The Opportunity to Make a Difference - Video interview with Mark Monchek

I´m excited to share the first video interview with you. Mark Monchek and I met at the Center for Social Innovation, a very vibrant co-working space in the heart of New York. 
Mark is the founder of the Opportunity Lab, a strategy and leadership development firm focused on conscious businesses.

Throughout his career Mark has worked with a quite impressive list of clients but what was even more inspiring to me, than his professional credentials, was his humbleness and the depth of our conversation. Mark shared very openly his personal story on how a profound personal crisis had led him to found his company and why he is so passionated to support businesses to make a difference. Today he and his team work with leaders and organizations to shift in their thinking from a mindset of fear to a culture of opportunity, and in this video he shares some insights how they are doing it. 


For all that want to know more about Mark and the Opportunity Lab, here is an interesting Podcast, a link to his blog and for all that like regular insights, just follow him on twitter.

And as always, I´m looking forward to your feedback. 

Food for thought – Interview with Simon Jongenotter about new earth cooking.

Before I went on my journey, a mentor of mine said to me that this endeavor will be as much an “inner” and as an “outer” journey. Since the last couple of months have been really intense I felt the need to give myself a little time to pause and reflect. That’s why I spontaneously booked a ticket from Singapore to Bali to go to a silent retreat center there. It is in a beautiful spot right in the middle of traditional Balinese rice fields, and besides time to think I also found some very inspiring people there.

One of them was Simon Jongenotter who has quite an unusual career path. After a degree from ELE business school and a job in the IT industry he decided to follow his dream and become a chef. In 2004, Simon became a qualified chef through City and Guilds of London and then worked the following years in some of the better restaurants around the world. But just cooking for people who have enough money to afford to go to high class places didn't give enough meaning to his life, so he decided to devote himself fully to his passion of reconnecting people with the origins of food and empowering them to change their lives though better eating habits.

Ok, let´s start straight away with a bold question: How can you be empowered by food?

There seems to be a lot wrong with the world and if you would watch the news or listen to the radio it's very easy to feel disempowered because it seems there isn’t much that you as an individual can do about it. However, as consumers we have tremendous power in the choices that we make. I've come to realize that human beings have very basic needs, which is food and shelter. But because It's been made so easy for us to fulfill those needs we somehow lost touch with their origins. Now we have given away a lot of our power to big corporations who are screwing around with our health in order to maximize their profits. Think about it, there is not a month passing without a major food scandal – and that is just the ones that got public.

What do you think is the biggest challenge in changing that situation?

Our diets have changed more in the last 50 years than in the entire history of humanity.
The biggest challenge is that people have become very lazy. Convenient mystery foods, marketed in clever ways have great appeal and caused people to lose touch with real ingredients. More and more people are waking up to it, some of them because they get sick from the food they put in their bodies, others because they hear about all these scandals and want to do something about it.

What could a solution to this challenge look like?

I believe that by getting in touch with the source of our food we're taking back a lot of our power, so we don't have to be victims, we can change something through the choices we make. I've become really passionate about creating awareness, exploring new solutions and still cooking great food. One way to get through to people is by inspiring them is with amazingly delicious food, it's very emotional. As long as food can be delicious then all the other things can fall into place. I believe the only way to inspire people is through fun, it has to be appealing, it has to be joyful. In my case I’ve taken it quiet far, reaching for ever higher purity standards which go beyond just organic, local ingredients. It includes eradicating all plastic packaging, and embracing sustainable cooking methods such as cast iron pans and charcoal cooking. It doesn’t only serve the entire web of life, it’s actually a lot of fun too, most chefs would love this stuff!  

So tell me more about the philosophy behind new earth cooking.

New Earth Cooking is not a diet, it’s an invitation to rethink your eating habits and see food differently. The philosophy is broken up into 5 questions and answering them will help you make better choices.

Here are the 5 P’s of the New Earth Cooking Philosophy:

Does it make sense to you to eat food which has been imported from far away places?

Are you willing to eat food that is proven to be less vital, fresh and nutritious than Mother Nature has intended? Are you willing to tolerate any amount of toxin and pollution in your food that are known to be a burden on your system? Do you think food should be of lesser quality just because it’s produced in modern ways and said to be ‘cheaper’?

When you choose affordable or cheap food, are you considering the real price you are paying? Are you thinking what you can afford today or what you can afford in life?

Would you be happy to eat food which has been produced by people who suffer emotionally or physically as a direct result of their work?

Are you willing to take more than you give back to planet earth? Do you feel we need to honor earth as our mother who has sustained us since the birth of our species? Is it possible to be a healthy individual whilst all life forms are under threat?

