Making a connection

Four months into the partnership between AkzoNobel and global peace movement MasterPeace, we spoke to David Menko, Chief Marketing Officer of AkzoNobel Decorative Paints, and Aart Bos, CEO of MasterPeace, to get their opinions on progress so far and find out what lies ahead. Launched in March, the joint Let’s Colour Walls of Connection campaign will bring together artists and local communities to paint 100 walls in 40 cities.

Why do you do what you do?

David Menko:  Our “Let’s Colour” program is all about adding color to people’s lives, using the power of paint to uplift and inspire communities. During 2016, our employees took part in 99 “Let’s Colour” projects, impacting 3.8 million lives with 81,000 liters of paint. We firmly believe that companies who think and care about the future and about society achieve the most success. Our great range of brands is built on what they do, not what they say.

Aart Bos: In 2011, I decided to use the talents I have been given and what I have learned in business to contribute to society. As of 2013, my work is my passion. I learn so much from various cultures and feel inspired by the drive of thousands of youngsters who want to be change makers in their local community.

Wall of Connection, Paris

There are many like-minded organizations out there. Why did you choose each other?

David Menko: We both strongly believe in the transformational power of paint to uplift communities and energize cities. With the combined power of paint, creativity and thousands of participants in cities around the world, we will bring people together by transforming walls into community centerpieces.

Aart Bos: MasterPeace is a foundation but acts as a social enterprise. We want to co-create with businesses such as AkzoNobel, based on shared values. We truly believe in this new type of support. Our movement has a leadership model with the pyramid upside down. Local ownership that we try to support with knowledge and networks. I always encourage people to look what we have in common and not what separates us. Our vision is that we have seven billion talents, not seven billion issues.

What's the challenge you are addressing?

David Menko: By 2020, about 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. Given this rapid growth, we need to ask ourselves how we can keep our cities human. We are committed to improving, energizing and regenerating urban communities across the world. Our Human Cities initiative – everything we do for and with society – is an active expression of our company purpose to make people’s lives more liveable and inspiring.
Aart Bos: This is a perfect example of how both society (MasterPeace) and AkzoNobel can benefit. Let's Colour Walls of Connection is a big campaign to color 100 walls in 40 cities. But it’s also the start of a local project to bring people together and create a common understanding.

What do you think you can achieve together?

David Menko: By creating “Let’s Colour” Walls of Connection in cities around the world, we will contribute to creating sustainable cities and communities, by forming partnerships to help ensure a more sustainable and liveable future and to achieve the SDG goals.
Aart Bos: Our joint believe is that you can inspire people, especially the younger generation, when you take them seriously and speak their language. We invite participants to show their dreams of connection and visualize them.

How do you complement each other with the actions you are taking?

David Menko: Given that 60% of our products are in the Buildings and Infrastructure and Transportation end-user segments, AkzoNobel has an important influence on the process of urban transformation that’s currently taking place. We also have a long history of giving back to the communities in which we operate. We are helping cities to meet the challenges they face by combining our sense of care with our people, products and leadership in innovation, safety and sustainability. MasterPeace is currently active in more than 45 countries around the world, engaging tens of thousands of new peace activists and mobilizing people to use their talent and energy to lead the way to a more sustainable world with fewer conflicts.

David Menko, Chief Marketing Officer, AkzoNobel Decorative Paints
David Menko, Chief Marketing Officer AkzoNobel Decorative Paints

Aart Bos: AkzoNobel and MasterPeace have complementary networks that can strengthen local positive forces. As well as supplying the communication power and the paint expertise, AkzoNobel also provides funding, which is key to building our global movement. MasterPeace has a complementary, but also strong, communication power and our volunteers are the driving force on the ground who can mobilize people and take us forward.

Aart Bos, CEO MasterPeace
Aart Bos, CEO MasterPeace

What are the next steps?

David Menko: This year we aim to paint 100 walls around the world and bring communities together in celebration of unity, kindness and connection. The painting will take place in 40 cities around the world, from Indonesia all the way to Brazil, involving hundreds of artists, AkzoNobel employees, MasterPeace teams and thousands of participants worldwide. With brands such as Flexa, Dulux and Coral, we have already transformed 22 walls in 15 countries into walls of connection.

Aart Bos: The first year has already brought great inspiration and communication power with local impact. I am sure we will grow that impact when we implement the lessons learned. A big opportunity for both of us is that we invite like-minded partners in business so that we create an impressive eco-system of talents that want to contribute to society. Sometimes we don’t realize how powerful we are when we join forces.

How do you measure your impact?

David Menko: We have created a measurement framework which enables us to effectively measure the impact of all Let's Colour projects globally. During and after every event, we monitor the impact on communities and participants of the Let’s Colour Walls of Connection events. This includes number of projects, number of participants, number of community people trained in painting as a result of project participation, number of people that have benefitted from the project and number of AkzoNobel employees engaged.

Aart Bos: This is always a difficult question, as you define impact as change in a community and that cannot be realized via one project. But the outcome of these projects, and our other local community projects, certainly help drive change towards more social cohesion. We evaluate quantitatively of course, but it’s the stories of hope and inspiration that trigger me and give me the trust that this wave of 100 walls of connection is the right thing to do.