Do You believe certain questions can lead to a better future?
After presenting at the ACP House in Brussels, heart of the European Union, to delegates from around the world yesterday, in this video I asked some questions to that I hope have that effect. See what you think…
Thank you all my friends, family, and colleagues who have wished me a happy birthday, or simply been a happy part of my life!
I’m feeling blessed to know you.
On the airplane to Orlando today I created this short 1 minute video clip for you:
If things like countries are inventions of the human mind, what other kinds of things could we as humans envision and create together?
What reality can we imagine which could lead to a healthier more sustainable world?
What kind of a reality would you like to believe that we could imagine? (funny or real) 🙂
Or even better, as we are still enough to listen deeply, what kind of different reality and dreams do we allow to come through us?
(As my friend Dr. Naram beautifully pointed out to me, when the water is still, we can see our reflection in it — and as we are still, we get a better sense for who we really are and what we are here to do, as well as being given the power to do it. Not for our own ego, but out of a place of love and gratitude.)
Nearly 100 top students and professionals from over 30 countries have joined together to innovate new ways for us to better utilize (or even create) emerging technologies that can bridge some of the cultural/philosophical differences in the world.
As a part of the larger AXIS LIVE movement, this course represents a different way to think of and experience university education and university courses than is common – a course in which there are no clear answers to begin with, in which some of the most intelligent students from around the world join to become friends in discovering solutions together…
What a great way to start the new decade!
To join the conversation and experience the journey with us, please enter your name and email at http://www.axislive.org or here:
In any area of life, what would you like to see become a reality in the new decade?
Here is the CNN iReport from Thanksgiving, that I’d like for you to watch and share: 10 Days to Touch 10 Million movement, suicide prevention, inspirational viral film, your life matters!
The 10 Days to Touch 10 Million movement started as a grass-roots initiative to combat the increase of depression and suicide during the holiday season with inspirational media/music — and has already been featured on Times Square, and promoted through FaceBook/Twitter by hundreds and thousands of people, including recent promotion by Deepak Chopra, NFL players, CEOs, Music stars, and other remarkable people. (http://www.10Daysto10Million.com)
In this iReport, Dr. Clint Rogers describes a recent event at the Weingart center for homeless in LA – which included a showing one of the 4-minute viral media message “Your life matters”, and a message from best-selling author, speaker, and 3-time legislator Les Brown. The media clip that was shown contain inspirational spoken segments put to music by 7-time Emmy award winning composer/producer Gary Malkin – and is being spread through social media outlets by hundreds and thousands of people around the world.
The reaction of the residents at the homeless shelter was poignant – each wanted a copy of the film (expressing how it helped them think about fear differently and brought a moment of peace), one man said the event persuaded him not to go out and do something terrible he was about to do, a woman expressed her hope that despite the addictions which had harmed her she realized she had a message to share, and another man declared that he knew he was in the right place at the right time – that he was moved to change his life because of the experience.
Please consider joining this movement, and helping extend this message (“Your life matters, you are loved!”) through any media outlet that we can. Press Kit
**Results of movement so far
We have done something awesome together in the last 10 days (and 4 weeks), which has touched a massive amount of people, and will continue to grow and make a needed difference during this holiday season and beyond!
It is very difficult to put a number to the amount of people touched during the last 10 days (*see note below on all the distribution channels), but I have no doubt that this work will grow to reach many, many more than just 10 million.
Some examples of all the people that were touched in some way:
* Video and/or event already posted on nearly 4,000 FaceBook pages – and in hundreds of thousands of FaceBook feeds
* Twitter buzz, promotion, and recognition from so many, including Deepak Chopra, NFL players, CEOs, and other remarkable people (like you!)
* Newsletters & emails (through the viral inviter, and other methods) that went out and will go out to millions of people
* Posts of video and discussions of it in online communities and listserves, distribution of video through YouTube, and dozens of other video sharing tools
* Coverage by media (radio, newspaper, TV) with significant amount of listeners/viewers (e.g. posts will go on over 50K blogs and news media pages)
* Movement was featured on the Times Square megatron,
* Street team and others downloading the film to show in shelters, homes, youth groups, and churches around the world… (my CNN iReport of the visit to the homeless shelter in LA is posted here: http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-362023 – please feel free to share it on FB, twitter, etc)
* And on and on – efforts that will continue and touch millions of lives long into the future
We received hundreds of emails and messages from people who were touched by the message, and thankful that it was a part of their holidays. (I’ll compile some of my favorites to share later)
**We’ve been persuaded to continue through the holidays!
So we have been persuaded to continue to share this message throughout the entire holiday season because (a) the 10 Days to Touch 10 Million movement was received so well, (b) the need for the message & movement is still there, and (c) we haven’t even released some of the coolest stuff we can share together yet (some of the larger lists, national media, and social media events).
One way to understand the 10 days is that “In 10 Days we have sparked something that will touch over 10 million people during the holiday season.”
