About this episode

Co-founder and CEO of IMAGINE, Valerie Keller joins Michael on this week’s Change Makers. Valerie’s journey began in a cult, growing up in the cornfields of Indiana and led her to her to become one of the world’s pre-eminent purpose leaders. With IMAGINE, she works closely with global leaders to unleash the potential of business to achieve the Global Goals. In this interview she talks about the bridge she found from her unorthodox early life into the corporate world, and what inspired her to always operate with purpose as she progressed through her career. She also explains why it’s important to ensure the work you do is fun and fulfilling both for yourself and others, why COVID-19 has fostered a more united society and how this should continue as we move into a new normal.

Valerie Keller

IMAGINE Co-Founder and CEO, Valerie helps leaders use their power for good. With deep expertise in transformation, she helps global corporations become purpose-led and future-fit, and convenes cross-sector coalitions to accelerate tipping points for humanity’s Global Goals. Valerie is an Associate Fellow of the University of Oxford Saïd Business School where she directs executive education programs. Founder of Veritas and of Beacon Institute, she served as EY Global Markets Executive Director and CEO of US-based social enterprises addressing homelessness, healthcare and housing. She was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and serves on the Harvard Kennedy School Women’s Leadership Board.

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Lockdown inspiration

WHAT IS A BOOK THAT HAS CHANGED YOUR LIFE?

The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World by Jacqueline Novogratz. I’m also currently writing a book about my changing life. How I grew up in a cult and my journey to living my calling as CEO of IMAGINE.

WHAT ARE YOU WATCHING IN LOCKDOWN?

I’m watching Unorthodox on Netflix – which in some ways mirrors my own journey.

IN ONE SENTENCE, DESCRIBE YOUR NEW NORMAL.

Harnessing the benefits of technology to bring together courageous CEOs in a virtual, safe space to form powerful collectives to positively transform the food, fashion and finance industries. 

Modern day technology truly has the ability to create an intimacy in connection and bring unity where there is a powerful purpose and inspirational ideas at play.

WHO IS YOUR BIGGEST INSPIRATION?

My co-founder and Chairman of IMAGINE, Paul Polman. He is a true visionary in every way. A courageous CEO, who is 100% committed to walk the talk and who has dedicated his life to creating positive systemic change in the world. The good news is that he might be a dreamer but he’s not the only one. Lately I’m also inspired by the 27 Food and 67 Fashion CEOs we‘re working with — they seem to personally care deeply about the future of humanity and the world — and using collective power for bold moves to reverse climate and inequality. They’re what we call Space Transformers, thanks to Yoko Ono. 

WHAT IS YOUR BEST TIP FOR LIFE?

As Mother Teresa said, “Life is a game. Play it.” Thinking about it that way takes a lot of the pressure off. It enables a lightness of being. It also dispels the myth that there is only one right way to do things.

TOP 5 LOCKDOWN TRACKS

Imagine by John Lennon; Follow the Sun by Caroline Pennell; Make that Change by Sing in Thun; Resilient by Rising Appalachia; 13 (There is a Light) by U2

Have a listen to the Change Makers Lockdown Playlist here

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