On Tuesday I attended the Nonprofit Issues Forum called Rethinking Civil Society: Advancing Human Rights in an Era of New Demographics, put on my several leaders from the Atlanta nonprofit sector. The featured speaker was James A. Joseph, former U.S. ambassador to South Africa, professor, nonprofit board member, businessman, civil rights leader and ordained minister. He gave a talk that included his ideas on three main topics: 1.) examining and changing civic traditions, 2.) diversity in a strengthened democracy, and 3.) the importance of the common good.
The overall message was a strong one: by becoming a more inclusive society and caring about everyone, we’ll become a stronger nation. Simple yet powerful. Here are a few other words of wisdom from Ambassador Joseph’s talk:
- The private sector contributes greatly to the public good.
- To have healthy companies in the private sector, we need to have healthy communities.
- How the formerly incarcerated are treated by a society says a lot about the level of caring of that society. He noted that Nelson Mandela went from prisoner to president of South Africa in his lifetime.
- Communities are often built by accident but should be built by design.
- We need boundary-crossing leadership.
- Civic and social entrepreneurs are agents of progress.
- The idea of “I want to be me without making it difficult for you to be you” should be central to our democracy and leadership.
They were big ideas but important ones to consider. The audience members were mainly people part of Atlanta’s nonprofit community, and I’ve been thinking all week about how some of the nonprofits we work with could apply some of these principles (as well as us too, of course).
If you’re interested to hear more or view the forum video, it’s posted on the Foundation Center website.