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ILC2020 The Americas Session 8: Perspectives From Business Leaders

The Americas—The International Association for Peace and Economic Development (IAED) addressed the topic “Finding Opportunity and Hope at a Time of Global Crisis: The Role of Business Leadership” as part of UPF’s global problem-solving conference. It was one of nine webinar sessions simultaneously occurring in three time zones (Korea, Japan, Asia-Pacific; Africa, Europe, Middle East; North America, Central America, South America, Caribbean) during the September 11–13 International Leadership Conference. The online program was open to all who registered and was watched by 941 viewers.

The session was moderated by Thomas P. McDevitt, who is the global coordinator of the International Association for Peace and Economic Development (IAED), and chairman of The Washington Times and of the HJ Magnolia Foundation.

The speakers were each excellent and addressed the topic with great insight from their personal experiences and backgrounds. They represented the different sectors of economic life that IAED wishes to draw upon in pursuit of its mission of economic development and peace: (a) economists and thought leaders who provide research on major issues; (b) business leaders and entrepreneurs who are building successful businesses to strengthen local economies; and (c) people in government who are in position to create dynamic public/private partnerships bringing capital into underserved areas and addressing the needs for improved infrastructure in support of business development. 

Speaking to the common reference point of the COVID pandemic and the economic disruptions it has caused, our speakers called for new thinking and new models of doing. They were consistent in the belief that business will need to be more human focused—both for their customers and their employees. In addition, it will be imperative that businesses not only adapt but embrace the new digital world and build out new communication, customer and workforce systems in order to succeed.

Hon. Jhon Fonseca, (Former Vice Minister of Foreign Trade, Costa Rica) highlighted the need for business leaders to be active learners who can develop new tools and skills by way of new thinking. He advised leaders to “shift your organization’s thinking around vision, expectations, metrics, and resources. We are moving into a nonlinear world where our model must change from: Transaction to Relationships; Audience to Community; Consumer to Co-Creator; Loyalty to Gratitude, and Promotion to Purpose.” He gave us much to reflect upon.

Mrs. Nicole Verdugo (President, Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Chile) spoke realistically about the dislocations suffered by many businesses due to the pandemic and the hardships it has caused. Yet she encouraged us that a new “entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector should drive the reactivation from companies to the new era of the sharing economy, where values and people are at the center of business.” Her remarks provided many specific ideas in an analysis of how business leaders will need to communicate better and be creative in responding the challenges. Difficult times will cause business leaders to learn through the process and become more efficient. In conclusion, she spoke to the “changes we have to make in the philosophy and application of leadership. We must seek feedback spaces and generate closeness with our work teams, which will allow us to act more efficiently by generating new talents, get to know people better and build better teams.” 

Mr. Aaron Manaigo (Global Political Solutions and Potomac International Partners, United States) brought our attention to the “silver linings” that exist in times of crisis. He shared of his work to address two stubborn problems: the huge infrastructure needs of our national economies and the challenge of food security in underserved areas.  He is utilizing U.S. Opportunity Zones to match strategic investment and sovereign wealth funds with private business to solve problems using enterprise and market opportunities, such as outdated roads and bridges, levee breaches, airport and traffic congestion and so forth. “Closing the infrastructure development and investment gap” would boost job creation and enhance economic growth by decreasing overhead costs to business while more efficiently moving people, goods, and ideas. Public/private partnerships afford a great opportunity and hope for purpose-driven business leaders together with an enlightened government.”

Mrs. Lilian Schiavo (President, Brazilian Organization of Women Entrepreneurs, Brazil) spoke with passion and clarity in addressing the opportunities that exist for business leaders to be creative in remaking their businesses and economies. She stressed the need to focus on business values that support the strengthening of families as a foundation for a healthy economic and social environment. She also had many solid recommendations to offer for business owners and leaders seeking to make the transition to a different reality post-COVID.

Ms. Audra Hajj (CEO, Angel Investors Network, United States) shared the experience of her company over the past 20-plus years in working with businesses to change, adapt and thrive. She spoke with an encouraging tone that it is possible to relaunch, rebrand and re-message your business, transforming how you engage prospects, customers and employees by embracing the digital evolution (not revolution). Ms. Hajj is an enthusiastic and active supporter of IAED. She concluded with an offer to provide her highly valued 67-page Business Acceleration Roadmap Workbook along with 12 business strategy sessions for free to IAED members. Through sharing resources, we can grow and support this amazing network of like-minded people. For more information, click here.

The September 11–13 International Leadership Conference was created to engage world leaders and citizens on issues ranging from rebuilding post Covid-19 economies to cooperative peacemaking. Under the rubric of UPF’s signature values of interdependence, mutual prosperity, and universal values, its aim was to address solutions in commerce, health, environment, family, and social issues. “This year has seen dramatic disruptions not only due to the Covid-19 epidemic but in geopolitics, the world economy, the media, religion and all levels of society,” observes UPF International Chair Dr. Thomas Walsh. “And yet, while there are reasons to despair, there is tremendous goodwill and desire to act on emerging opportunities and innovations that can relieve suffering around the world.”


To go back to the Executive summary, click here.

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