The world needs you now, more than ever. This is why:
* Approximately 1 out of 10 adults are suffer from a depressive disorder
* 14.5% of students in grades 9-12 seriously considered suicide in the previous 12 months
* Everyone, will at some time in their life be affected by depression — their own or someone else’s
* 1 in 3 are currently experiencing some degree of loneliness or fear
* Every forty seconds another person commits suicide
It is thinking about statistics like this and the pain, hurt, loneliness and frustration that so many feel that prompted me to use some of my spare time to help create and promote this…
To give you a taste of what will be released, shared, discussed, and mobilized to touch over 10 million people in 10 days, starting November 16th – enjoy this sample of miniature versions of what my friend Gary Malkin calls “WisdomFilms”…
Would love it if you joined the experience! www.10Daysto10Million.com
* Receive and enjoy the 4 minute video on Nov 16th
* Share it with friends and family (you never know who may be hurting)
* Listen to the radio series with remarkable people
* Join the dream street team
* Share your dream in the virtual environment
Here is an intro video for the course I have been asked to teach beginning January 25th – April 9th, 2010:
ICT for Inter-cultural/Inter-faith Development (ICT4ID) Bridging the West and the Middle East: A global classroom experience offered in conjunction with students at the University of Stockholm, Sweden; the Universities in Iran; Universities in Jordan; Universities in Finland & Denmark; Universities in the U.S. (Berkeley, Stanford, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, MIT, etc…)
The aim of this course is to explore and experience some of the unique capabilities of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) in helping to bridge people from different cultural/philosophical/religious backgrounds.
Similar to the ICT4D course I taught earlier this year, students from around the world will participate. In this case, top PhD and Masters students from “the West” (Europe and North America) and “the Middle East” (primarily Iran and Jordan) will work together on virtual teams to discover, collaborate, and create novel solutions to one of the key issues facing our generation — inter-cultural/ inter-faith collaboration. The course will run January 25 — April 9th, and I will be coordinating it while traveling myself (mainly in Europe, U.S., and the Middle East).
We will be meeting through online conferencing software (e.g. Skype), deliver and receive content through ICT4D YouTube videos, online articles, and good-old-fashioned books, – receiving lectures from experts around the world, and discussing concepts through webinars, asynchronous discussion groups and blog conversations.
Questions to be addressed (3 categories):
A – Understanding core issues
* What is really at the heart of existing tensions between people from different cultural/philosophical/religious backgrounds?
* Where have people effectively bridged those differences before, and what can we learn from them?
B – Using ICT to leverage solutions
* How can we help increase the quality of communication (using ICTs) between average people, locally and globally — regardless of race, nationality, or religion?
* How can we then utilize emerging technologies (and effective communication and collaboration principles) to translate meaningful interactions into proactive collaboration — encouraging and enabling joint inter-faith/inter-cultural actions?
C – Maximizing the impact of our participation in this course
* How can we utilize this course to learn from those who might have very different answers to these questions than we have (other students, experts, and normal people around the world), thus creating better solutions overall?
* How can the outputs of this course contribute to larger projects (e.g. AXIS Live) that outlive the term of the course itself?
Intended objectives/outcomes of the course:
1)**Find or create answers the above questions in a way better than anyone has yet:
(a) – Understanding core tensions, differences, and commonalities between people from different cultural/philosophical/religious backgrounds
(b)- Increasing our capacity to use emerging technologies to connect and collaborate in more wide-spread and productive ways than ever before
2)**Contribute to projects that outlive the course:
(a) – Co-author a chapter and/or article on this topic with others in the course, as well as
(b) – Contribute to the creation or enhancement of an online platform and/or interface that can be used for mutual understanding and meaningful collaborative engagement
The multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural nature of the participants who will make up this course offer the opportunity for us to develop a richer understanding of the issues and contribute to creating effective solutions/applications which will continue to be applied beyond the term of the course itself.
This course has a limited enrollment, targeting top students from each of the participating institutions.
If you are interested in participating, please send an email stating: who you are, where you are from, where you live now, and why you would like to participate in this course to Dr. Clint Rogers (clint.rogers2008(at)gmail.com).
___ Course literature
Rosenberg , Marshall B, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, Arun Gandhi – 2003 – 242 pages
* Asante , Molefi Kete; Miike , Yoshitaka; Yin , Jing; The Global Intercultural Communication Reader
* Axelrod, Robert, http://www-personal.umich.edu/~axe/research_papers.html
* Axelrod, Robert, The Evolution of Cooperation, New York: Basic Books, 1984. 241 pp.
* Engdahl , F. William A CENTURY OF WAR (Pluto Press Ltd.)
* Green , Robert, 48 Laws of power, Joost Elffers, 2002
* Klare, Michael Rising Powers, Shrinking planet, Holt Paperbacks, March 2009
* McLean , Patricia; Ransom, Laurie; Building intercultural competencies: Implications for academic skills development, December 2004, http://www.isana.org.au/files/20051017165552_BuildingInterculturalCompetencies.pdf
* Pfeffer, Jeffrey, Management with Power, Politics and Influence in Organizations (Paperback), Harvard Business School, 1994, 08-758-4440-5.
* United Nations Cyber School Bus, http://www.un.org/cyberschoolbus/peace/frame.htm
* University of Jyväskylä, Introduction to Intercultural Communication, http://moniviestin.jyu.fi/vanhat/viesti/ics/6
* Ury, William, Getting past no, Amazon.com
So what can you learn from some of the poorest people in the world? What has the struggle with poverty taught them, and is it of any value to helping answer your life questions?
As you seek to really understand those currently in poverty, what surprising and interesting things might you learn that could benefit your own life?
In the previous blog entry, I invited people to submit a short audio or video about a dream they have and what their next question/need is to accomplish it.
I loved the questions people submitted:
* How should I know what to do with my life (e.g. after graduation)?
* How can I get the money and resources I need to start my project/organization?
* How can I help people who are from different groups, even considered enemies, to better trust and understand each other?
* I don’t know what I have to share, so how can I help people in a way that matters?
* How can I inspire others to find their potential and live their dreams?
* How can I help those who are rejected and do not have a voice?
* Is what I want to do with my life ultimately worth doing?
