“If compassion becomes the thread binding society, there will be no space for intolerance.” So said Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi in his keynote address at Umeedon ki Udaan, our 2-day festival in Mumbai last month, which celebrated compassionate leadership at the grassroots.
7000 people from across India attended the event – from the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, business leaders and academics, to grassroots organisers and women from marginalised communities, who travelled in colourful swathes with children by their side. They were joined by a smaller group of global leaders on the Leaders’ Quest Pow–Wow, who gathered to learn how initiatives are transforming societies from the bottom up, and explore how to innovate and amplify social change.
The festival honoured the 25-year history of CORO, an organisation responsible for dramatic change in marginalised communities in Maharashtra and Rajasthan, along with the 10-year partnership between Leaders’ Quest and CORO empowering grassroots leaders.
In a panel conversation with Lindsay Levin, Founder of Leaders’ Quest, and Ajay Piramal, a leading businessman and philanthropist, Kailash Satyarthi spoke about his “desire to convert compassion into a social movement”, along with optimism for India’s future: “India may be a country with 1000 problems,” he said, “but it is also a country with a billion solutions.”
The trio talked about Compassion X – what it takes to bridge the gap between wisdom and cleverness and how compassion is part of the answer. As Lindsay put it, “It’s not just about doing more, and doing better. It’s also about listening to our inner voice, and understanding our interconnectedness. It’s about seeing the world from others’ point of view.”
CORO executive director Sujata Khandekar (centre) takes the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis (left, in blue) and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Kailash Satyarthi (right) on a tour of the festival grounds to explore the creative installations from partners and Quest Fellows.
Lindsay was later joined by the CORO team – Sujata Khandekar (Executive Director), Mahindra Rokade (Programme Director) and Luis Miranda (Board Chair) for a discussion about partnerships for transformational impact. Trust and respect were highlighted as crucial values for success – particularly when dealing with two organisations of very different backgrounds – as well as the recognition that any relationship must be an evolution.
Find out more about our partnership with CORO and how it’s evolving. The festival showcased exhibitions of the work of our Quest Fellows, inspiring individuals who are overcoming challenges such as lack of resources to drive wide-spread change in their communities. One example is Sheela Pawar, a former Quest Fellow, who’s become a powerful voice for gender equity and standing up to domestic violence in her community. Read her full story on the new CORO website here.
Former Quest Fellow Sheela Pawar leads her women’s group in a rehearsal for its participation in the leadership festival.
All photos courtesy of Marcus Lyon