In November Jonathan Coleman joined longtime director Elizabeth Killough to help run the Untours Foundation.
As the foundation’s new Co-CEO, Jonathan is working alongside Elizabeth (or at a social distance) to chart and execute a plan for growth and resilience in the foundation’s next chapter.
He brings rich business and life experience, with an MBA in International Economic Development and years at the helm of ASSETS, an organization that helps launch and grow social enterprises and diversely-owned businesses in Lancaster, PA. Their mission and values mirrors those of the Untours Foundation, helping create jobs, boosting sustainability, and working toward economic inclusion.
Beyond that, Jonathan brings a global perspective. He has lived and worked all over the world, having spent years in the developing world working for NGOs and learning much about and from other cultures, and operated his own social enterprise travel company, Intentional Tours.
Here is a recent conversation we had with the newest member of the Untours family.
What attracted you to the Untours Foundation?
More than anything, it was the soul of the foundation. I was drawn to the history, the creativity, and the radical mindset of its founder, Hal Taussig, and his protege, Elizabeth Killough. Elizabeth has graciously welcomed me with open arms to join her as Co-CEO. Hal and Elizabeth created an amazing foundation committed to changing the world, with kindness and righteous anger at the injustices that plague our communities, both represented in equal measure. That is a unique and inspiring combination.
What life and work experiences do you feel will most help you in your new role with the Foundation?
My life and career have provided me with so many opportunities to learn and grow, which I hope to apply to my work at the foundation. I grew up in small-town, middle America. I have lived in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, while working in education and youth-focused initiatives. I have helped to lead and grow an organization focused on economic justice and based in an urban environment in the US.
The icing on the cake is the fact that I have been running a travel company as a side hustle for the last four years, leading cultural immersion tours in the Dominican Republic, Kenya, and Cambodia. I am excited about the business side of Untours as well as the foundation. All of these experiences have set me up for this role with the foundation and I am so excited to apply what I have learned to help us grow in scale and impact.
What’s your vision for the Untours Foundation?
The base of the foundation is incredibly strong, so my vision is simply to build off of that base to help create something that is even more impactful.
Likewise, I am excited to jump in with Brian and the Untours travel team to help the company grow. The travel industry is in a difficult moment, but Untours’ groundbreaking history as the world’s first Certified B Corporation and its dedicated client base of Untourists are both such strong assets. I have faith that they will aid in sustaining Untours as the world opens for travel again.
How have your experiences working and living abroad shaped you as a person and a professional?
My time working and living abroad was incredibly impactful on my life, both personally and professionally. I didn’t grow up in a family that traveled, so my first encounter with “the world” was not until I was in my early twenties.
I learned to step outside of my comfort zone, to roll with the punches, and to acknowledge my own biases. I was able to shed fears of people, cultures, and religions different than my own, and to get beyond my White Savior Complex. All of this growth was vital in shaping who I am today.
My journey of self-awareness, personal growth, and professional expertise is still very much in progress, but I am so thankful for all that I have learned from others along the way and look forward to applying those lessons to my work at the Untours Foundation.
How are you adjusting to your new work family: Elizabeth, the board, the Untours staff?
This is a crazy time to be joining a new team. We certainly haven’t seen each other in person as much as we would in normal times, but this hasn’t prevented them from making me feel fully at home in my new role. I still have much to learn, but I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome to the team.
Also at the same time I was joining the team, I was preparing to move my family to upstate New York, so it’s been a busy few months of transition. Now, as I get settled into working fully remotely, I am discovering new ways to stay connected with the team back in Media. It will be a journey for all of us.
Who is your favorite investee and why?
As an ardent soccer fan and mediocre but dedicated soccer player, I love what Senda is doing. Fair Trade and B Corporation Certified soccer equipment? Count me in!
How do you spend your time when you are not working?
I have the sweetest, smartest, and sassiest 8-month-old daughter and an amazingly talented and entrepreneurial wife. These two ladies occupy most of my non-work time. The balance of parenting and having time for our respective careers in the midst of Covid has been a challenge for us, as it has for so many others, but we are finding our way through.
Outside of family life, my aforementioned soccer passion is where any spare time goes!
What social and economic issues matter most to you personally?
As a white, straight, cisgender male, I am in the midst of a life-long process of understanding and coming to terms with my privilege. Our economy, religions, and political system were all manipulated to prioritize maximum benefit to people like me.
I can’t change who I am or how I was born, but I can use all that I have to open doors where they were once closed, and to provide opportunities for economic dignity and well-being where they have not previously existed.
Business, done right, is an outstanding tool for achieving these goals, so I am excited to help the foundation identify and support world-changing businesses, while also running a world-changing business ourselves.