Below are the first responses to their questions from the Karamojong refugees located in a settlement near Jinja, Uganda (pushed out of their native land in the north because of war and famine, now trying to start a new life).
[Soon I will post some of their videos about their dreams and what they think they need next, which I hope you will want to respond to.]
To open a great coffee shop, to travel, to somehow help others, and really to figure out what she ultimately should be doing with her life.
Thoughts from Rose and Lucy on Monika’s first two questions
Q1: I don’t know what I have to share, so how can I help people in a way that matters?
Q2: How can I inspire others to find their potential and live their dreams?
Summary of Advice:
* Help people to help themselves, so they are strong whether you are there or not.
* One of the most valuable things you can give someone is knowledge on how to help themselves.
* Sometimes people don’t believe in themselves at all, they need “sensitization” to the idea that there is more inside of them than they see in themselves.
* Give someone a job or responsibility, to help them see how much they can do for themselves, and to find what strengths each person has.
Thoughts from Lucy, Rose, and the Chairman on Monika’s third question
Q3: I am nervous as I get close to graduation, how should I know what to do with my life after that?
Summary of Advice:
* There is always something important to do with your life, because there is someone who needs your help.
* The trials and life experiences you have gone through can teach you ways in which you might be able to best help others.
* Ask advice from God, He can help you know what to do with your life.
* Also ask advice from others in your life who are close to you.
* Thinking about how you can best help those you love in your family, as well as those far away, can help give your life direction and purpose.
* After university, people should spend their time focused on helping others who were not lucky enough to have education yet.
* It is not in this video, but the leader of the community (the “chairman”) also recommended to Monika that after she graduates, she can marry his son. That was until I told him that she was already married. 🙂
To help teachers integrate and give a voice to those with severe disabilities.
Thoughts from Rose, Lucy, and Christine on both Anitra’s questions (with special bonus: an African chief from a tribe in Ghana, who was staying in my hotel, adds a thought at the end)
Q1: How can I help those who are rejected and do not have a voice?
Q2: Is what I want to do with my life ultimately worth doing?
Summary of Advice:
* Many of those children with disabilities are not even in school in this area of the world.
* Actually, it is tough for any kids from this community to be in school, so how can teachers help them if they are not even in school?
* Before children here can even have time for school, they need to have some security that they will have food, or else they will have to spend their time picking from the garbage pits, begging on the streets, or working different jobs.
* Teachers do need further training, to be specialized in how to help those with disabilities. Once they know better how to help, then they will help.
* Do it in a way that is legal, and with the proper support from local authorities
* There are many people without a voice, and they definitely do need support from you, Anitra.
* Keep those good desires and that hope alive and burning in you, always, and you will know what to do.
To start a business/organization that highlights the common humanity in us all, and helps even those who are now considered enemies to better trust and understand each other.
Thoughts from John, Rose, & Lucy on Joey’s first question
Q1: How can I get the money and resources I need to start my project/organization?
Summary of Advice:
* It struck some people as funny that you (driving a nice car like that) thought you needed money, Joey. 🙂
* You could get a job, get a loan, or get a friend who can loan money to you.
* Find an unmet need you could help solve to generate some initial income.
* Save, save, save money whenever you get some, then use it to invest in things that can bring more money (e.g. retail businesses, rental properties, passive/residual income sources, etc).
* Be smart and use credit money and your own hard-earned money for different things.
* Maintain a good credit history and great relationship with lenders. When you get a loan, pay it back so you can get a larger loan – and keep building from there, investing in residual income sources.
Thoughts from John, Rose, Lucy, Christine, and Joseph on Joey’s second question
Q2: How can I get people who are from different groups, even considered enemies, to better trust and understand each other?
Summary of Advice:
* To help people from different tribes, get people into groups where they can talk with each other.
* Help people from different tribes or religions overcome labels by getting them to be in one group.
* Don’t label people by calling them “bad” or calling them “wrong” — look at the thing they do and call it bad or wrong — not the person but the action.
* Someone will not be trusted if they are hurting others.
* Find ways to get them to help each other, and to work together to help the helpless.
* Do not segregate people – get them to interact with each other.
* Unite them with “the machines”.
* Involve them in joint projects or some work together.
* Address when there are things people do to hurt each other, but do not exclude them from the group.
* When people ask for help from others, and give help, they will naturally be closer to each other.
* Integrate God into what you are doing.
* Figure out ways for people to be friends, and make friendship with each other.
__________ My Question for Monika, Anitra, and Joey —
How helpful was this advice, honestly? And why was it helpful or not helpful?
If it wasn’t helpful, that is OK. If it was, great.
When we bring back other people’s video responses to the dreams and questions they have (which I will post soon), we can also bring them your feedback on their responses to your questions, if you like.
__________ Potential Challenges: (to continuing this project, if people think it is worthwhile)
At the end of each day, I asked the translators and others what they thought went well and what they thought could be improved. Here were a couple suggestions and questions regarding a few challenges:
1. Ensuring there is a good translator for those who can not speak English.
2. Figuring out a way to have local people take over, or find a way to overcome the way that even the presence of a mzungu (white person) in this community “looks money” and thus naturally evokes different responses to certain questions.
3. On the second day, all the power in the entire area had been shut down after a flood destroyed the cables, so when our batteries died in the camera and computer, our interviews were over.
4. How to have the equipment (computer, camera, battery supply) and person on the ground in each country (with an Internet connection who can capture responses, download and upload videos) to help keep the channel of communication open for the conversation to continue, if people would like.
