12/13/2011 03:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Matt Damon, Wyclef Jean, and the Power of Diversity

I had lunch with the Deputy Chair of TD Bank Group the other day. (Well, me and a hundred others.) Frank McKenna is also chair of OneXOne, a charity working to improve the lives of children around the world. And he tells a great story.

The OneXOne team -- including McKenna, Matt Damon, and Wyclef Jean -- flew immediately to Haiti after the earthquake, and were on the street with local representatives when they spotted a huge crowd running full speed in their direction. Rather than being trampled, they ran, too. As Frank tells it, "I look over at Jason Bourne" -- here he paused so we could laugh. "And we're running as fast as we can so we don't get crushed. After a few minutes, I look over my shoulder and notice that Wyclef isn't with us. We stop, turn, and see that the crowd has totally ignored Matt and me. They were all over their hero, Wyclef."

And that, in a nutshell, is the power of diversity in high places.

Maytree gets this loud and clear. This Toronto-based organization (whose dual mission is to increase diversity and decrease poverty) created a program to encourage non-profit and public-sector organizations to begin reflecting our city's diversity on their boards. Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world; the latest stats show that more than half of us were born outside Canada.

The DiverseCity onBoard program, created in partnership with CivicAction (which convenes leaders to catalyze change), is sublimely smart and simple -- it matches organizations with eligible candidates. DOB now has more than 1000 participating organizations and has placed over 600 people on boards in the Greater Toronto area.

And now the whole world is in on it. DiverseCity onBoard just won the "BMW Group Award for Intercultural Innovation in support of the Alliance of Civilizations under the auspices of the United Nations." More than 400 proposals from 70 countries were considered, and Maytree's program won second place.

Accepting the award at the UN Alliance of Civilizations Forum in Doha, Cathy Winter, manager of DiverseCity onBoard, said, "Leadership is a powerful symbol -- it defines who belongs and who does not. When someone sees someone like themselves in a position of power and influence, it makes them feel valued and it gives them something to aspire to."

Cathy talks about DOB:

Cathy accepting the award in Doha:

Props are great, but the real value of this award is that it will help Maytree scale DOB, so that cities around the world can achieve their goals of increasing diversity in leadership. Because there are clear advantages for organizations, who become more effective at serving their communities. And for individuals, both those who serve and those who see their peers and feel inspired to follow suit.

Just ask Wyclef Jean.


Julia Moulden is a speaker, columnist, and author of "RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50", a 12-week course on discovering passion, purpose and possibility at midlife. Check out the video (a.k.a. book trailer!):

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