Robert Fersh is the President of Convergence, an organization based in Washington, DC that he founded in 2009. We’re inspired by Fersh’s passion for bringing people together who, despite having drastically different points of view, manage to come up with solutions that go the distance to incite meaningful change in the world. Robert is going to be at Upswell in Los Angeles this November.
Q: In a few sentences, tell us who you are – what drives you, what you’re working on, and why you’re inspired to make the world a better place?
RF: In a long career, I have seen over and over again that people with greatly differing views and backgrounds can not only get along, but also work effectively for common purpose and for the greater good. My entire career in government and the non-profit sector has been spent working on big issues at the national level. In 2009 I started and now continue to lead an organization called Convergence that successfully gets divergent, often conflicting leaders to work together to address key issues of the day relating to health care, education, economic mobility, incarceration, and more.
Q: Who are your three favorite changemakers in history (living or deceased) – and very briefly, why?
RF: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. All fought for justice while embracing the humanity of all.
Q: In your view, what would it look like to “advance the common good”?
RF: To me, people would pursue their passion for the common good paying as much attention to how they do it, and who they are as they do it, as to their overall mission. I believe in most instances, with some notable exceptions, that there is no tension between being civil and collaborative and achieving great results. And in fact, my experience is that even better answers emerge from people working across differences and in the process, more often than not, familiarity breeds affection among even those who see themselves initially in conflict. The only prerequisite is an agreement on goals even if views on means vary widely.
Q: What excites you most about Upswell?
RF: It is a chance to expand my horizons, meet new people, find new ways of thinking, and build connection with people who I would not otherwise be in contact with.