__________ Two Favorite moments:
Aside from when the chairman recommended to Monika that she marry his son, when Lucy laughed to think that Joey driving his car needed money, and when I recommend to the chairman that he invest in Joey’s business, there were a couple moments that stood out.
1. “What do we have to share?”
When we first showed up to this refugee camp and asked for the leader, he asked us what we were there for (expecting us to be an Aid organization).
My translator explained that we came because we needed their help.
He looked confused, and asked more questions. She told him we thought he and his people had perspective which could benefit others in the world. He said, “What do we have to share? How could we help anyone else, we have so little, and these people have so little in their heads!”
I told him, “Maybe you can’t help, but then again maybe you can. Just let us play the videos where people are asking their questions, and you may end up being surprised how much of value there is in your knowledge and experience.”
That is exactly what happened.
For him, perhaps particularly this happened when he realized that he had something of incredibly value to share in how he helped people from tribes that usually fight up North to live in peace and harmony in this community.
2. “My view of the Karamojong has totally changed”
At the end of the first day, I asked my translator if she was impressed by anything that day.
She told me that she herself had been changed and moved a great deal.
She said that as a born again Christian, she had previously spent a lot of time preaching to the Karamojong, but had never before taken time to listen to them or learn from them. She said she used to think like the leader, that they had nothing of value in their heads and that they were only looking for handouts all the time.
After the interviews that day, however, she said she now knew how much wisdom they had, and how much they had to share.
I suppose when it comes down to it “development” can mean many things, and it can happen in so many ways for each of us as we are trying to better understand, love, and help each other.
As I have traveled and talked with people from every continent, representing thousands of different belief systems and backgrounds, I have realized this…
WE ALL HAVE TWO THINGS IN COMMON
1. We all have problems.
Although I don’t know what it is, I know that you are dealing with some kind of a problem right now.
Let’s face us, who do you know that isn’t? It’s just part of life and a big part of what helps us to grow. A wise man once taught me that you could go up to almost anyone and instead of asking, “How are you?” you could accurately ask “Where does it hurt?”
One of the coolest things I have learned recently from another wise man is the power of rephrasing my problems as questions — sounds so simple, still I was surprised at how it changed everything!
Instead of my brain dwelling on the negative problem, it started working out solutions — especially if I articulated a quality question.
2. We all have something to contribute — some strength, talent, or gift that we can share and use to help others.
Not only can we use our strengths to contribute something meaningful in the lives of others, we actually NEED TO in order to feel alive and fulfilled.
Honestly, among the greatest gifts that any of us can give ourselves and others is asking good questions – which can spark new ideas that can change our lives. Recently I have also become even more conscious of the power in asking our deepest questions (which reflect the problems/needs in our lives) to new people — people with totally different perspectives and backgrounds.
Here is a true story from Nigeria that my friend Esther Nasikye shared with me that is about this exact thing…
NOW THE BIGGER PICTURE – PROBLEMS IN THE WORLD
Among many problems in the world, a huge one I hate to see as I travel is the amount of poverty and suffering in certain communities around the world (and even at times in our own neighborhood), with incredible affluence, waste, and neglect in other areas. How can we see so much suffering in the world and not feel compelled to do something?
Changing this problem into a question – here is what I have asked, which I think many of you also have asked: “How can I best help those who need it most around the world?”
REASONS WHY WE DON’T HELP, OR TRY TO AND FAIL
I realized that the solution is not as simple as it seems – noticing these issues arise in most of the “development” efforts I have participated in or known about…
* Lots of people want to help, but don’t know how
* The suffering often seems so distant and/or overwhelming, that other more minor concerns appear urgent and occupy our time and focus
* When they do try to help, well-intentioned compassion easily becomes patronizing, and fosters dependency
* Part of the reason for this is all of us have so many unchallenged stereotypes and labels through which we see the world
* Another part of the reason is that the digital divide has limited participation in the conversation, neglecting those who should have the most voice
* Too often people seem to know the answer (e.g. computers, or whatever our background is) before they really know what the real questions/problems are
* There is very little conversation with the poorest people – more often others in high positions decide what they need (e.g. the UN Millennium Development Goals)
* Then no one is really held accountable for delivering it
* Often the aid gets stuck at the top levels (of governments, universities, businesses – people who are already the elite of their societies) and not to those who need it the most
* When we talk about “the poor” it becomes too vague and ambiguous, not concrete enough to do anything about, or to see their hopes, fears, and dreams as real as our own
* Meeting “needs”, although a very important, often neglects the more fulfilling part of being human – helping enabling strengths, dreams, and what we can contribute
HOW CAN WE APPROACH IT DIFFERENTLY – AND HAVE FUN DOING IT?
Some friends and I are now creating a way where instead of talking about helping “the poor” you can actually talk with them, finding out what they actually dream of doing with their life, or what they need next in order to get there.
Not only that – but they will be helping you with your problems at the same time!
. Here is THE IDEA:
1. You submit a short video (3 min or less), or just audio if you prefer, that explains briefly:
A. What is one thing that you ultimately want to become/do with your life? (brief one minute or less explanation)
B. What is it that you think you need next in getting there?
(Maybe you don’t think you know what the answer to these question are, which is OK.
If you did know the answers though, then what would you say?)
C. What is one of the biggest problems/questions you currently have?
If you have funny questions/problems, that is OK – and perhaps the stuff that really comes from your heart – and is what you actually need some new thoughts, perspectives, resources on – will produce the best results.
