Story

My purpose is to multiply.

My purpose is to multiply

No, not just in that way...

In this way...

One of many Pause for Thoughts on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2

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I’ve always been attracted to big questions, like...

What does it really mean to lead?

Who inspires you to be your best self?Why do you never see baby pigeons?

So,...

...for Global Tolerance

- a communications agency with a conscience.

To spread messages of hope.

Global Tolerance Headquarters

Global Tolerance’s headquarters were on the HMS President, a World War One anti-submarine ship on the River Thames - turning subtractors into multipliers starts from home

I worked with TED to help spread a message of compassion...

We worked with TED for a number of years to help design, develop and communicate the Charter for Compassion, the wish of inspirational author and TED Prize winner Karen Armstrong. I was privileged to work with Karen, Chris Anderson and the Council of Conscience for a week in Lake Geneva at the start of the process. The Charter now has over 2 million signatories. I am now on the Global Compassion Council and Board of Trustees for Charter for Compassion International.

With HH Dalai Lama to help spread a message of love and forgiveness...

It was my job to design and implement the PR for a global event on love and forgiveness, co-hosted by HH Dalai Lama and the local Sikh community, at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The role involved setting up all the interviews for HH Dalai Lama, briefing him (probably the most futile thing I have done since trying to master the cello aged 11), and leading this fine bunch of people around the Golden Temple for a media tour. We were all asked to remove our shoes and socks; the floor was soaking from people bathing in holy water; and the media were shoving, pushing and slipping to get the best shot. Love and forgiveness were required.

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With Jedi Knights to help spread a message of Interstellar Tolerance...

Simon Cohen with two Jedi Knights on United Nations International Day for Tolerance, 16 November 2006

When 390,000 Brits said they belonged to the Jedi faith, it meant Jedi Knights was the fourth largest religion in the UK. Our campaign saw two robed Jedi lovers Yunyun and Umada delivering a letter to the UN, asking that UN International Day for Tolerance (16th November) be changed to the UN Interstellar Day for Tolerance, to reflect the religious beliefs of theirJedi brothers and sisters in Britain and across the galaxies! As Jedi spokesperson (and Chewie - pictured), I was able to steer the mainstream campaign towards powerful questions of respect and identity. We reached 700,000,000 people.

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With Nile Rodgers to spread Mattie’s message of peace

Simon Cohen and Nile Rodgers at the Just Peace Summit in New York, March 2011

What a dude. Nile Rodgers may be best known as the Chic funk-disco-pop legend, with collaborations including Madonna, David Bowie, Daft Punk, Lady Gaga and a million others, but his We Are Family Foundation, led by his equally inspiring partner Nancy Hunt, is a soulful legacy of love and leadership. Every year, We Are Family brings together 30 Global Teen Leaders in New York for the Just Peace Summit - named after the vision of the late great poet and peace-maker, Mattie J T Stepanek. I’ve been privileged to be a facilitator, storyteller and all-round trouble-maker at the Summit since 2010.

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With Gallup to spread messages of post truth

This was perhaps the most sensitive and politically charged work I’ve ever been involved in. The Gallup Organization’s Poll of the Muslim World was the world’s largest ever social research project, aiming to bring to light what the world’s Muslims really feel about social issues - rather than us imposing beliefs on them. The ground-breaking research and global media coverage, released not long after the 7/7 bombings, busted the myth that being both British (or French, or German) and Muslim were opposing ideas. I led the media strategy, working closely with the researchers and leadership in Gallup’s team to help ensure the media covered the research accurately. Gallup kindly said ‘We have worked with many agencies in the past, but none has been as strong as Global Tolerance.’

With Action for Happiness to spread peanut butter...ok, a message of happiness

When Global Tolerance was hired to help spread the first United Nations International Day of Happiness, I was excited, but in truth had no real idea about the depth of happiness. Learning about the science of happiness - such as, the best way to find happiness is to focus on the happiness of others - led to a successful ‘Happy Hero’ media campaign (with the #happyday hashtag), celebrating those humble humans who go out of their way to serve others. Mark Williamson, the Executive Director of Action for Happiness, is one such happy hero, and someone whom I count among my dearest friends.

