September 25 – In a private interview with Maria Eitel, President of the Nike Foundation, and Peter Buffett, co-chair with his wife Jennifer of the NoVo Foundation, I learned how Maria and Peter first met, how they chose their cause – The Girl Effect, and how each of them was shaped in their early years.
To see this most extraordinary video (it’s a quickie) on The Girl Effect, go to http://www.girleffect.org/#/splash/.
Maria referred to her “journey” in finding the right cause. That’s the perfect word for individuals and companies – a journey to find the social purpose that will have meaning to you personally, while aligning with the business and its mission. For Nike, Maria searched for a cause that served the underdog, shouted innovation, and would have the greatest impact. The answer was to invest in girls to fuel economic growth and the health and well-being of communities.
For skeptics who want to know if the CGI annual meetings actually produce results, here is something specific. Maria and Peter met serendipitously in the hallways of the CGI meeting two years ago. There, Maria’s ideas clicked with Peter and Jennifer Buffett who had also been moving towards women’s issues. Maria’s conviction that in order to help women, you have to take a step back to help them as girls, clicked with the Buffetts, and the rest is history. Together, Nike and NoVo have had a synergistic and exponential impact in helping girls to become educated, gain access to healthcare, and become catalysts for economic development.
What were the early signs of Maria’s and Peter’s activism? Maria was the middle child, sitting in between her siblings in the car, negotiating peace. That led her to decide that as a communications professional, she could bring peace to the world. In pursuing her first internship at PBS in Seattle, when her initial application was declined, she simply parked herself in the lobby until a staffer needed coffee, and suddenly, Maria became useful. Next, Maria was doing research and then stories. Her determination is evident in her shaping a leading edge approach to economic development and joining forces between two foundation powerhouses.
Peter vividly recalls his early childhood years at home in Omaha hearing about civil rights activists in Selma, his mother taking him to the Baptist church and Jewish synagogue for services, his family introducing the first African-Americans and Jews into the country club, and giving Christmas gifts to needy families. Turns out it really does matter what we teach and role model for our children.
Just like my readers and clients who serve on nonprofit boards, and President Clinton and Bill Gates who were sharing their joy on stage yesterday, both Maria and Peter were exuding their delight with their service and giving. This is something that all of you can do in your communities, and you can have fun too while you are doing your part towards a better world!
I can’t help taking this opportunity to remind my readers that my own “girl effect” passion is the board that I serve on – Row New York, a local organization that empowers girls through academic and athletic development and ultimately success in college.
There is a commitment that each of us can make.