(Once you create your video, you can either email it to me using something like YouSendIt.com — which allows for large attachments, or upload it to YouTube or other video sharing site and let me know the link)
2. In the next few months I will be going back to some of the poorest areas of the world (visiting certain communities starting in Uganda this week, Mozambique next week, Senegal at the end of the month, later Ethiopia, and hopefully Guatemala, Nepal and India too). I will find a contact person who is can translate, and they will show your video to some of the local people, and ask them what their advice is to help you with your problem/question.
3. We’ll record at least a few responses for each question received and you can rate each answer on a scale of 1 to 5 stars on how helpful you find it.
4. Then it provides an easy way to also ask several of them to share their story: what do they ultimately want to do with their life? and what do they think is what they most need next to get there?
5. You can respond to their questions, offering any ideas/thoughts/suggestions you have. And they can give each response a rank of 1 to 5 stars in how helpful they find it.
— I don’t know what will happen after that.
Ultimately, if you like it, we might want to upload those videos to the Internet and try to get as much collective wisdom/resources/etc from my friends and their friends in helping each other with whatever we each need next?
__ WHY THIS, WHY NOW?
The idea initially sparked from realizing that I myself have been trying to help “the poor” — but really haven’t spent that much time actually talking to “them”. (Instead, I sit in an office at a university, reading research reports, and trying to think up the biggest words I can to communicate simple ideas so that I appear to be somewhat intelligent! 😉
And the reality, as you already know, is that “the poor” can include both those in physical poverty around the world, as well as those in Western countries who have a ton of stuff, but still feel poor/empty for whatever reason.
Like I said earlier, I talk to people all the time who want to do something to help in the world, but they just don’t know what to do or where to start.
My hope is that when we can see a specific person talk about their specific dream and what they need next, then we can collectively be resourceful in making something happen for them.
And when we see them also helping us with our biggest need, that there will not be a one-way patronizing feeling — instead we can see each other more as friends (members of the same family – the increasingly connected human family) helping each other. Because indeed, that is what we are.
Dr. Matti Tedre, a colleague from a university in Tanzania who will also be leading up a team there to help with this, told me about a woman who has been working in the AIDS clinic in a rural area of Tanzania for years. I really loved her philosophy, and think it definitely applies here:
—-“You may not be able to change the whole world, but you can change the whole world of one person at a time.“—-
(especially if that one person is yourself)
If you would like to add a video/audio, then just let me know.
Also if have any ideas for how to make this even better, or any other ways you think you might be able to help? — I’m all ears.
I’m sure some of your thoughts can help to make this work even better.
If so much of “development” aid has failed (see previous blog entry), representing brilliant minds and billions of dollars spent on causes which often have done more harm than good, what can we do that will actually make the world a better place? And can one person really make a difference?
Being in Uganda again prompts me to seriously ask: What can I do that will actually make a difference in the lives of these kids (and their community) who spend most of their days begging on the streets? Or more generally, how can I do something good in making the world a better place?
Here are five of my own ideas, general guiding principles for how to go about it – and I am very interested in yours.
1. First, we need to challenge the assumptions, labels, and filters we have come to view the world with.
Vasilis posted a great TED talk that helps with this: (Hans Rosling: No more boring data)
Another example of challenging stereotypes was offered in my previous blog entry.
Easterly shared how the traditional media often has incentives to reinforce the stereotype that all Africans are helpless and need us to come to their aid.
For example, from 1990-2005, the average annual percent of the African population affected by famine was in reality only 0.3%! Sometimes the media, NGOs, and people like me (who visit places like Masese) can influence those outside of Africa to think that all of Africa is filled with famine swept refugees hunted by child soldiers with HIV! 🙂
Viewed differently, Africa is one of the richest continents in the world.
So, even well-meaning compassion can lead to stereotypes that often hinder the ability of people to help themselves. To really help, we need to keep challenging the assumptions, labels, and filters we have come to view the world with.
2. Second, just for balance – avoid taking ourselves too seriously. By this, I mean that more resourcefulness and solutions come when we are more playful than remorse. **Reality check: we are not perfect, we are going to make mistakes, we can not do everything by ourselves all at once.
SaraJoy also offered some great perspective by posting a valuable video from Honda on why “failure” is OK and even good:
I’m thankfully at the point in my life that I don’t consider anything a failure. Whatever happens, I just find as much as I can to learn through it, come back from it that much stronger, and leave the rest in God’s hands.
3. Third, ask better questions! So much of our focus, feelings, and even what we are able to see or not see depends on the questions we are asking ourselves.
In this next video I captured William Easterly attempting to help us ask a better question than the one that so many of us ask: “What can we do?”
Really listen to what he says, as the distinctions he makes in what types of questions we ask is really useful.
4. Fourth, focus on your strengths and passions — notice what you are good at and/or love to do, and spend a majority of your time/energy there.
As you will notice when you speak with me, I am often trying to ask questions that help me to know what your strengths are – what are you good at, what are you passionate about? Then frequently I encourage you to do more of those things.
Extensive research done by the Gallup organization showed that the top people in each field (business, sports, education, entertainment, etc) all had one thing in common – they focused most of their time on what they were good at.
Part of the reason for this helping them reach the top is that so much of the quality of our lives is dependent on the emotion we are living in on a regular basis. By focusing on what you are good at, this helps give you the emotional juice to really excel.
5. Fifth, form strategic partnerships. After focusing on what your strengths are, then partner with people who are good at (and even excited about doing) other things you are not as good at, so that together you really can make a powerful team.
You don’t need all the resources or talent to start to do things that you are passionate about. You simply need to be resourceful in forming strategic partnerships that can help get you there. It is way more about how resourceful you are than how many resources you have.
