George Sifakis: Welcome. Welcome to Ideagen, ideas leader radio. Today we have with us an exclusive Ideagen interview with one of the 2016 Power 100, UN Foundation President and CEO, Kathy Calvin.
Kathy Calvin: Welcome to you! Looking forward to it.
George: It’s a tremendous honor and pleasure, especially based on all of the incredible things you’re doing at the foundation, beginning with your bio. My goodness.
First of all, it’s important to note that you’re an advocate. You’re a storyteller. You’re a champion for girls. You’re a motorcycle rider as a side kick, if you may, not the driver but the passenger, correct?
Kathy : Correct. I have the lucky place on the back seat.
George: That’s so cool, and also equally importantly, a tri-sector athlete. Kathy’s career has spanned across all sectors and walks of life including public, private and non-profit work. Kathy was made CEO by the UN Foundation Board in 2009 and President in 2013, which has been instrumental for advancing support for the UN mission as well as an advocate for public and private sector partnerships to bring about solutions to issues plaguing the world.
As the President and CEO of the foundation, Kathy works to bring about the inclusion of women into all sectors and opportunities across the globe. To work at the helm of the foundation advocate of the UN and connects people, ideas and resources form all over to help the UN on its many humanitarian missions. Being a public charity with partners, the foundation’s work is committed to decreasing child mortality and to creating a clean energy future using mobile technology and development in improving U.S. and UN relations.
Kathy has received numerous awards and recognition for her philanthropic work including named to Newsweek’s 150 women who changed the world in 2011 and in 2012. Kathy’s on the board of International Woman’s Media Foundation and plays an active role in empowering women via her innovation and leadership.
Kathy, I could go on with the unabridged version of your bio, but that would take up the entire interview spot and there’s so much important work to talk about that you’re working on.
Kathy : Well thanks, let’s dig right in.
George: Absolutely. Kathy, describe if you may the UN Foundation’s unique mission and your work within the international community.
Kathy : You know, it is a unique mission and it took a unique guy, Ted Turner, to recognize that there was a need for a UN Foundation. It didn’t exist in 1997 when he had the bold audacious idea to make a billion, with a “b,” dollar contribution towards the UN.
At the time he did it, it was before Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and audacious philanthropy, Sean Parker and all the people who have come since to make a really big difference with their philanthropy by thinking big and impacting a major institution, and what he wanted to do was to help the UN by ensuring that the U.S. always paid its dues on time and in full, so we do UN lobbying.
He wanted to make sure that lots of partners from all sectors could work with the UN and enhance the effectiveness around the world. He really believed that average individuals, whether you’re a world leader or a billionaire or a 9 year-old kid could get involved with making a difference as a global citizen, and he wanted to make that possible.
It’s unique and the UN calls us at various times to help them and we take that seriously and we’re honored to be able to share that name with the UN and do that. We try to be like Ted Turner, innovative and bold, and using the power of communication to tell the story about what the UN does around the world.
George: That’s certainly one incredible commitment and certainly Ted Turner’s vision and boldness is something that I think we all on the planet now appreciate based on all of the impact you have made in such a relatively short period of time.
I must also introduce today our team, Sabrina Parisi.
Sabrina: Hi, nice to speak with you.
George: ... and Ben Hatchet.
Sabrina: I do really find it interesting that you say his goal was to be innovative and bold, and so is the UN Foundation. Going off of that inspired you to join the UN Foundation?
Kathy : Well, I hadn’t worked in the non-profit sector and when Ted and the former president Tim Wirth invited me to join, I thought, “Wow. What do I know? What could I bring?”
I’m not a foreign policy expert, but in the end what inspired me was that I could see something big was happening in the non-profit sector. It was really becoming the place to be ... lots of innovation, lots of exciting opportunities to engage and make a difference. I thought the UN was the biggest brand around and would be a really interesting place to try to promote the partnership idea which was just becoming an idea at the time, about 15 years ago.
Lastly, I realized that one of my strengths and assets is that I’m pretty good at translating. At AOL I translated the new internet world to non-techies. When I was in politics I translated the candidates views to voters.
I love that I can help translate what the UN does on a daily basis to save lives and keep girls in school and ensure refugees have assistance. Those are very important things to be able to tell people about, so I love that opportunity to help change the world by helping translate what’s going on and coming up with ideas and opportunities for people to be part of it.
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