Updated: Apr 10, 2020
On a very unusual Friday afternoon, Claudia and I sat face to face, Claudia from her office in her apartment building in NYC, and me from my home office in Miami. Coronavirus had just become a concern for the US, and the CDC was to recommending organizers to cancel or postpone events with 50 people or more for 8 weeks. Only a week away, on March 26th, Claudia was scheduled to launch “Hispanic Star”, a mega campaign aimed to change the perception of Hispanics by shining a light and showcasing the incredible contributions of Hispanics to the country. The kickoff event was supposed to take place at the MLB’s opening game at the White Sox Stadium in Chicago. Once she heard that it was canceled, her team shifted gears in order to introduce a Hispanic Recovery Plan that can help Hispanics get back on their feet as soon as possible.
Claudia is no stranger to adapting. She is a social entrepreneur, an advocate and a catalyst for change. A captivating public speaker and media contributor, Claudia is a leader of inclusion, focused on unifying the U.S. Hispanic community and promoting sustainability and purpose-driven activities. She was born in Mexico and raised a marketer. She studied communications, had a passion for film and storytelling that quickly gave her experience as a journalist. She moved to Europe literally the night of her prom, so she never worked in Mexico. From the very beginning, she has worked as a diplomat and press correspondent for global organizations, so she is always trying to raise awareness; to mobilize the hearts and minds of people. “I’ve been part of different organizations, and had different titles, but my goal has always been pretty much the same: how do we communicate, organize and mobilize people to do things that are important for the planet.”
We Are All Human
After spending 25 years in Europe witnessing different environments and communities get together and thrive, Claudia was inspired to create “We are all Human”, an organization that looks to unify the Hispanic community, by making sure they are all seen, heard and valued. “I moved to America five years ago and I was suddenly a Hispanic. It was the first time hearing that term. That's when I started getting interested in understanding how powerful Hispanics are, but how weak we feel we are. How big our numbers are and how small people see us.” As a marketer, Claudia knows that numbers speak for themselves. “Hispanics are powerful, but we don't know about it because we have to shift the general perception. We don't have a problem, we are great. We are finishing school, getting educated, we are hard-working, we care about our family. We just don't have good marketing behind us.”
Claudia has had the incredible luxury to work in organizations that care about refugees, migration, public health, AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. She’s spent more than nine years working for the World Economic Forum, where she had first-hand experience on how important it is to have a joint plan and an ongoing dialogue to execute that plan. It is also crucial to have a multi-stakeholder approach, because when in the event of a crisis or big ambitions there is no way that one single sector can do it alone. “You need a variety of people, I had a nine-year school on how to unify people, how to bring them together to the same table.”
This experience has given Claudia a good understanding of how pandemics work. They hit hard and there are ways in which you can recover. You have either a “V” recovery, which goes sharply down and sharply back up, you can also have a “U” when it's a long way down, with a long u-turn and then you come back up, or an “L”, where you go down and you stay flat. “What I'm trying to do for the Hispanic community is to unify all of our forces so that we can get our recovery in a “V” shape. Not only at the health level but also psychologically, and most importantly economically. We know we are going to go down, we aren't even halfway down, so we are going to hit ground and at that moment we should be ready with an action plan so that we can recover fast.”
Claudia is concerned that Hispanics are going to be hit the hardest by the pandemic. Especially small businesses, entrepreneurs, independent contractors, and subcontractors, that work in the gig economy, sharing economy and service industry. Her Hispanic recovery action plan ideally will unify leaders in sharing the same information by communicating, organizing and mobilizing. This way, people know what are the key actions they can take and where to find trustworthy resources. One example is giving small businesses and entrepreneurs visibility so that corporations can diversify their supply chain and hire Hispanics in the time when they need it most. “It is easier by far to have a framework of action and then follow a lead so that we can get back in a “V” shape and not in an “L” form. People care about doing something once you have a plan.”
Possibilism: when change is possible
From where she sits on the 30th floor of the United Nations in NYC, Claudia has a clear perspective of everything that is happening in the world, and she says we are making progress. “I am massively optimistic, but more than anything possibilistic because change is possible. I've seen the world being more malleable than we think. It’s changing in ways that we can’t even imagine.” Claudia has seen how humanity is able to create a better world and we are a sign of that by the minute. “We are bombarded by negativity and negative news, so we think that the world is going down. The world has never been so good as it is today despite that we want to believe it’s not. If you are a baby girl flying in the sky trying to decide where to be born, whether in the Middle Ages in the caves, ten years ago or today, today is the best time to be a girl. There has never been so much access to education, to electricity, to consensus, to health overall.”
