Social Enterprise

Seeking “One Brave Idea” to End Heart Disease: Nancy Brown and The American Heart Association

Heart disease is the #1 killer in this country, but 80% of it is preventable, according to Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. In this segment from The Business of Giving, Ms. Brown spells out the different programs of AHA devised to reduce death from heart disease and to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans.

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Nancy Brown, Chief Executive Officer of The American Heart Association

Heart disease is the #1 killer in this country, but 80% of it is preventable, according to Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. In this segment from The Business of Giving, Ms. Brown spells out the different programs of AHA devised to reduce death from heart disease and to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans.

She also discusses how mission-aligned businesses of AHA are generating 9-figure revenues for the organization, and how they and their partners are using crowdsourcing to find “One Brave Idea” to find a cure for coronary disease. Finally, she shares the keys to alignment, passion and camaraderie in a national charity.
The following is a conversation between Nancy Brown, Chief Executive Officer of the American Heart Association and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City. It has been edited for clarity.

Denver: More than one in three American adults suffers from cardiovascular disease. To provide a little context: more women will die from heart disease this year than from all the cancers combined. So, Americans are fortunate that the person charged with leading the oldest and largest volunteer organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke, has created a culture of innovation. In so doing, she has forged some extraordinary partnerships and is increasing the amount of resources available to help better the lives of all Americans. That leader is Nancy Brown, Chief Executive Officer of The American Heart Association, and it is my pleasure to welcome her to The Business of Giving. Good evening, Nancy, and thanks for being with us this evening.

Nancy: Good evening, Denver. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Denver: So, tell us about the American Heart Association, a little about your history, and more about the mission and objectives of the organization.

Nancy: Absolutely! I’d be delighted to. As you’ve mentioned, the American Heart Association is actually the world’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting cardiovascular diseases and stroke. We’ve been in existence since 1924. At the foundation of the American Heart Association’s work is the scientific enterprise of the AHA–coupled with our grassroots presence in communities throughout America–and our presence in 70 international locations. In these,  we dedicate our resources to help make the world a better place for people, and to prevent heart disease and stroke. We are guided by the organization’s 2020 strategic impact goal: which is to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20% by the year 2020, while reducing deaths from heart disease and stroke by 20% during that same timeframe. So this decade-long goal really is the goal that is the guidepost for the work of the organization.

Denver: Let me ask you a bit about heart attacks. I went around to a couple of my buddies this week, and I said, “Do you know what a heart attack is exactly? How does it differ from cardiac arrest?”  I have to tell you, Nancy, the answers were a little fuzzy; they were a bit uncertain. So give us an abbreviated heart disease 101 course if you would.

Nancy: Sure! I’d be pleased to. So, heart disease is, as you said, the country’s and the world’s number one killer. Heart disease is 80% preventable!  What happens when a person has a heart attack, is that the arteries or vessels leading to the heart muscle generally become blocked. They become blocked from atherosclerosis– which happens as we age, and also happens because of a hardening of arteries in individuals who have high blood pressure. When the arteries narrow, or when the arteries are blocked due to atherosclerosis, the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen, therein causing the heart, in some cases, to have a heart attack. There is another kind of heart attack called a  “sudden cardiac arrest,” which is actually not a heart attack at all.  That is a misnomer. A sudden cardiac arrest happens when the electrical functions of the heart malfunction, and a person’s heart suddenly stops.

Denver: Completely.

Nancy: And that person can be revived generally through CPR or through a defibrillator, if one is available, or if people are trained in CPR. We can come back and talk about the role the American Heart Association has played in that over time. The important thing– if you’re experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or symptoms of a stroke–is to call 911 and get emergency care immediately! (more…)

Lindsay Levin of Leaders’ Quest and the Philosophy Behind Compassion X

In this interview from The Business of Giving, Lindsay Levin, the Founding Partner of Leaders’ Quest, and the author of Invisible Giants: Changing the World One Step at a Time, discusses how Leaders’ Quest helps build a sustainable, more inclusive world in collaboration with leaders. She shares the philosophy behind Compassion X and tells us remarkable stories of people she has met and the impressive  impact they’ve delivered through their work.

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The following is a conversation between Lindsay Levin, Founding Partner of Leaders’ Quest and Denver Frederick, host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in New York City. This transcript  has been edited for clarity.

Denver: If you go on to the internet and look for courses in leadership, you will not be disappointed. There are plenty to choose from… whether you want to take them online or in person. But you won’t see too many reviews from those who have taken them that describe their course as “life-changing”  or “transformative”  the way you will for Leaders’ Quest.  It’s a great pleasure for me to have with us this evening the Founding Partner of Leaders’ Quest, Lindsay Levin. Good evening, Lindsay, and welcome to The Business of Giving.