Strategic partnerships are also extremely helpful with point #1 and #3 above, intentionally seeking perspectives which are different from your own, asking good questions and really listening to the responses.
There is so much power in synergy — realizing we can easily creating something better together than any of us could on our own. It is my opinion that most of what we see as competition with others is an illusion. Competition can help stimulate action, but cooperation on a team that really works is indescribably motivating and fulfilling.
For those in the ICT4D Course, you are now working on a question with a partner, where you are trying to find a solution/answer to it that is better than anyone has yet come up with. I hope you will find these thoughts and resources valuable.
I’m not just sharing these with you as “cute” ideas, I’m living it right at the moment — thankful for your part in helping me do that — and excited to report to you the results as they unfold, as well as hear about your experience in also doing so.
Now, again, I’d love to hear your ideas:
* Above are five ideas that I think help answer the question — “how can I make the world a better place?” What are yours ideas?
* Do you really believe you can make the world a better place?
* What are some of your initial ideas regarding what your unique contribution will be?
* Specifically what talents/strengths/skills/ideas can you share which will help those in the world who have the least?
The purpose of this blog entry is to continue some of the momentum from recent discussions regarding development — to add to the discussion and open it up for your most recent thoughts/ideas/questions. It is such a key, central concept in so much of the work we do that I think it is well worth our time.
Why has most of “development” done more harm than good?
Whereas compassion to those that have the least is appropriate, Easterly argues that the way this often turns into “authoritarian paternalism” is completely objectionable — essentially treating poor people like children. Easterly points out that even the original term “development” was a biological metaphor – a patronizing way of describing how “more sophisticated societies” would help take poor people from childhood into adulthood. He takes as example the Millennium Development Goals — suggesting as a patronizing attitude that some know better than poor themselves what the goals should be for those in poverty.
(Sorry the quality of the video on this one is not as good — I think it is definitely compensated for in the high quality of the ideas and questions he raises.)
In essence, he says that paternalism is so objectionable – we too often treat poor people like children.
He also talked about images that he calls “Disaster pornography” – where the media feels incentive to reinforce the stereotype that all Africans are helpless and need us to come to their aid.
For example, from 1990-2005, the average annual percent of the African population affected by famine was in reality only 0.3%. Sometimes the media can influence those outside of Africa to think that of Africa is filled with famine swept refugees hunted by child soldiers with HIV!
Well-meaning compassion can lead to stereotypes that hurt their ability to help themselves.
What is the alternative to paternalism?
Ultimately he suggests economic and political freedom, individual liberty, and an entrepreneurial kind of mindset.
He gave as an example the fact that in 1776 America was more tech backward, more diseased, and needy than Africa is today. He suggests that they were lucky to have been led by those who believed in individual liberty – that all men are created equal. Per capita income in America has increased by 35 times since those words were spoken (with only a little blip in the overall growth representing the great depression)
Are even the poor rebelling against traditional “development”?
William Easterly describes how the poor on their own are rebelling against Authoritarian Paternalism. He makes the case that the poor should have liberty to decide what they need best, just as anyone should. Men are created equal, and even development should reflect that.
Part of the beauty of the world we live in is that we can debate what the solution should be — until we find which are the ideas that lead to the best results.
–Even these videos above are obviously an American talking to a group of Americans. Surely a group of nearly 30 – 50 of the brightest graduate students and faculty from over 20 different countries and different disciplines can find the right creativity, data, compassion, and resourcefulness to add something of value to the debate and conversation that will make a practical difference in improving the lives of the poorest people in the world!
We have already had some great discussions regarding the concept of development. It would be well worth the time to go back and read some of the valuable thoughts shared by everyone up to this point. The evolution of thinking is interesting to me, and the perspectives from each person who is coming from very different backgrounds.
Team Praxis: SaraJoy started it off with some great thoughts, Andres gave some interesting insight from his recent assignment in Kenya, Sören list of five definitions of development as well as mentions GNH – Gross National Happiness vs. GNP – Gross National Product as a potential measure of development, Thai seeks to understand it from his technical background/perspective, Vasilis leading a great discussion. http://ict4dconsortium.rhul.ac.uk/elgg/mod/groups/topicposts.php?topic=1091&group_guid=405
While I was in Guyana I had the privilege of meeting with Len Singh. I interviewed him regarding the state of ICT in the Caribbean, and in the midst of the interview I got this great clip on his definition of development.
Then we just had an interesting controversial session led by Rajarshi Sahai where he shared from India his thoughts on why most of “development” fails. (You can listen to the recording of that session here: http://video.uku.fi/p68445724/)
In an earlier post, Raj asks these questions:
“I am quite shocked by the unnecessary stress on Developing countries context, when infrastructure and penetration of technology is very much an issue even within western Europe! How many of your countries have a good 3G network even in the city centres? How many of our internet services providers have a good service delivery record? How many of poor people are ICT literate there? these are just some of the many questions which can initiate a new debate, of seeing development, vulnerability and poverty as a global issue. We need to see these questions accordingly.
Why can’t global North learn from global South? Why can’t things be seen in a more objective sense than just dividing the world, and hence the wisdom inherent in it, into so called Developed and Developing countries, and thereby giving undue legitimacy to the so called developed to dictate the developing?”
Now is your turn to continue the discussion:
* When you think of the “development” part of ICT”4D” what do you think is should refer to? (maybe you even have a better name for it?)
* Why do you think traditional approaches to “development” have so frequently failed?
* What do you think we should do instead, particularly in ICT4D?
* Do you see any exceptions to the failures — some successes which can give us clues of what actually works?
