Ordinary, Extraordinary Changemakers Series – Pt. 5

Toni Maloney co-founded the business council for peace (Bpeace) in 2002, the year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. In the 15 years since, Bpeace has helped expand more than 250 businesses in Afghanistan, Rwanda, Guatemala and El Salvador.

In 2017, they have a portfolio of 50 businesses that generate about $81 million in revenue for their communities. The employees of those businesses support approximately 14,000 family members.

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times said “Bpeace is one impressive force for change.”

Bpeace’s tagline is “More jobs mean less violence.”

This is her story in her own words (edited for space and flow).

After 9/11, I was one of those myopic Americans who said, “What, everybody in the world doesn’t love us? What happened here?

I was invited to a conference in Geneva at the UN. It was a conference of 700 women. All but 25 of them were female religious and spiritual leaders. And I was among 25 businesswomen.

The businesswomen eventually decamped to the hotel bar for cigarettes and white wine, and said, “Well praying is good but there must be a faster way.

That’s how Bpeace was born.

We didn’t quite know how business could have a role to play in peace-building. But the thought of it resonated enough that inside of the year we had 60 more businesswomen joining the movement.

We’re in four countries now – Afghanistan, Guatemala, El Salvador and Lebanon.

Every job in Afghanistan supports about six people. Every job in El Salvador and Guatemala, about four people. Better nutrition. Kids can go to school. Kids are not begging on the street. In El Salvador and Guatemala, kids are less likely to be recruited by gangs. In Afghanistan, boys are less likely to be recruited into the Taliban.

Certainly, we are a very small fish in a very big pond of a messy world.

But we are specific individuals helping specific business owners. We know them by name. We know what they do, whether they’re dairy farmers, tech developers or food processors. We know who they are.

I used to have my own business. There’s no question that I had a command and control management style. It was very much my way or the highway. I’ve learned when you’re working with volunteers, that’s not going to get you very far. I had to adapt completely my management style. Now I see myself more as a servant leader. I’m providing opportunities for these Skillanthropists to pay their talents forward and I’m providing opportunities for businesses in these countries to grow.

I love that we are attracting some incredible Skillanthropists at every level, even at the “C level.” People who appreciate their own talents, who have done well in their business life and they understand that the responsibility that comes with that is to give back.

I love our team.  I love working with our board. These are people who really care. I find real joy in that.

I love feeling relevant. I love being productive. I love making things happen.

At the end of every day, I can look back and say, “OK, what did I complete today and what did I move forward?”

Kirsten Bunch is the author of the international bestselling book "Next Act, Give Back." After a 20-year career in global development, where she fund-raised over $20 million and designed and managed social change programs in 10 countries, Kirsten reinvented herself and invented The Women's Changemaker Mentorship™. This is a one-of-a-kind program that propels successful women to become Changemakers in their communities. Her clients find deeper meaning and fulfillment in their lives through a more profound connection with their community. Many of her clients start heart-centered businesses, organizations and passion projects that create healthier, safer and more equitable communities.

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