Lindsay: Good evening. I’m delighted to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Denver: So, tell us about Leaders’ Quest, founded in 2001.  What is its purpose? And what makes it so exceptional?

Lindsay: Thank you. Sure! Leaders’ Quest is really about bridging divides. Our work is about connecting people from very different walks of life, different industries, different sectors,  different countries… and having people learn from one another.

Denver: Well, I want to go on a Quest, okay? So, who am I going to go with? Where across the world are you going to take me? How long does it last? And what will I do when I’m there?

Lindsay: Sure, we do–broadly speaking–two kinds of Quests. The first sort of program you might join us for will typically be one week long. It could take place anywhere.  It could be here in the US; it could be in the Middle East; it could be somewhere in Africa,  Asia, Latin America. For example, our next program is in Kenya. The program after that is in Cuba. The one after that is in Israel,  Palestine, and the West Bank.

You would be with a real mixed group of leaders from different walks of life–people from big corporations, entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, people leading nonprofits. It would be a very deliberate mix of people from different countries. And in the course of five or six days with us, you would go out and visit with all kinds of leaders and organizations in whichever country we’re visiting. We would deliberately mix in time spent with businesses, innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists and technologists. Time is spent visiting various communities–grassroots, slums, townships, villages–where people are driving change from the bottom up.

Denver: So I would observe, listen and watch other people make change. How is that going to help transform me?

Lindsay: Well, one of the ways I think about our work is that you can feel like you’re looking through a window. You’re looking out at something else, and you discover that it’s not really a window–it’s actually a mirror!  In the course of having these different visits and different kinds of conversations, it’s very mutual. You’re learning, you’re sharing, you’re asking questions, you’re pursuing the things that really interest you.  And in the course of that, what typically happens  is you start to think about your own life.  You start to think about your own way of leading, your own way of relating to people. And you start to notice different things about how you do what you do.

Denver:  It sounds, Lindsay, a little bit like another organization called Roots of Empathy. It teaches children empathy. In Lesson One, a baby is brought into the classroom on a blanket by his mother. And you observe what the baby is trying to do– the frustrations of reaching a rattle, looking for his mother. As a result, the kids begin to talk among themselves. And changes begin in their behavior– as it relates to bullying, inclusiveness, being kind. In watching somebody else try to make change, you begin to reflect back inward on yourself. It sounds similar to the experience you attempt to provide…Correct?

Lindsay: Right! Exactly!  And one of the reasons I started this was I believe we don’t spend enough time engaging with and getting to know people we may think of as “other,”  or different from ourselves.  So, in my view and  experience,  once you’ve met people from a different country,  a different part of your own town, a different neighborhood–and once you’ve actually talked to them about the things that matter to them–it’s impossible to go back to seeing them as “other.”  You form a connection that changes the way that you look at relationships and life.

Denver: Another thing that I think is distinctive–and you just touched on it–is the sense of self-awareness. I think we spend so much time looking at our external environment–trying to win, get profits…

Lindsay: Right.

Denver:  You really can’t be a great leader unless you are self-aware, correct?

Lindsay: I agree. Self awareness — the ability to cooperate and collaborate. The world, on one hand, is very competitive. But it also needs partnership. It also needs collaboration. And I think today, we need that far, far more than we ever did in the past.


Those are some of the things that we try to show people… that the world isn’t just newspaper headlines or what you watch on the internet. The world is full of people trying to do great things every day.


Denver: You started this 15 years ago.. as I mentioned… back in 2001.  Since you began, what we look for and need in a leader has certainly changed dramatically. What are the big differences you have observed?  And how are they  reflected in the way you design and develop Leaders’ Quest?

Lindsay: Right.  I think  the world is changing very fast. That’s not going to slow down–be it  technology, scale,  the numbers of people on the planet,  how we’re all mixed up together — the world is changing very fast. So one of the challenges for leaders is to actually be at peace with that!  To be able to work with vast change, to cope with ambiguity, to cope with uncertainty… And I think for that, you need to be very, very rooted in what you stand for.  You need to understand your own values, what’s important to you.  To have a sense of optimism… see possibility… and work with hope. Those are some of the things that we try to show people… that the world isn’t just newspaper headlines  or what you watch on the internet. The world is full of people trying to do great things every day. And if you connect in with that–and if you build relationships with those kinds of people–you deliver very different outcomes.

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