A few weeks ago I attended a venture capital conference in Lima, Peru. I was a panelist at the conference. I also had the pleasure of meeting a lot of interesting people and heard a lot of great speakers. Perhaps the most interesting participant in the event was Gastón Acurio. The night before Gastón spoke I was invited out to eat with some of the participants of the conference to a restaurant called Astrid y Gastón. When I arrived I was asking people outside where the restaurant was located because I couldn’t imagine it was the sprawling hacienda style building in front of which I stood. Turns out this was the restaurant. Everything about this restaurant experience was decadent, I dined with some big names in the venture capital community, there were no prices on the menus, and the food was a combination of absolute flavor explosions. After dinner the wait staff brought out what looked like a bowling ball of chocolate, then the waitress took a spoon and tapped the top of the chocosphere and it fell open revealing various fruits and syrups. It was a spectacular food experience. This is all background to set up the discourse of Gastón Acurio.
Gastón Acurio is a restaurateur who started his first restaurant with a $40,000 loan from his family and friends. He scraped and clawed his way as he started his business worrying that they wouldn’t make it; worrying that they wouldn’t be able to serve enough people to keep the restaurant going. To make a long story short, he now has 34 Peruvian restaurants in 11 countries, and that sprawling hacienda of a restaurant Astrid y Gastón, it is the #1 rated restaurant in South America (http://en.astridygaston.com/).
At the venture capital conference when Gastón spoke, he flashed pictures of fast food chains, and global brands, and talked about how Peru had gone through a period of trying to conform to what the world was propping up as the next cool thing instead of sticking to their cultural roots. He then contrasted these pictures with pictures of traditional Peruvian fashion making its way into mainstream fashion, and images demonstrating that Peruvians and specifically Peruvian food are now moving to the world’s stage because they remembered their cultural roots. The conference room swelled with pride. You could feel the energy as the people in the room got behind the message, realizing that it is in all of us to be original and to create products that the world wants; that innovation is not specific to geography, and has much more to do with vision than conformity. I got caught up in the message, I am not Peruvian, but I loved feeling the energy surge in an audience of people that felt their value swell because of an idea.
I’ve reflected a lot on this experience over the last week or so. I’m a patriot of my country and I love many of the ideas that my country considers founding ideals. But, the more that I think about this experience at the venture capital conference, the more that I think about the direction of altruism and the ideals that should transcend nationalism. Gastón Acurio reminded the audience of their worth, that the ideas that everyone in the room were passionate about could apply to the rest of the world. He did this through nationalistic dialogue. Fundamentally this type of provocative nationalistic dialogue can light people up in a way that leads to action, innovation, and creation. I would like to suggest that similar dialogue should be employed around our responsibilities as citizens of the world.
In my home, growing up, saying that we were citizens of the world was not in line with our nationalist ideals. As stated, we have a lot of national pride and patriotism and this idea of thinking that we connected with people beyond our borders, in this context, almost threatened our patriotism in a way that seemed to elicit a response of what is most important is to take care of your own. A fascinating phenomenon of today’s world is that we are so much more connected than ever before. We can exchange casual conversations with people from other continents on social media or share ideas through thought leading platforms. Diverse perspectives and our access to them allows us to view the world in a way that no other generation before us has been able.
Essentially the reason behind this blog is to harness the power of ideas to reduce barriers of entry for people around the world. I realize that you walk a fine line when you try to offer up “solutions” from the perspective of the western world and expect that what has brought prosperity to one part of the world may not be well received in another part. But this is where the idea of being a citizen of the world overcomes this potential outcome. If we are all looking at global problems from the perspective of wanting to help our fellow citizens of the world, then it would seem that we are all looking at the problems through the same lens. I would hope that we would not be faulted for trying to help our fellow citizens realize the importance of financial inclusion. When the idea of taking care of our own includes the whole of humanity, the hope is that we start to freely communicate across cultures and borders about solutions. We begin a multi-channel dialogue about how to solve the worlds problems, avoiding prescription, but leveraging the worlds empirical lessons. We can solve financial inclusion together as citizens of the world.