A History of Coexist

coexist

June 2, 2016

We meet people all the time that tell us, “we love the work you’re doing!” It’s the greatest feeling to know that so many people feel the work we do, knowing it has a measurable, lasting impact. Time and time again we encounter people who simply “get it” and acknowledge, through their support of our charity and their purchases of our products, the importance of coexistence.

Coexist the Charity

The Coexist Foundation officially started in 2006 in the UK as a British registered charity. Prior to that time, between 2004-2005, a group of very generous business leaders met to discuss what they could do to help make the world a better place. As they went around the table offering options, they all came back to one simple fact, people need to be able to work and learn together. Coexist as a charity was born.

The idea behind the Coexist Foundation in its early stage was to fund programs that helped foster understanding across the three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). One of the first projects of the charity was an exhibit at the British Library entitled “Sacred” where artwork, texts, and artifacts of the three Abrahamic faiths were displayed side-by-side. It was not only a tremendous success; it was the largest, ever visited exhibit in the Library’s history!

At around the same time, a Polish artist named Piotr Mlodozeniec was working on an artistic rendition of the word coexist incorporating three symbols of the three Abrahamic faiths. This original design so captured the mission behind Coexist, it became our official logo and has remained so until today.

In the first five years of operations, the charity was able to make a measurable change in the interfaith space. However, it was quickly realized that not only was the social issue of coexistence needed, but the scope we had originally set was too narrow. Between 2010-2011 the charity set up operations in the US (first NYC, then DC) and introduced itself with an exhibition at the New York Public Library entitled “Three Faiths.” Similar to the reception of “Sacred” five years earlier in London, “Three Faiths” was the largest, most visited exhibit in the library’s entire history! However, the desire to expand the remit of the charity was growing, and the trustees and the leadership of the charity decided to clearly make the fostering of social cohesion across all divides our central mission.

Coexist the Business

As the charity explored the contours of various conflict areas around the world and understanding where and how it could add real value, it was observed that there was a very interesting, yet under utilized component to social cohesion. Economic sustainability. We observed that the areas we operated in as a charity were not all demonstrating the same levels of social cohesion. The areas that had the highest levels were areas that also had an underlying economic-sustainability component. In other words, people that worked and traded together also lived together and, most importantly, learned together. That was our light bulb moment. We could help create a sustainable ecosystem of coexistence and get other people to support this ecosystem through their purchase of ethically sources, quality products.

From that initial thought, the Coexist was formed as a for-profit business borne out of the values and principles of the Coexist Foundation. Our vision is to see a world in which consumers are given access to ethical and traceable products in every retail category. Our mission is to work directly with farmers in post-conflict zones, linking them to wider distribution channels around the world. By doing this, Coexist is able to generate income for the Coexist Foundation helping it support projects of social cohesion around the world, wherever they are needed.

We are extremely proud of the work that we’ve done over the last decade, in both philanthropy and business, and we are equally passionate and excited for the decades to come!