One of Claudia's biggest concerns, and the reason she created ‘We are all Human’, is that divisiveness is getting bigger and gaining more traction by the day. Even though technology brings us closer, it’s also creating silos that bombard us only with the things we want to hear or believe in. This creates a sense of otherness such as being Republican or Democrat, rich or poor, Mexican or Colombian. These divisions have tremendous consequences, ending up in situations like Brexit, and stopping the progress we're making for humanity. “This global pandemic is giving us an opportunity to be more human. To feel that it doesn't really matter if you are rich or poor, you really are all exposed to the same. I hope that we can take this opportunity to be conscious and intentional to exercise the muscle of believing that we belong to the same human family. If a virus is not making a distinction and the world is not making a distinction, why would we? And I hope that it’s going to humanize us.”
That is already happening. Younger generations are by far more socially responsible than older generations and are the ones that are pushing a lot of the change. In fact, 66% of Millennials across America make decisions based on their heart. “They make purchases based on their beliefs. They're not going to buy from a company that doesn’t match their values, or work for one where they can’t be themselves, even if it means a lesser salary.” Millennials are the ones driving corporate responsibility actions, pushing companies to join efforts like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the world’s shared plan to end extreme poverty, reduce inequality, and protect the planet by 2030.
Be organized, have a plan and a network to ask for help
Even though there haven’t been strict guidelines on a federal level, a lot of the behaviors Claudia sees right now are related to policy, media and information. “I think that the World Health Organization and governments along with private sectors are getting organized in order to share the same set of information and practices. There's no way that anyone on the planet that has a mobile phone, television or radio, has not received the message to wash their hands and stay home. Whether it’s reinforced at the policy level or not, it’s what we need to do as a community.”
“We must learn about the experiences of everybody, as we are all experiencing this in a very different way. The more that we can share, the more than we can ask, the easier it’s going to feel that you are not alone.” This is also the time for us to be open to listening to needs and acting on them. “We are so humble in every aspect, we don’t self-advocate, we don't ask for help. It is essential that you say ‘I really don't know what to do with my kid, I really don't have food, or I don't have money to pay for something’. Be open to what you need, about what’s happening in your life. Share. And for people that are in places like Miami or New York, where we are in lockdown and the situation is escalating, it’s absolutely essential to have a rhythm and a structure. Have the discipline to say ‘this is the time in which I'm gonna work, these are the tools that I’m going to be using for my children, and this is the network that I need to activate just in case I need something’.”
Claudia is adamant about the importance of having a routine. “I was a press correspondent for so many years and the first couple of months I literally didn't know the difference between day and night. I was wearing the same pajamas all day, it’s easy to waste time. You have to have a routine. You have to have a plan, you have to exercise, you have to be conscious that this is hard. The more you focus on keeping your mind and body sane, the easier it is going to be able to cope.” In the event that there is a crack in your routine, and are overtaken by feelings such as anxiety or depression, recognizing that these are absolutely normal and finding tools that work for you is essential. Claudia resorts to meditation, exercise and surrounding herself by the things she cares about. “Now that I have to work in this room, I’ve put photos of my children on the wall behind me to remind me that there are things in life that matter a lot. So have two or three things that calm you down nearby so that you can access them.”
This is not just us
It’s no surprise that Claudia walks her talk. Through Hispanic Stars she will host a coordination call every Tuesday at 11 am for everyone that wants to tune in, with the capacity to host more than 1 million people. They are bringing the best experts on the State of Union on health, economy, business practices, both on the corporate and personal levels. “It’s a perfect opportunity to get educated. We are trying to get the best of the best in different areas so that we can learn from people like Deepak Chopra how to meditate and how to get on our feet in these times of crisis.”
Corporations also have an incredible role to play by being present, activating their employees through their Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), sharing best practices, donating to people that need it, hiring people in the supply chain, and by giving visibility to efforts like this through their media spaces. “This is not us doing this, it’s every Hispanic organization in America getting together under a single plan so that we can recover.”
The invitation is for everyone to become a Hispanic Star Ambassador by signing up at www.HispanicStar.org. Claudia and her team are also creating hubs at the local level so people can get organized and identify specific needs for their cities. It may be a fundraiser to help the people that are being laid off from restaurants or something as basic as sharing resources in Spanish. “The way that recovery happens is by having everybody singing from the same song sheet under the same mission, which is that we can do this if we are together and we are informed.”
“Go to the site, sign-up, bring as many people as possible and be positive, we are going to get out of this one, let’s keep working.”
We are all human after all.
Bridges Unite - Founder & Chief Passion Officer
Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Debra Natasha Pogorelsky has been driven by a passion for tech and startups. She kick-started her career in Toronto with one of Facebook’s first marketing partners. After relocating to Miami, Debra joined the agency world, applying her expertise to acquire and grow Fortune 500 accounts.
Her passion, creativity, and connections have led her to create Bridges Unite and she is a force to be reckoned with in female empowerment and business building. In addition to leading Bridges Unite, Debra leads PepsiCo's Fruits & Veggies category for Latin America. She is an intrapreneur who has successfully navigated the Fortune 500, tech and agency industries.