities in a participatory manner to help foster social impact. He setup a foundation that is doing amazing that has trained over 600 people in cooking and nonviolence. They work with ex-combatants from all background, single mother led households, indigenous populations and more. It is hard but inspiring work putting together the richness of Colombian and international cuisine to provide tangible skills and job opportunities. 

One of the coolest things I learned is the restaurant puts 30% of its profits into the foundation to help foster sustainable programming and impact. Juan didn’t wait til his restaurant was successful to start his social impact work, it has been embedded since its early days.

Imagine of all businesses put social impact as the forefront of their work, both in terms of how they source their materials, how they engage communities and that a substantial portion of profit is invested in growing the skills of others. What a wonderful work it would be.

Stay tuned for more updates from CONCORDIA19 and look forward to seeing what new ideas & actions are cooked up this week.

For more on El Cielo’s foundation see http://elcielorestaurant.com/us/index.php/foundation

For more on Concordia (and to watch some of the sessions live-streamed) https://www.concordia.net/annualsummit/2019annualsummit/


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