Topher Wilkins’ life purpose is to end global poverty and social injustice. And he believes it won’t be complicated if we all work together. Topher and his wife Jorian lead Opportunity Collaboration, which hosts an annual four-day gathering in Mexico that brings together nonprofit leaders, for-profit social entrepreneurs, grant-makers, impact investors and other agents of positive change to create opportunities for social, environmental and economic justice. This network of over 2,000 members and grows every year. They meet and discuss in a format that Topher calls a female model—conversational circles designed to promote listening and sharing stories to understand why people care about the causes they work for. Everyone has a voice and an opportunity to participate and contribute. The female conference model provides a space for learning and collaboration. It brings people together, rather than separating them like the traditional conference where people sit in rows and listen to the expert on the stage.
People often call it the un-conference. Instead of sages on stages, delegates themselves choose the topics. Rather than leading with a business card and two-minute elevator pitch, attendees work to build a foundation of trust and empathy with each other. The mantra is “how can we help each other.” Topher finds it amazing how much you can get done when you put aside your egos and share what’s in your heart.
Getting Over the “Not Enough Pie” Syndrome
Topher thinks the “not enough pie” scarcity syndrome is deeply ingrained in our evolutionary DNA. He says it dates back to when we killed off and ate the woolly mammoth because there might not be another one. We consume things the same way today. He says that we have the resources for humanity to thrive. There are plans to roll out renewable energy and de-carbon our economy, making the world a sustainable place. So, the scarcity syndrome has no real foundation. He suggests that people engage in the power of “appreciative inquiry.” By asking why the glass half empty person feels that way, then digging deeper, eventually, you will uncover a little diamond of truth. Once it is revealed in the light, you can start to change perspectives and behaviors because suddenly you know what’s really at the heart of their skeptical scarcity mindsets.
Topher says, “We have taken what was three billion people living under extreme poverty 20 years ago and decreased that by two-thirds. There’s now only one billion people living in extreme poverty.” While that’s a lot of people, it’s also progress. Now, is the time for an evolutionary leap and Topher thinks it’s women and men together, but most importantly he feels that women and this female energy will make it happen.
The Most Effective Leadership is Co-Leadership
Having worked as a husband and wife team and knowing several other successful husband and wife teams, Topher thinks the most effective leadership of the future is male-female co-leadership. He likes the dualism at the top of the hierarchy and would like to see that gender dynamic in leadership going forward.
Listen to this interview to hear Topher’s fascinating story about how he found his life’s purpose and more about Opportunity Collaboration. Topher invites anyone who is interested to look into the conference in October. If you’re committed to creating a world that’s free of poverty where we can all live in harmony with one another, he personally invites you to come to Cancun, Mexico. Check out their website at OCImpact.com for details and contact information.