Note: you can read the full New Earth Cooking Philosophy here:

And here some impression how this philosophy looks in action:

What could people do to make a change for themselves today?

There's a wide range of things that you can do, and it will all depend on the level that you
can afford it. If you live in the city, it might be as simple as starting to visit farmers markets,
or buying a couple of seeds, perhaps starting a compost heap in your small backyard.
At all times show interest in ingredients that are in your food and how it is produced. You can find great amounts of information on the Internet. My favorite thing though is cooking for friends and creating a community around it. These are all very basic ways of getting in touch with the things we eat again. And every time you do that, praise yourself for that.
Never come from a place of I'm not good enough and I need to change, but see who could find joy in every little step you take.


Leading change – why transformation begins within. Interview with Darren Robson

Darren Robson - picture by

Darren Robson - picture by

If you meet Darren for the first time you wouldn't think that you are talking to an award-winning Leadership coach that helps to run one of the largest coaching professional bodies in the world. Nor that he is a serial social entrepreneur himself and has founded several business and charities. No, he is very humble; he listens with interest to what you have to say and engages with you in a deep conversation. I was very fortunate to spend an afternoon with him talking about entrepreneurship, leadership and personal transformation.

Ok, let´s start with the topic of social entrepreneurship. How do you define this term?

Basically it means that you have to build a business that's ethical and that's got real core values associated to it. It is about how do you combine your capitalist mindset on how to make money with your social mindset on how to provide meaning.

I like to call that “return on contribution” rather than “return on investment.”
Return on contribution is how do you contribute and at the same time make enough money to grow a sustainable organization.

Ok, that sounds like a great concept, but why should a leader of a company do it in today’s capitalistic driven business world?

Because the market will demand it. Increasingly customers, talent and employees want to see organizations that are making a meaningful contribution. I think whereas before corporate social responsibility was something that was ‘nice to have’, increasingly in our digital world it's crucial for your business.
What will happen is that consumers become more aware and more conscious and they'll start buying based on the ethical principles of companies. If you haven´t put any of these principles into practice, your customers will decide for a company that has – it´s that simple.
I don't think this is a short-term trend. This is a long-term trend and it will change the way we do business in the future.

Why are entrepreneurs so important for this change process?

For large organizations this transition is not easy because you need leaders that are really conscious and aware. But I see increasingly lots of entrepreneurs wanting to find this balance between making a sustainable business from a financial perspective, but also making a contribution. I think it's easier for them to do it than it is a large corporate because it takes time to change a culture and to convince all stakeholders. But entrepreneurs prove with their action that it is possible and they will lead the way into a new era of business.

Since you come from outsides the creative industries , I´m curious to hear your perspective on what you think the creative industry could do within this new paradigm?

The creative industry is locked into the same model. They are in survival mode as well and need to earn profit. It's difficult for, let´s say an agency, to convince their client to be really transparent, even if it is the right thing to do because these large organizations want to project a certain image.

What it will need is some brave brands that want to have a very honest conversation about the challenges they face and creatives who are able to help them engage in a meaningful dialogue with their customers to find solutions together. 

But how will these big companies be able to change?

If we look at large organizations I think that there's a number of ways. There can be a groundswell from within the ranks of an organization or from its customers.
Equally I think that what you need is the most senior leader, so the CEO, the Chairman, the Executive Leadership Team to really wake up to this and to become aware of the world around them. They need to look at themselves as not just good corporate citizens but good global citizens. 

When you start to think of yourself as a good global citizen, you start to realize that we have a responsibility to the planet. We have a responsibility to future generations. This changes the game and the prevailing mindset and culture of an organisation. It will become increasingly obvious that doing the right thing is good business through the financial returns and social equity it creates for great businesses and brands.

What motivates you personally to be one of these good global citizens?

 If we consume like people do in America we need four planets to survive right now. That's going to create real issues for us as a human species. Let's be conscious of that. I'm able to think on a very big picture perspective but then I come right down to the practical earth and go, so what can I do?

I've got two children. One of the things that motivate me is that when they come to me and ask, "What did you do, dad?" I can turn around and say to them, "Well look, these are the things that I've done to try to make your lives and the world slightly better."

What needs to shift in the mindset of people to become aware of their own responsibly?

What we all need to understand is that we're one human tribe. Just because I don't know you, because I didn't grow up with you, doesn´t mean that we are not connected. Just because you live in India doesn't mean I shouldn't care about you on some level. We need to bring humanity back into our mindset. 

What can coaching do to help people with that transformation?

