Our Toughest Problems Require Our Toughest Talent

Interview by Billy Shore

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

How much do you think about how you contribute to society? Is it important for you to help others and give back? Two social sector advocates whose deep values and empathy guide their own career paths discuss the importance of doing good. Dan Cardinali, CEO of Independent Sector, and Bren Herrera, Cuban private chef and lifestylist, chat about food, culture, personal transformations, and their deep passion for helping others with Billy Shore, founder and CEO of Share Our Strength, on this episode of Add Passion and Stir.

Cardinali, a champion for the social sector (nonprofit and philanthropic institutions), reveals its vastness: 1.5 million institutions that employ 1 in 10 Americans and serve or engage 1 in 4. However, that impact is often overlooked and there is a misperception that the sector is weaker and less effective than the private sector. “Nonprofit and philanthropic institutions are critically important to America because they often are working on those issues that neither government nor market strategies are able to address,” says Cardinali. “In many regards, they are much more effective than either government or business can be, yet they are often looked at as being subpar to those two institutions.”

This perceived second-class standing of social sector organizations also affects the individuals who choose to work there who are, according to Cardinali, “extraordinarily heroic folks willing to suppress their own desires for wealth and praise in service of bettering the community.” Based on her own transformational path from law to life coaching, Herrera agrees. “Our purpose in life is not to make money… it’s to do the best that we can to make our global community a better place,” she believes. However, she also poses the question of how to attract bright young people into the sector. Shore feels it is critical for young people to know the social sector is a viable option. Speaking about Share Our Strength, he says, “Having the best people in the country feel like, ‘this is a place I want to be,’ becomes very important to our ability to succeed.” Cardinali reinforces this point. “Many social sector institutions take on the most difficult and intractable problems in the world – and you want the… best talent addressing the most difficult challenges.”

All three participants agree that food can play an important role in improving our society. Herrera shares stories of how food can heal and connect people from her chef experience and world travels. Cardinali describes how Independent Sector is using dinners to bring people with disparate views together to bridge differences and find common ground. Shore comments that food sits in the intersection of so many social issues.

How do you improve your community? How have you seen food bring people together? Share with us in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Resources and Mentions:

Bren Herrera

A private chef, lifestyle expert, TV personality and cookbook author with a passion for exploring and curating the best of life. She uses food, travel and style to introduce new experiences through her cooking and digital content creation on her newly rebranded site, aptly named House of Bren. In her kitchen, she combines Cuba’s vibrant palate, seeded in African, European and Spanish history, with modern flavors and textures, to create memorable dishes. Her philosophy is simple: use the freshest ingredients and unique spices, while maximizing time in one of her vintage or modern pressure cookers. She always infuses international flavors and techniques she’s learned while traveling the world. In her studio, she studies trends and creates ideas that help pen a relevant story. Relatable memories help create new ones. Her goal is to transport her diner and audience to a special place through lovely & delicious food and storytelling that inspires!

No Kid Hungry

Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.

Independent Sector

Independent Sector is the only national membership organization that brings together a diverse set of nonprofits, foundations, and corporations to advance the common good. IS advocates for public policies that impact the charitable sector, builds knowledge on behalf of the sector, and connects the hard-working organizations and leaders within the sector.

Cooking Matters

Cooking Matters empowers families with the skills to stretch their food budgets and cook healthy meals so their children get nutritious food at home. Part of the No Kid Hungry campaign to end childhood hunger in America, Cooking Matters teaches participants to shop smarter, use nutrition information to make healthier choices and cook delicious, affordable meals. Cooking Matters and thousands of volunteer instructors have helped more than 265,000 low-income families in communities across the country learn how to eat better for less since 1993.

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