May 08, 2019

Leading with Moral Courage: McNulty Laureates at the 2019 Skoll World Forum

On April 11, 2019, the McNulty Foundation and Aspen Institute co-hosted a session at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford called This Isn't Easy: A Seminar on Exercising Moral Courage. The session kicked off with a panel conversation, followed by participants engaging in text-based dialogue about their own experiences in break-out seminars.

The panel heard from McNulty Prize Laureates Jacqueline Novogratz, Hildegard Vasquez, Brett Jenks, Réjane Woodroffe, Mehrdad Baghai and others on moments that challenged their beliefs and livelihoods while maintaining moral courage in leading global organizations on the world’s most pressing issues.

Watch the panel conversation

Introspection took center stage during the session; themes of love, fear, strength, and integrity were nuanced by the panelists’ personal upbringings. Jacqueline Novogratz introduced the panel with a meditation on what moral courage means and all of our individual capabilities as agents of change. Jacqueline shared with the audience how collective responsibility to right the wrongs we encounter can create positive influence, and how those ripple effects empower others around us.

The need for community is real because we can’t do this alone, it's too frightening. I am inspired by this community – those of you who refuse to do the easy but embrace the difficult.

Jacqueline Novogratz

As the session went on, panelists spoke about the inevitable fear that's associated with true moral courage. Réjane Woodroffe, who left the comforts of being an economist in Cape Town to immersing herself with rural communities in the Eastern Cape, spoke of “trying to do good without doing harm” as a constant challenge. Brett Jenks and Mehrdad Baghai shared childhood influences that changed their perception of individual responsibility: “Following a lot of in the incidence of hate in the world… I felt like a fraud. On the one hand, I was talking about [High Resolves] being so important, but, had I really believed that this was the most important thing I could do, why wasn't I all in?” Mehrdad said on the panel. “If we are really coming from a place of integrity, then [I needed to] walk away. Which is what I did."

Had I really believed that this was the most important thing I could do, why wasn't I all in?

Mehrdad Baghai

Hildegard Vasquez, Brett Jenks, Réjane Woodroffe & Mehrdad Baghai

Participants engaging in seminar dialogue

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