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Interview with Jeremy Gilley, Founder of Peace One Day

By Kathy Heslop

March 6, 2013 | 10 min read

In the second in our series, we are delighted to share this interview with the extraordinary Jeremy Gilley, Founder of Peace One Day.

Throughout the years, millions of people have been active on Peace Day (21st September) in every country of the world. As a result of this annual day of cease-fire and non-violence, hundreds of organisations have been able to carry out life-saving activities in areas of conflict.

Jeremy reveals how childhood curiosity and bewilderment at the problems in the world, lead him to create what is now a UN mandated ‘Peace Day.’ Four percent of the world’s population are now aware of it! We discussed the astonishing back-story to Peace Day; entrepreneurship; technology; his heroes and business as a force for good.

Hello Jeremy, thank you for talking to us. The creation of a global Peace Day sounds like an insurmountable challenge to take on. What initially drove you to care enough to want to give it a go?

At school I was concerned about what was going on in the world and I was quite confused and frightened by it. Plus I was physically small, I was bottom of the class, I was told I was dyslexic and I struggled. So some of the things that went down for me while growing up, led me to ask questions about my place in the world. Then of course you get a little bit older and the world pretty much mirrors what’s going on in the home and the community and in school, and so I decided I’ve got to try and do something about this. I wanted to answer questions, like; is humankind fundamentally evil? Is the destruction of the world inevitable?

How did it all begin?

I had no qualifications, but I was a filmmaker, so I decided to make a film about peace. Through my subsequent research, I discovered that there was no day of peace! In other words, no day of unity, of intercultural cooperation, there was nothing that brought the world together separate from politics and religion. No day where we united as one in the hope that we could lift the level of consciousness around the fundamental issues that humanity faced. And that really was it, I was like boom! OK I’m going to try and create that day.

Did you have any idea of the enormity of the project you were taking on?

Well the real truth is it was a creative process at that stage and to be honest, one that I thought would fail too, because the world probably wouldn’t care about my film or idea. But what happened was that as I began the journey, I realised that what I believed about human beings, wasn’t really true. I could suddenly see a lot of hope out there. The real heroes are the men and women out there in the field in the conflict zones of the world. They don’t have cameras rolling on them and they are earning very little money, risking their lives to save others.

In the course of making the film, you travelled to some of the most dangerous places on the planet

Yes. I saw things in Somalia that were so desperate and so disturbing to the absolute core of me; things that physically and emotionally blew my mind, but that was when I realised that actually, I didn’t have a choice, that I couldn’t fail. I had to continue until I succeeded. Fortunately that realisation came right at the beginning of my journey. So really there was a moment of transformation I guess. Now I wasn’t going to give up until I had got to the top of that mountain. And the summit was obviously the creation of Peace Day.

Which you did and which the UN has mandated. So what was your strategy next?

The journey then really began. Once we’d created the day I wanted to prove it could work in Afghanistan, which we did. I now want to institutionalise the day and make it self-sustaining. And that we will achieve.

The determination you show is one of many qualities that are often attributed to entrepreneurs – vision, drive, courage, risk taking etc. Do you ever think of yourself as an entrepreneur?

I haven’t really thought about it like that. Yes I think I’m entrepreneurial. I mean we had nothing and now we’ve got something. As an example; it takes a lot of thinking, a lot of strategy and a hell of a lot of effort just to raise the finance to continue driving this car around the track. And now my focus is all about the day becoming institutionalised. We’ve reached a final chapter in the story, because there are now so many supporting coalitions being formed to help achieve this. So yes, I would say entrepreneurial.

You are a prominent user of technology and social media to reach audiences and to reboot attitudes toward peace, especially in children, which you do through your Global Education Resource programme. How important is technology to you?

I remember being on a plane many, many years ago with one of the leading figures on the history of the world - particularly in relation to war. He was actually a very hopeful man, because he felt that technology is really opening up the door to us to be able to interculturally cooperate and the academics are saying that intercultural cooperation is key to humanity’s survival. So yes, technology is absolutely essential! I therefore make sure that we are investing in tools that are paramount to Peace Day’s success. The speed at which I can speak to people is now so rapid and so cheap for example and without the technology involved, that process would be much, much slower. Then take the online Global Education Resource Programme as another example, it’s published by YUDU in six languages and there’s now registration from 197 countries!

Tell us about your Corporate Coalition, what can companies like Ve Interactive do to help?

Obviously we’d love you to join the amazing companies who want be part of a coalition of organisations who care about peace and a sustainable world, and who want to be at the forefront of that process. We need as many corporations to come forward and help us raise awareness, engage their workforces, engage their consumers. The Corporate Coalition will play a large role in getting our message to hundreds of millions of people.

How did the idea come about?

Though working with Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever. I was giving a speech at the ‘One Young World’ with Clinton and Geldof, and Paul saw my speech. We travelled back together and he said look, what do you want to do? I told him we needed a corporate coalition and as a result of our discussions, the idea came to fruition. I’m very grateful to Paul and Unilever, they’ve been essential to Peace One Day’s success and I think as a result, Peace Day is at the final phase now.

That must feel incredibly satisfying?

What I love most about this final chapter is, it’s like having a child; you create it, then you teach it, then you let it go. It’s a lovely process; it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of all of this.

Ve Interactive is launching an initiative this year with our charity partner Concern Universal, called #TechAid. By publishing the model that has worked for our two organisations over the last 18 months, we hope to encourage other technology companies to sign up and donate their time, services and technologies to help other charities. In other words to assist them with getting properly online and show them how emerging tech can help generate online donations, reach new audiences, as well as teaching techniques like SEO and illustrating the broadcast potential of social media etc. What do you think?

I think it makes complete sense! I think that anything that is sharing skills and supporting people has obviously got to be a good thing. Anything that brings people together with a goal of advancing everyone’s objective, well that’s got to be great.

Who is your hero?

There are a few!

I’d say that Ray Anderson was one of my real inspirations. He coined the phrase: “doing well by doing good.” He gave me incredible advice during the time that I spent with him, he was an incredible man.

I’d also say Ahmad Fawzi, from the United Nations. He has been a great inspiration and support. He’s had an incredible career in international relations and negotiations; he’s just the most amazing man.

Meeting the Dalai Lama very early on and his words of encouragement were extremely profound for me; even at that early stage he wanted to make it all happen and that was pretty mind blowing.

And obviously there’s my Granddad and my parents, to name a few. The people who keep me going and who have supported me. There are actually just so many people!

There’s also the young people that I’ve met in the 97 countries that I’ve been travelling to, so many young people in the most desperate situations and yet who have so much courage and hope, who really are the people who made me decide I couldn’t fail. I could go on.

And finally what’s your favourite thing to do in London?

I wakeboard! Pretty much every single weekend, from March time, at a lake just outside London. There’s a big wakeboarding community that I know very well there and we ride hard and I love it. When I’m on my board, it’s the one time when I don’t think about anything.

Thank you Jeremy, You have blown our minds!

Please join Ve Interactive and sign up to support Peace One Day

About Ve Interactive

Ve Interactive is a multi award-winning cart abandonment and remarketing expert with eight offices worldwide. In the three years since its inception, it now has over 2,000 clients worldwide and has developed a portfolio of supplementary software and services to help its e-commerce clients achieve total online efficiency. This includes its own e-commerce platform, VeCommerce, the world's first to have integrated cart recovery and remarketing software and VeChat, the world's first AI-enabled multilingual chat software.


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