* What will you do to create an answer/solution to the question you (and your colleague/s) select which will be better than what anyone else has yet has come up with?
The Masters and Ph.D. students taking this course will be from and located in different places around the world (Africa, Asia, Europe, …) and I will be teaching it while traveling myself (from Europe to North America, down to South America, back to Europe and on to Africa – Ethiopia, Mozambique, Uganda and Senegal).
We will be meeting through online conferencing software (e.g. Skype), deliver and receive content through YouTube videos, online articles, and good-old-fashioned books, – discussing concepts through webinars, asynchronous discussion groups and blog conversations.
The combination of our various locations and activities should give us a very hands-on, practical view of the state of ICT4D (current opportunities and challenges) – including where we can collectively take it from here.
Note 1! Course will start 16.3. 2009.
Note 2! Register by emailing to Clint Rogers (clint.rogers2008(et)gmail.com)
Note 3! The course is advanced/graduate level course (5 ECTS) – really looking for excellent students to participate
The aim of this course is to familiarize students with topics related to Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D). The course concentrates on the challenges and opportunities of ICTs for developing countries. Themes of the course include the basics of ICT4D, current discussion regarding the role of ICT in different contextual environments, the social impacts on ICT development and use, writing up ICT4D case studies, and evaluation of ICT4D projects.
After the course the students should have a general understanding of context related issues of ICT4D, be able to identify the basic needs of ICT in different environments, and be more aware if the local challenges of ICT in development.
Students will be expected to participate in online seminars (with some guest presenters), lead online discussions, study online materials and required readings, ask powerful questions, contribute to collaboratively finding innovative solutions, complete activating writing and/or programming development assignments, and contribute content (videos, stories, case studies, code, articles, etc) to a digital learning environment.
Starting seminar 16 March at 14:00-16:00 (UTC/GMT+2) through Skype.
Ending seminar approximately 22 May at 10:00-12:00 (UTC/GMT+2).
Pre-register by emailing instructor (address below).
In addition to utilizing online resources, you will be required to purchase two books for this course:
It has been fun to see practical concrete examples of when people from very different perspectives and backgrounds can come up with better ideas and creative solutions together than any one could on their own.
In the work we are doing, I had an African cheif from a tribe in Ghana offer to make me a “soft” chief (a lower level chief) and have one of his wives (a woman promised to him) …particularly if I can gain a little weight and have a little money.
I wonder if anything has more impact on our future than the questions we ask?
First, if we take it on more of a micro-level, imagine going into any random meeting. You will see things differently and have a different experience if you are asking “How can I get out of this meeting as quickly as possible?” vs. “What meaningful things can I learn and/or contribute during this time?” vs “How can I make sure I don’t embarrass myself in this meeting like I did last time?”
The questions we ask reveal some about the assumptions we take into the situation, and also have an impact on the consequent experience we have.
As another simple example, when meeting a person imagine asking: “What does he/she think of me?” vs. “What is his/her life like?” vs. “How can I make this person’s life a little better?” vs “Why am I even talking to this person?”
Depending on which question(s) you are asking (consciously or subconsciously) you will most likely have a different perspective, experience, and outcome.
As I was conducting a review the last 10 years of research on papers presented at the bi-annual CATaC conference (Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication), I was again impressed by the questions we ask in a research context. They are all laden with assumptions (usually unstated) and have an impact on how the research is conducted – including what end up being the findings and recommended future research.
For this paper we looked at:
• Who is asking the questions? (where are they from, what discipline do they represent, who do they work with)
• What questions are they asking?
• How do they go about finding answers to their questions? (what literature do they cite, what methods do they use, what population do they sample, etc.)
• What answers do they find?
• What suggestions do they have for future research?
Additionally, I kept asking myself, what assumptions might they be making in the questions they address?
Even working with great colleagues like Javier and Brooke, it was a ton of work (reading at least some sections of all 199 papers) – but perhaps one of the best things I have done professionally or personally. I now have a better idea for what has already been done in this field, what gaps there are, and what lines of inquiry have been more fruitful than others. On another level, I am more conscious of the assumptions behind the questions I ask and the potential impact they might have. I wonder, out of all the possible options, are these really the most valuable questions?
• In your personal and/or professional life, have you ever had an experience where you noticed that when you changed the questions you were asking it altered the way you saw the situation?
• Do you ever stop to examine the assumptions you are making which led to the questions you are asking?
• Of all the questions you could ask, why did you pick the ones you are asking? Do you think they are the most important or valuable ones you could be asking or is it for some other reason?
As a side line of thought:
• Do you think we ask ourselves enough questions? Why as we age do we seem to lose some of the curiosity of children and ask less questions?
• If not all questions are created equal, how can I lead myself to asking better and better questions?
Hope you don’t mind if I share some good news with you. I was very pleasantly surprised by it!
I recently got the reviews back from a paper submission we had made to an academic conference. The paper is a synthesis of some of my work in Finland (titled “Experiencing an International Virtual Team”) and the program planner for the International Division said that ours was: “perhaps the best proposal submitted to our division. Thanks for the submission. Virtual international collaboration is not only a must technological reach but a global responsibility.”
I thought that was a great compliment, and it was fun to share with the great Ph.D. students who worked with me on it. Three out of the five reviewers gave it 100%!
One reviewer said: “STRENGTHS of the Proposal: 1. Good references to appropriate literature. 2. A wonderful paper! 3. Very well-written. 4. A strong contribution to the research and theory on international communication; this will be a trend in research for the present and future!”
OK – enough of that for now. With the negative feedback that often comes from different papers or projects, it is especially nice to hear and share good news, celebrating the moment of its arrival.
