Concern Leadership Summit

October 26, 2018
Written by Helene Hetrick

As world leaders gathered for the United Nations General Assembly, the inaugural Concern Leadership Summit brought together over 80 sector experts, Concern supporters, and enthusiastic students for an afternoon of learning and taking action on September 28th, 2018.

The Leadership Summit celebrated Concern Worldwide’s 50-year legacy of leadership, partnership, and progress, and showcased how today’s humanitarians, policymakers, and community influencers are paving the way for a future of health and hope for people in need around the world — especially for women and girls.

Here are some of the highlights from the event, graciously hosted at the Irish Consulate of New York.

The event kicked off with a “State of the World: 1968 vs. 2018” panel, where Concern CEO Dominic MacSorley, Patricia McIlreavy of InterAction, and Daniel Beaulieu of News Deeply set the stage for the day. Kayce Freed Jennings — a friend of Concern and producer of Girls Rising — guided the conversation, which touched on how the world has changed in the last 50 years, what lessons we have learned, and what possibilities there are for the future.

Concern Worldwide CEO Dominic MacSorley

Concern Worldwide CEO Dominic MacSorley

When asked if we can end poverty in a generation, Dominic MacSorley enthusiastically answered “absolutely!”

“People think it’s depressing doing the work that I do, but it’s the opposite,” said MacSorley. “I get to see the best of humanity as I meet people around the world who are finding solutions to improve their communities. It’s inspiring.”

Kayce Freed Jennings, Senior Producer of Girl Rising and Co-founder of The Documentary Group, pointed out that “humanitarians need to help resolve a crisis, but the next challenge is how to prevent a crisis from happening again.”

After that excellent primer, attendees chose between three break-out sessions:

Women & Girls: Investing in Our Future

Concern Leadership Summit 2018

(From left to right): Kayce Freed Jennings (Senior Producer, Girl Rising); Áine Fay (President, Concern Worldwide US); Carla Kraft (Policy Analyst, UN Women); and Patricia McIlreavy (VP, Humanitarian Policy & Practice | Interaction)

This session took a close look at the ways in which women are viewed and valued around the world, and how those perspectives have changed over time. Carla Kraft of UN Women (third from the left) discussed the need to shift the focus from women “being vulnerable” to women “being more likely to be caught up in vulnerable situations.” That vulnerability can show up in unexpected ways. For example, women are disproportionately impacted by climate change, as in many parts of the world it is women who are primarily responsible for growing food crops. The panel also discussed the many barriers to universal female education, including lack of appropriate hygiene facilities in schools, child marriage, and the hundreds of millions of hours girls and women collectively spend fetching water every year.

The Power of Storytelling

Concern Leadership Summit 2018

In this session, Ed Kenney, Concern’s VP of Comms, opened by citing the NY Times‘ Nick Kristof’s challenge: “Are we doing a better job of selling causes than the companies selling toothpaste?” Energetic conversation followed from there, led by the passionate, deeply informed attendees. Daniel Beaulieu of News Deeply and Tyler Riewer of charity: water talked about rebuilding trust in storytelling and sharing information. Riewer challenged young people to take action and initiate a movement by “taking the reins within the companies they support and brands that they choose.” Beaulieu explained how News Deeply is tackling ineffective storytelling by “creating a sense of one common issue by providing understanding, not just information.” The session ended with Ed Kenney welcoming all to extend the conversation by reaching out to Concern with comments and ideas.

Humanitarian Dilemmas: What would you do?

Concern Leadership Summit 2018

This session featured a simulation of the real-world dilemmas that humanitarians face in the field. Concern Program Manager Michelle Dann asked attendees how they would respond to situations that challenged the four humanitarian principles: humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence. For example: “During a conflict, your organization is in charge of a relief convoy bringing life-saving supplies. Fighting is ongoing in a remote region between government and rebel forces. The army insists that you cannot travel unless you accept their security for the convoy. What do you do?”

Taking Action

Our “21st Century Philanthropist” panel was 100% led by Concern supporters, and discussed some of the less obvious ways to make a difference — from drinking whiskey to running a marathon. Long-time supporter and music teacher Thomas Carroll told the audience that “wealth is in our communities,” and while not everyone can write a check, everyone can loop their friends into a cause they care about. In Thomas’ case that means raising money through his love for music.

Concern Leadership Summit 2018

Pictured: John Murphy (John Murphy & Associates) and Grace Bennett (Angel’s Envy)

The summit ended with a powerful closing message from Joanna Geraghty, Concern’s Chairperson and President and Chief Operating Officer of JetBlue Airways. Joanna spoke about JetBlue’s shared value of community service, the importance of teaching her son about global issues, and the power that individuals have to make a difference.

“What inspires me most about Concern? It’s the Concern Leadership Network. When you think about the social issues facing all of us today, there is no better population poised to start championing these issues than all of you.”

Concern Leadership Summit 2018

Joanna Geraghty, Concern’s Chairperson and President and Chief Operating Officer of JetBlue Airways

After an inspiring afternoon of learning and discussion, the event culminated in a 50th anniversary reception, where board members and long-time friends of Concern joined attendees in a toast to five decades of Concern’s work with the world’s poorest people.

“Well done to team Concern for organizing such a thought-provoking event,” said CLN member Kristina Varade. “My takeaways from the experts:

  • Famine was recently declared in South Sudan for the first time in 6 years
  • We can’t water down the obscenity of famine — it is preventable
  • There is no “app” for hunger
  • The private sector needs to get involved and be held accountable, because famine isn’t just “a problem over there anymore”
  • Global poverty can be eradicated in a generation

“So, get involved, raise money, raise awareness, volunteer your time, reach out to your networks, join an organization, anything,” continued Varade. “Show you care. It takes a village, but it also takes individuals doing little things, one step at a time.”

Concern Summit 2018

Thank you to all our wonderful speakers, sponsors, and supporters for helping us making our inaugural Concern Leadership Summit a success. You can learn more about the Concern Leadership Network here.


Yes, keep me updated on Concern's work