It can help people to raise their consciousness and awareness. It is not about telling somebody, “This is the way to live your life” or “This is the way that you should be”, but you can give them the tools and skill-sets that they need to go on their own journey and discover the answers that are true to them.Coaching for me has been the best way to do that. That's why I contribute to that industry and also use it in my organisations.

You mentioned your charities – one of it is MOE foundation. It is dedicated to your mother and was set up to help young people from less privileged backgrounds. MOE stands for “Ministry of Entrepreneurship“, and since the start in 2012 you have already gifted out over 700,000 pounds worth of development to help them become entrepreneurs & better leaders. What drove you to start this social business?

When I was a kid my motivation was to get out of poverty. My sole purpose was to get out of this situation where I couldn't afford or have enough money for food or clothes or whatever. It wasn't abject poverty but it felt like poverty.
Back then I was desperate for support and mentorship and friendship and someone that could really help me. That wasn't there and I had to create it within myself.

I know that the only reason it changed was because I worked hard and I focused my energy to get myself out of that situation. My drive is to help people that are in that situation to get out of it too. And my way of helping other people is to use coaching to give them the ability to create a better future for themselves.

You have coached hundreds of entrepreneur: what would you say is the most important advice for somebody starting a business?

Dare to dream. At MOE we always talk about what's the dream...and then we focus on how to make it a reality. Don't let your fears, don't let your limitations, don't let other people stop you from trying it. Follow your intuition and do it, but think it through logically as well emotionally. 

For more information: visit, or watch his TED talk 

My first interview with John Shewell


John is the founding director of colab, which is an truly inspiring social marcomms and innovation agency based in Brighton. They work at intersection of research, creative art, technology and culture to deliver campaigns for sustainable change.

He and I met a few months ago at a conference in Brighton, and from our first conversation over a pint in the local pub, I was fascinated by his drive and passion for his work. We kept in touch and caught up again for a coffee to talk about his personal journey, his vision for the future and how to bring more meaning into todays business world.

John, what drives you in your business?

What drives me is a desire to make a sustainable positive change in our communities and potentially across the globe, particularly addressing inequalities. So that's a really big thing that drives me and that's the reason why I set up colab. Colab is really a vehicle for me to pursue my passion to try and address social inequality and improve social outcomes.

What would you say is the biggest challenge for your company?

The biggest challenge I would say is trying to get organisations, particularly the commercial ones to really understand that they also have role in our society. If we can create truly a more kind of integrated sustainable model of business - where you're improving social outcomes - addressing poverty, inequality, those sorts of things - that's also better for business. It's better for society. It's actually better for democracy. So if we can start getting businesses start understanding this, then actually we start making a better overall positive change.


Do you think you can help companies to on that transformational journey to become more meaningful?

Absolutely, I think that if businesses don't go down this road, they're not going to survive. I've genuinely believed that. I think we're reaching a whole new paradigm of thinking and this is born out of even some of the big researchers from Harvard, MIT, who are starting to say that we need to create a notion of shared value, where corporates, businesses, and public organisations - are working together to try and address social inequality.

Plus you've got a new generation of young people that are already starting to think about what kind of companies they want to work for. So if an organisation wants to survive, or better thrive, they're going to have to seriously think about how they want to attract these talents into their company. And therefor they need to address these questions.

What was the pivotal moment within your life, that has put you on that journey?

The birth of my son was the catalyst for change in my life. I was a traditional career person climbing the corporate ladder and being very successful at that. And then when my son came along and I looked at him in my arms and staring into his eyes and thinking, "What future will this young man inherit when he's older and what's my role in this?" And it was at that moment that I realized that I had a huge responsibility, and a duty of care to my son, but also to kind of future generations. And that's what started the journey, that's when I decided that actually, I need to start playing a fundamentally different role that's more purposeful and that makes a really big difference to people's lives.

What are you most proud of?

In terms of work, I'm proud of nearly everything we do. There's a lot of challenges and I get frustrated, but I think the thing that I'm really, really proud of most is actually having the courage to create this enterprise and pursue this purpose.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

I would love to be able to try and change how men perceive the world, and how men's relationship to the world and other human beings, especially women, I think that's the most fundamental thing that needs to be changed. And I think that if we can start addressing that, we can start seeing some profound changes across society. That to me is probably the one biggest thing I'd love to change and I'm certainly doing that.

What is your advice for young creative?

My advice to a young creative would be find purpose, find your passion. Don't chase the money, start with a higher purpose, seek that. Travel the world if you have to first, experience, explore, dream, and discover. But I would say that focus on purpose and then work hard to go towards that direction.