Simon Cohen

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Simon Cohen (b. April 19, 1979)[1] is a British social commentator, public speaker, broadcaster and marketing consultant. At age 24 he founded the international communications agency Global Tolerance, working with nonprofits, charities, NGOs, and peace activists.[2][3][4] In 2014, he launched what he called "Open Leadership Exercise", a public competition in five stages, which eventually led to him giving away the company, reported to be worth approximately £1 million.[5]

Education and career[edit]

Cohen holds a BA in theology from the University of Nottingham.[2] He worked as a planner/buyer at MBS, an independent media and marketing agency now known as Brand Connections, from 2000-2001.[6]

In 2001, Cohen became a senior business development manager at Northcliffe Newspapers. As his response to the demonisation of Islam by the mass media following the 9/11 attacks, Cohen[4] resigned from Northcliffe in 2003 to set up the agency he named "Global Tolerance".[6]

Cohen has spoken at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, UNESCO, the World Economic Forum, the University of Cambridge, and the United Nations. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts.

He has written for the BBC, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Times, and The Guardian.[7]

The "Global Tolerance" agency[edit]


Cohen's agency managed PR for the Dalai Lama, Rajmohan Gandhi, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Prince Charles, TED, Desmond Tutu, Karen Armstrong, Wallace & Gromit Foundation and The Gallup Organization.[8][9][10][11]

Cohen was the author of the protest letter delivered to UN officials by two self-identified Jedi to draw attention to the International Day for Tolerance, calling for the day to be renamed the UN Interstellar Day for Tolerance.[12]

Paternal leave and suspension of activity[edit]

In March 2013, Cohen took a year's paternal leave upon the birth of his first child. With this, he suspended the agency's activity and laid off its seven employees. He suggested they might approach the company's clients and offer their services as freelancers. [5] In an article published in the Harvard Business Review online, he framed this as "putting the entire company on sabbatical," endorsing the value of a break to gain a refreshed approach at the organizational as well as the personal level. [13]

Recruitment, transition and Cohen's exit[edit]

Cohen announced in April 2014 that he would give away 95% of his assets in Global Tolerance, as a unique exit strategy, and would hold a competition to find his replacement as head of the organization.[5][14] The global search for suitable candidates involved a two-month long, five-stage recruitment process. Cohen cited his fear of the company being merged and losing its values as the primary factor for the competition he ran.[15] He also stated that the move wasn’t about philanthropy, but made for a sustainable business model. Cohen told the Huffington Post that 75% of traditional mergers and acquisitions fail and that it might be because the transition of a company is “reduced to a single financial transaction”.[16]

Aftermath and closure[edit]

Following the handover of the company, Cohen kept five per cent of the shares and held a voluntary advisory role at the company.[17] Global Tolerance was now headed by Rosie Warin and Noa Gafni, the top finalists in the Open Leadership Exercise.[18] On August 11 in 2016, Cohen announced in a blog post on[19] that the partnership hadn’t worked out, and the company would be closing.

Personal life[edit]

Cohen lives in Cornwall, England, with his wife Kate and their two children.[20] Raised Jewish, Cohen does not subscribe to any religion, but considers himself spiritual.[6] In an interview, Cohen spoke about having developed a gambling problem at age seventeen. It lead him to Gamblers Anonymous.[21]


  1. ^ "Simon Cohen". Facebook. Retrieved 2017-05-22. 
  2. ^ a b "Simon Cohen". Huffpost. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  3. ^ Matthew Jenkin. "Millennials want to work for employers committed to values and ethics". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  4. ^ a b "Global Tolerance". Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  5. ^ a b c Pippa Stephens, BBC business reporter (2017-03-24). "Boss of £1m firm will give it away to be a full-time dad". BBC News online. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  6. ^ a b c Kate Magee (2008-05-29). "PROFILE: Simon Cohen - Single-minded quest for tolerance". PR Week. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  7. ^ "Simon Cohen â€" TEDxTeen". Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  8. ^ "Simon Cohen". The Guardian. 2009-04-21. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  9. ^ "U.K. Dad Decides to Give Away His Startup". 2016-12-07. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  10. ^ "29 under 29: Bright young things". 2007-09-07. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  11. ^ John Owens (2013-02-15). "Founder of Global Tolerance puts entire agency on year-long sabbatical". PR Week. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  12. ^ "Jedi Knights, global tolerance and a 1million pound giveaway". University of Northampton. 18 January 2016. 
  13. ^ Cohen, Simon (2013-12-30). "Why I Put My Company on a Year-Long Sabbatical". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved May 18, 2017. |
  14. ^ Michael Binyon (2014-08-18). "The boss who gave away his business". The Times. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  15. ^ Farmer, Ben (2014-08-11). "Entrepreneur gives away company, rather than "selling out"". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  16. ^ "Entrepreneur Who Just Gave Away His £1m Company: '£30k Is All The Money You Need To Be Happy'". Huffpost. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  17. ^ John Owens (2014-08-11). "Global Tolerance leadership role shared as founder Simon Cohen steps down". PR Week. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  18. ^ Platt, Ryan. "Businessman Simon Cohen gives away £1m company". Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  19. ^ "4 Tips for a Happy Exit From the Company You Founded and Love". 2016-08-11. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  20. ^ Kashmira Gander (2014-08-11). "Entrepreneur Simon Cohen, who worked with Dalai Lama, to give business away for free". The Independent. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  21. ^ "Opening minds - Help and advice". Retrieved 2017-05-07.