He started with a comment made to him by a producer: “It is not finding good people that is our problem, it is finding great ideas.” Ed Catmull argued why this statement is wrong. He gave examples of great ideas in the animation studio that did not work with a certain team, but another team took them and made them hugely successful. His point was that the most important thing is to create a team that works well together, especially when you are doing something that has never been done before.
Here are some of his ideas:
Everyone needs to understand that they are equally valuable and important (e.g. neither the programmers, the artists, or the managers could feel like second-class citizens)
Things will go wrong when you are the first people to do something new, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, just find ways to handle them well. “We are in the job of doing something new,” Catmull said, “Our measure is not whether we avoid different things. It’s how we respond to things when they go wrong.”
Don’t let everything that is good mask the things that are not good – do a “postmortem” analysis, a review of each project to discuss what went well and what could be better.
Managers are simply responsible for helping the team merge well.
“I’ve always believed that you shape the management team around the talent rather than try to force people into a certain way of doing things.”
He said where education has typically been an “individual sport” (with even group projects not being designed very well) -the advantage in this world will always go to those who can out-innovate and out-collaborate their competitors. Brent gave some very valuable ideas for designing multidisciplinary teams to work well in creative collaborative thinking:
Flexibility – approaching the problem from many different directions
Fluency – ability to generate LOTS of ideas (if you want to have a good idea, have lots of them)
Novelty – originality, uniqueness, “I would have never thought of that”, innovation
Definition – being good at defining the context, constraints, etc.
Roles – design roles and responsibilities which allow people to play to their strengths.
“Successful innovation is the union of convergence and divergence processes – weaving in and out when coming to an appropriate situation.” (paraphrase)
Aside from how much I like both the Pixar and BYU animation movies, my interest in this all stems from the fact that I think some of the most innovative teams in today’s world will be both multidisciplinary and cross-cultural. I am interested in finding the best technologies and techniques to reduce the miscommunication and increase the innovative potential from having such a rich combination of experiences, expertise and perspectives.
Does anyone have any good ideas about how to create an effective, innovative team?
Has anyone been a part of a team like that? If so – what made it work well?
We still need some work on figuring out the best ways to handle video and audio in this environment (especially for people who wish to join us from developing countries), but at least this represents a start at trying to include people at a distance in these PhD seminars.
I’m sure one day we will look back and think about how primitive these tools are, but for now it is the best we have.
Report by Erkki’s trip to South Africa & Discussion with Marjo from San Diego (unfortunately, although we could hear her great, the mic didn’t record Marjo very well as we tried to capture her voice from Skype into Adobe Connect): (Duration – 00:31:36) http://connectpro64128288.emea.acrobat.com/p92688056/
Discussion led by Clint about research by the Gallup organization regarding what is it that people have in common who are excellent at what they do (in business, education, sports, entertainment, etc.). We discussed the one thing they found these people had in common. (Duration – 00:24:50) – For part of this time (starting at about 00:17:00) we broke into groups and I do not think anyone will want to watch that part. http://connectpro64128288.emea.acrobat.com/p38892677/
Presentation by Andres about his research in Tanzania (his audio was not very consistent for us, but you can actually hear the first parts of it better once his slide show starts in the recording than we did in real life). Once you are viewing it, you can also see in the “file share” pod a document called presentation.pdf – click on it and save it to your computer, or you can also find it as an attachment on my blog entry about this PhD day. He has requested that we please review the presentation document and email him any feedback you have for his research! (Duration – 00:17:34) http://connectpro64128288.emea.acrobat.com/p80216809/
I just presented at a training day yesterday for the editing department of a large international organization which creates both print and media instruction in nearly 50 languages around the world. They asked me to come and present about cultural differences in teaching and learning expectations.
They already create some great material and do quite a bit that is cutting edge. I find it interesting, however, how the idea has persisted as long as it has that if you simply translate something into a different language then that means other people will be able to understand it and use it. Wrong.
In the best case, you should take the time to do a lot more to customize messages so they are more relevant to specific audiences – so the message is more credible and resonates in a way that people can understand it and chose what to do with it from there.
At the very least, there needs to be more done in order to avoid miscommunication – to take out concepts / illustration / logic patterns, etc… which (1) cause confusion, (2) bring unintentional amusement (see the picture of a sign below from a hotel I stayed at my last visit to China), and (3) especially which might be offensive.
Sure if it is in the right language that helps, but there is so many more assumptions that are made in teaching and learning which are very different in different areas of the world.
Here is a list of a few of the ones I covered:
•Credibility of speaker/information
•What we notice when we look at images
•Logic styles in writing and speaking
•Emphasis on written vs. spoken word
•Emotional appeals in the overtones of certain values/stories
•Shared Knowledge and Schemas
•Cause and Effect Reasoning
Each of these areas has relevent research which clearly denotes important cultural differences. Now, which “differences really make a difference” and which “similarities really are significant” – that is what we hope to discover as we continue research along these lines.
As we are continuing with research and development, however, I highly recommend these 5 questions as a guide to dealing with cross-cultural information exchanges:
What message, or experience, do you – or he/she/they – want to communicate or receive?
How important or relevant is the message or experience – to you and the “other” person(s)?
What conditions, customs, concerns, attitudes, and/or values (yours and theirs) hinder or help communication of the message or experience?
What specific interpersonal or media communication methods, or patterns, succeed most and succeed least? Why?
How do you and they determine message effectiveness and the possible need for further communication experience?
(by Lynn Tyler, November 1975, CultureGram Communication Aid)