I am only half kidding with that title, which is Webster dictionary’s definition of “conviviality”. After more than 30 years as a serial social entrepreneur founding and co-founding nonprofit organizations to improve the wellbeing of people and the planet, I have decided to include more fun. That means, folks, doing more feasting and drinking in merry company while making a difference. What is more, I want you all to join me in doing so.
My new career path emerged from all-day career workshop in my living room, which felt more like psycho-therapy than career guidance. A top notch facilitator compiled information from answers to her probing questions by my painfully honest friends gathered in the room with me. They happily shared their negative (a bit more than necessary, I thought) and positive impressions of me based on years of experience.
- I am a great host and I thrive on sensory stimulation that includes food and wine (no surprises there);
- I should never work in a corporation for many reasons including I wouldn’t meet the dress code;
- I enjoy creating and maintaining connections with people who share my passion and devotion to being a change agent;
- I am too self-critical and I will never be Gandhi or 40 years of age again—so get over it.
- I love learning from those who are operating at the cutting edge in the field of sustainability and relational thinking
The findings from that day eventually led to the Cultural Innovations Agency, my new nonprofit, and our first initiative—Operation Bon Appetit dedicated to “Changing the World One Dinner Party at a Time”. With conviviality as a centerpiece for our work, we will focus on creative and successful activities taking place in hometowns around the country that are making life better for people and the planet. Our goal is to build a strong online presence via our website and social media with limitless resources that connect folks and offer hope, encouragement and a template for enlightening, fun and delicious dinner parties to inspire conversations and engagement in positive change activities.
In a few weeks, I am embarking on the trip of a lifetime to capture on video the stories of passionate people around the country, who are making their dreams for a better community and world a reality. Stories from people like:
- Hamid Chaundry, Pakistani immigrant, who adopted his hometown of Kenhorst, PA where he shares the profits of his Diary Queen 50/50 with individuals in need and community organizations so that he only covers his costs.
- Reverend Sally Bingham, President and Founder of California Interfaith Power & Light, where she has brought widespread attention to the link between religious faith and the environment through her work and mobilized thousands of religious people to put their faith into action through energy stewardship.
- Michael Arad, designer of the World Trade Center Memorial, who is also a parent and active with NYC’s Green Schools Initiatives that involves students in the production of foods for their school cafeterias including rooftop vegetable gardens.
- Paul Glover, a community economist in Ithaca, New York, who created Ithaca Dollars in 1996, a knowledge and skills exchange project, that today is housed in a flourishing Community Credit Union with the dollars spent in grocery stores and on rent, plumbing and numerous other goods and services.
We will cook together and sip a little wine while talking about their successful ventures. The videos will then be uploaded in various time lengths to our web resources. I will also be blogging as I travel sharing personal apprehensions, disasters and triumphs experienced on this year long venture.
The prospect of interviewing innovative and caring teachers, youth, artists, professionals, community organizers, business owners, celebrities, media folks, and faith community members is exciting. Their passion and authenticity coupled with delicious cooking and dining experiences promise to make our video interviews entertaining and informative. So please stay tuned.