Then my wife became pregnant...

I had just MC’d a youth event in Uganda for the US Department of State. I was about to fly straight to Delhi to work with a Buddhist master, when I heard a story that changed everything...

I was no longer the founder of Global Tolerance. I was Skanda, about to fly off on a magic peacock, missing the world in my pregnant wife’s embrace.

So I decided to place the whole company on a one year sabbatical...

The offer of a job at Fox Business was kind...but I think he missed the point

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Then, she was born...

Simon Cohen holding newborn baby Seren at the hospital on 5 May 2013

Seren was born at 0000 on 5 May 2013. One minute after Jedi day. She was instantly forgiven. The force is strong with her.

A multiplier. A teacher. A mindfulness master masquerading as a dribbling fool. We moved to a clifftop in Cornwall...

And then Nelson Mandela passed away.

All Pause for Thought contributors on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show, myself included, were asked to prepare a script for Nelson Mandela’s passing (in case we were on the radio the following day).Reflecting on his legacy and leadership, it was Madiba’s decision to step down after a single term that really stuck with me. Unlike the dozens of post-independence African leaders who had clung to power, Mandela’s fuel was freedom, not power or control. He believed in South Africa, and giving her the space she needed to thrive. Mandela was an open leader.

Inspired by the leadership of Mandela, the science of happiness, and the wisdom of babies...

I decided to give away the company to be a stay-at-home dad - through a global competition, an Open Leadership Exercise.

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The media multiplied the message...

Simon Cohen with his wife and daughter feautured in The Telegraph on 11 Aug 2014

The story of the Open Leadership Exercise (OLE) and the ‘£1m company giveaway’ was covered all over the world. Some called it madness. But what’s of most value to you? Chances are, it’s not something that can be bought. It’s your partner, your children, your friends. How much would you give to have one more day with a loved one who passed away? Money is just one part of the value spectrum. It’s a means, not the ends. Look at Seren’s smile - that’s the ends.

After hundreds of applications from 30 countries, I gave away the company to two competing finalists.

They re-launched the company at Google in London, launched a ground-breaking piece of research called the Values Revolution...

But the partnership didn’t work out. It hurt...

But the whole process, and the virtue of courage displayed by all those who took part, gave me the gift of being present for my family. I now have two more little girls.

Raya Lucia opts for lounge-wear for her Tuesday night marshmallows

Yes, I multiplied.

Now, between role-playing as a dinosaur-fairy-unicorn-princess...

I'm an international event host/chair, and give keynote talks and interviews on leadership, values and enlightened business for the likes of Cannes Lions, Worldwide Meeting on Human Values, Harvard Business Review, Sustainability Leaders Forum - and you, if you’d like.

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I advise social change-makers, spiritual leaders and activists to help multiply their impact.

Check out some of my work  

I teach Open Leadership to social entrepreneurs in Sao Paolo, Bangalore, and Nairobi for the Amani Institute, storytelling and facilitation for youth leaders at the We Are Family Foundation, and other groups who add to our world.

More on Amani work  

And I share my thoughts via the Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur.com, Huffington Post and social media

Simon Cohen during a photoshoot in Brighton, UK on 29 May 2013 by Amelia Shepherd Photography
Read 'Coronavirus: What if?'  

Some of the briefs I am working on now include:

A global moment of shared silence during COVID-19

Host / MC for a new international music, culture and arts festival in New Zealand (well, let's see!)

Leading a Marketing and Open Leadership course in Sao Paolo (again, let's see!)

Pioneering a new education initiative in Cornwall

Serving a Tibetan Buddhist master in India

Serving a spiritual leader in Australia

More on the Buddhist master work  

If you think my story and insights might add something to your event or story, I’d love to speak.