CEO Nadine Hack has dedicated her life to activism, action, and radical optimism. Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of the beloved community, she was a 1960s student activist who worked on the political campaigns of Shirley Chisholm and Bella Abzug, and was later deeply involved in South Africa’s Anti-Apartheid Movement. Nadine’s experience as a community organizer in human rights and environmentalism eventually inspired the creation of her company beCause Global Consulting, for which she was shortlisted for Responsible CEO of the Year. Nadine is also an internationally sought-after speaker, writer, and executive coach, who can be seen in her TEDx Talk: Adversaries to Allies.
Nadine has teamed up with MindMeet for the #GlobalCitizensCircle campaign, which will allow MindMeet users to support Global Citizens Circle by receiving advice from Nadine or donating their own time and expertise to the campaign. Nadine recently sat down with MindMeet to talk about her life and the incredible work of Global Citizens Circle.
CS: Can you describe the kind of work that Global Citizens Circle does?
NH: Global Citizens Circle, or GCC, is a wonderful organization that convenes dialogues called “Circles” that bring together concerned individuals, from world-renowned leaders to local activists, to discuss the pressing issues of the day, and to find enduring, sustainable solutions to them. They empower a global community to listen, learn, and lead. It’s intergenerational social action. And since 1974, tens of thousands of people from all corners of the world—intentionally diverse in race, age, nationality, gender, sector, everyway you can imagine—have gathered in these Circles.
Over its 45-year history, GCC has played an important role in shaping really profound changes in South Africa, Northern Ireland, the Middle East, throughout Latin America, and, of course, the U.S. And what’s so exciting is that GCC now also has digital wings. GCC live streams all of its Circles, and they’ll also live in archival footage on GCC’s YouTube channel so that people around the world can view them and find all kinds of links to organizations that work on the issues they care about.
CS: What happens in one of these circles?
NH: I love the format because it’s completely different than your typical speakers forum where somebody gives a 50-minute speech and then there’s a perfunctory 5 to 15 minutes of Q&A. In a GCC Circle there’s always at least two discussion leaders and one moderator. The discussion leader can only speak for 5 minutes of opening remarks, and the entire rest of it is a moderated, facilitated discussion.
So, for example, recently there was a Circle in a community center in Khayelitsha township in South Africa, one of the poorest communities on Earth. GCC convened 150 people on the site, including 50 democracy activists from all over the world and 100 local South Africans from every walk of life, including 24 high school students. They participated in this two-hour dialogue with the world. And Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah Tutu, who we honored at this event, said afterwards—and you see this on the YouTube video of the event—that, “Being here and listening to those high school students who grew up in the poorest of circumstances, listening to their idealism, listening to them talk about what they plan to do to improve their lives, and taking it in their own hands. It gave me hope for the future of my country in a way that I haven’t felt in years.”
CS: How did you become involved with the organization?
NH: I met GCC through its founding president Jerry Dunfey. We were both in the Anti-Apartheid Movement. We had become involved in that based on our respective activism in the American Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, and Gay Rights movements. It led to each of us becoming involved in other kinds of human rights movements and liberation movements throughout the world. I’ve been involved with GCC for 35 of its 45-year history. It was such a natural fit. Our goals are so totally aligned. I feel like the work of GCC is vital for our world. It’s why I’m encouraging others to support me in supporting them.
CS: How will the funds raised in a 15-minute MindMeet conversation be used to help someone via the #GlobalCitizensCircle campaign?
NH: GCC funds will be used to build its capacity and ensure its sustainability, to increase the likelihood that our grandchildren’s children will have a better future. One Circle that they’re working on right now is bringing together one of the most well-renowned activists from the 1960s with the leaders of the current March for Our Lives movement. We can fund the expenses of young organizers from all around the world to participate in that Circle.
GCC is also planning a Circle in a refugee camp, working in partnership with a university that provides educational degrees for the people in the refugee camp. Just think about it—what better way to improve the life of people in such dire situations than to give them access to a world stage? Not for people to hear about what refugees need from “experts” on TV shows, but to hear it from the refugees themselves. To bring a certain number of activists there on site and to bring a larger group of them in through these various social platforms and two-way viewing opportunities. As we’re seeing so much divisiveness and fear-based xenophobic behavior throughout the world, I believe that an organization that works to create a more inclusive, more welcoming dialogue is more important now than ever.
CS: How does your early work in political and social activism influence your current work in beCause Global Consulting?
NH: Throughout my life and my career, I’ve tried to engage in conscious conversation. I thought of it as mediating, facilitating, collaborating and mentoring. In more recent years I’ve started calling it connectedness. To me, connectedness encompasses mutual respect, kindness, empathy, and the idea that we’re all connected in a very fundamental way, despite our differences. So, in fact, creating connectedness is at the core of the raison d’être of beCause Global Consulting. By building and sustaining trust—none of which is easy, let me be clear about this—beCause helps individuals and organizations connect to their own core purpose.
I’m very proud of a quote on my website from Gloria Steinem, the American feminist, who said, “Nadine has the uncanny ability to assemble exactly the right people and bring together exactly the unique partnerships. Her exceptionally clear ability to envision what doesn’t yet exist, but should, goes in advance of reality, and changes reality.” So I hope to continue living up to her tribute.
CS: There’s so much hope and optimism in your work. What advice do you have for others when it comes to maintaining a sense of optimism and motivation?
NH: I’ve come to call life “the long relay race towards justice.” The looong relay race towards justice. I believe we each stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and made advancements that make it possible for us to do what we’re now doing. And therefore we each have a sacred obligation to pass the torch forward, and help those who are going to come after us.
There’s a picture of me in a 1970 Rolling Stone magazine holding up a sign that says, “Women are not sex objects.” Somebody found a copy in a vintage store, and I immediately posted it on Facebook. And I got a whole bunch of young women responding, “Oh no, nothing’s changed. You could be holding up the same sign today.” I answered to each comment and I said, I would have liked to have believed that by now we would be further along in racial and gender equality and other kinds of social justice issues I’ve been promoting forever. But believe me: We are not where we were in 1970. And if you don’t believe me, watch one episode of Mad Men.
But in the 1960s, I saw life as a sprint. We were going to completely change the world right then and there. I had to run as fast as I could to make it happen. And then two decades later, by the 1980s, I began to look at it as a marathon: that I really had to pace myself to be able to stay in it for the long haul. Then by the 2000s I realized, okay, it’s a relay race. And while I may not see in my own lifetime the fruition of all the social justice issues I care about, I’m just responsible to play my part in that march forward. And I’m linked to Global Citizens Circle in this belief because GCC amplifies the voice of ordinary people doing extraordinary things by featuring them alongside world-renowned leaders like Nelson Mandela.
CS: What brings you joy?
NH: Oh, that’s an easy one for me! My six grandchildren! I have delighted at sharing every single stage of their development and their progress. Yes, I’ve been a frog in a river with an enchanted child who’s welcomed me joyously into that mythical world of play—I’m very proud of that! And now each of them is well on their way towards expanding their young adult lives. It’s really another reason why I’m supporting Global Citizens Circle. GCC is guided by that Iroquois philosophy of “in every deliberation we must consider the impact on seven generations.” It’s that long-term thinking. We have a real role in making a better world for the future.