In January 2004 my grandparents took me to Havana, Cuba to meet my family there for the first time. A month later, the Bush Administration revoked family visitation rights, leading to an eight-year separation from the aunts, uncles, and cousins I had only known in stories and pictures until that visit. At age 13, I couldn’t fathom how political disagreements between Washington and Havana could result in personal estrangement from those I loved. Growing up gay in a multicultural home with ties to Cuba and Israel, I saw a model for how multiple languages, worldviews, and perspectives were welcomed and valued. And yet, my countries’ leaders couldn’t bridge their philosophical and cultural differences to the detriment of their citizens who call both nations home. From that point on, my experience with family separation resulting from the Cuban Embargo set me on a two-fold professional path: 1) to reconcile Cuban-American political difference in hopes of reunifying my family and 2) to serve as a bridge across differences more broadly and to foster inclusive communities.
After graduating from Middlebury College in 2013 with a degree in political science and sociology, I pursued this two-fold path by working both at the Atlantic Philanthropies as a contractor for their CEO who, at the time, was organizing a multi-stakeholder coalition to improve bilateral relations between Cuba and the US, and at Cook Ross, a DC-based diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting firm.
At the Atlantic Philanthropies, I collaborated with the foundation and its partners through policy research, lobbying efforts, and coalition building, which directly influenced the Obama Administration’s opening of relations with the island in December 2014. Policy reform with Cuba affirmed my belief that both countries are better served navigating their differences through collaboration rather than needlessly imposing isolation. The recent reversal of these policies under the Trump Administration unfortunately highlights the fraught nature of these relationships and the persistence of our fear of ‘the other.’ At Cook Ross, I supported our client organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, health care systems, government agencies, and non-profits, in creating more inclusive cultures. Working at Cook Ross exemplified how business, under the right conditions, can be vehicle for positive social change in bridging cultural and community divides. After five years at Cook Ross, during which time the company quadrupled in size, I applied to MBA programs with the hope of one day leading a social good venture of my own. Before starting a full-time MBA at the Yale School of Management last fall, two of my former Cook Ross colleagues approached me with an opportunity to do just that.
As three young professionals, we recognized that despite the fact that Millennials and Generation-Z represent the two most diverse age cohorts across every facet of human identity to ever live, our various differences do not make us inherently more inclusive nor better able to negotiate what divides us. To support our vision of a world in which all people feel valued, included, and empowered in their lives, we co-founded Inclusion NextWork (INW). INW is a global collective impact network, connecting, supporting, and strengthening the capacity of Millennial and Generation-Z leaders to advance our ability to impact social change. Through in person and virtual convenings, knowledge sharing, and consulting as well as training services, our team is contributing to a movement to help young leaders across sectors and geographies use IDEAS (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Social justice) in their professional and everyday lives. This summer, INW took its first major step towards our vision by hosting an inaugural IDEAS for the Future Summit in Washington DC. Attended by 50 IDEAS champions from across the globe, our time together highlighted the immense energy and potential for this community of practice and care. Our long-term vision and hope for Inclusion NextWork is that INW becomes the preeminent hub for a new kind of values-based leadership capable of breaking through the deeply entrenched divides of our time, be they political, social, cultural, or otherwise. We hope to embed the values of IDEAS into every facet of society such that all decisions will be made with an eye towards inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility, and social justice.
To that end, I am particularly excited and thankful to be connected to the Point family, which itself is a powerful and dynamic community of leaders with values and missions that closely align to Inclusion NextWorks’ and my own.
This post was written by Point Scholar Danny Egol.
With aims to continue exploring organizational vehicles through which to catalyze social change and bridge community divides, Danny is pursuing an MBA at the Yale School of Management. Read more about Danny here.