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.
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
This blog post is brought to you by the letters J, A, S, O, and N.
There is an old screenwriter’s rule-of-thumb:
If someone reading your script tells you it has a problem, they’re probably right.
If they try to tell you exactly what’s wrong, they’re right half the time.
If they try to tell you how to fix it, they’re almost always wrong.
Think about it – even the most casual consumer of stories has literally spent thousands of hours listening to them – in the movies, on television, or even sitting around the living room with Mom and Dad. All of us are experts at listening to stories, so when we hear a story that doesn’t work our expertise let’s us know. But fewer of us are experts at analyzing stories, and even fewer are expert at creating them. So our success at giving advice is those areas is more hit-and-miss. Not that we aren’t capable – just that we haven’t paid the price to learn how.
So the wise screenwriter listens with both ears to people’s reactions to a script, but ignores most suggestions on how to fix the problem, instead relying on his or her instincts.
Do these screenwriting tips translate into taking feedback in other areas of life?
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.
One of the most common things I hear from people in developing countries is that there is a lack of hope – or a lack of belief that they can succeed because of ____ [insert reason]. (you name the excuse, and I’ve heard it)
Seeing examples of people who are incredibly resourceful, regardless of the odds, is helpful.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Gerardo de Nicolas, CEO of a Mexican home builder, Homex, who was one of the most inspiring parts of the recent Ultimate Business Mastery Summit.
The accomplishments of Homex are impressive (one of 16 Mexican companies traded on the NYSE, building 200 homes a day, expanding into India and Brazil, etc) – but even more impressive is the mentality and attitude of its founder, Gerardo de Nicolas (who was awarded ‘CEO of the Year’ by Latin Trade Magazine).
Gerardo said he realizes that much of the success of Homex came simply because they had a vision greater than themselves, that they didn’t know they couldn’t do what had never been done before, and he also realizes that the only major obstacle keeping Homex from growing are the limitations they place on themselves.
He has also focused so much of the success of their company back into the building of homes for those who can not afford it.
As Gerardo says in this video – the poor are not the problem, the poor are the solution. The way Homex is using home building technology in helping the poor to help themselves is interesting.
It is obvious that Gerardo has tapped into something he is passionate about and talented in.
Here are a couple of my favorite questions I would like you to answer (for everyone to see):
* If you didn’t have to worry about money, money was no obstacle, what would you do? (e.g. how would you spend your time, energy, focus?)
* What are some of your unique talents/gifts that you would focus on sharing with the world? (Is it any different than what you do now? If so, why?)
I’m attending an event (the Ultimate Business Mastery Summit) which has really stretched my mind and made me think bigger. So much more engaging than the all too frequent boring academic presentations tied to dim lights and PowerPoint – which I’m sure I have been guilty of giving in the past too. 🙂
I have met with so many people here who are doing incredible things to make this world a better place, and have helped me see specific resources and resourcefulness in and around me which is so much greater than I was aware of before.
I guess as humans we usually only wake up ready to do things we think are possible. I now am seeing more clearly that so much more is possible than I ever previously imagined. Not because it wasn’t there before – simply because I did not see it or know how to utilize it.
For those in the ICT4D class, please leave a comment in reply to this blog entry indicating a time you might be free over the next couple weeks to meet with me online for a half hour so I can get to know you a little better.
[After that time, these times on Tuesdays and Thursdays will also likely be the hours I choose as my “Office Hours” – when I will be responding to your emails, taking care of class business, or when you can get a hold of me to discuss anything that is on your mind.]
After selecting the time (Helsinki time) that works best for you, please make sure no one else has already requested it in a comment below. (If none of these times work for you, please suggest two alternative times and I will pick the one which works best.)
Tuesday, April 7th
Thursday, April 9th
19:30 Ashes Timsina
21:00 Thai Bui
Tuesday, April 14th
16:00 Aiguokhian Efosa
19:30 Rajarshi Sahai
Thursday, April 16th
If you are concerned about the current state of the economy at all, here are some thoughts that might help…
So I was invited a couple months ago, by the turn-around expert Tony Robbins, to join a small international Business Mastermind Group led by himself and the business guru Chet Holmes — an idea Tony had to get a certain group of people together to talk about how to not just endure this economy, but how to really utilize this unique time for massive growth.
It has been a fascinating experience that I really should blog more about. In addition to sharing his own insights, he is inviting intelligent and talented people in different sectors of society to speak to the group via conference calls about once every two weeks. And the quality of the other members of the group has impressed me.
While trying not to be too long winded, here are just a couple thoughts which might be of interest (and of course are open to discussion – I’m always interested in your thoughts too).
Two analogies Seasons – One flaw most of us humans have is that we often think if something is headed a certain direction that it will always head that direction (when it is bad we fear it will just get worse). The truth is that every year goes through seasons, and every economy does too. Although we are headed into the winter of the economic cycle, even winters can have some benefits. The darker it gets as you head into the night, the more sure you are that you are getting closer to the morning.
Forrest fires – Just as winter can be beneficial, even forest fires serve a purpose. They help to clear away a lot of the waste in the old, and provide the nourishment and light for the new growth to appear. The winter in the economic cycle can also do precisely that same thing.
What NOT to do!
You know you are headed in the wrong direction if you are doing any one of these three things:
1. Believing your problems are permanent – when you start to think any problem is permanent, you get into a state of “learned helplessness”, and will not be resourceful. Remember, no problem is permanent — don’t let this thought ever get into your mind or the mind (of people on your team, if you have one). Who do you know without any problems? All problems do is show you where there is an area where there is room for some more perspective, feedback, creativity, etc. (see below)
2. Believing your problems are pervasive – if there is a problem in one area of your life or business, it does not mean your whole life or business is doomed.Pervasiveness is almost always a lie. It usually comes from fear and hijacks our minds. There are most likely several areas where you are kick-butt awesome. What you focus on expands, so while it is wise to know where the problem areas are, do not lose sight of the strengths you can rightly claim.
3. Believing your problems are personal – this is one of the most easy and destructive things you could do. Thinking things like: “It is about me. If only I wasn’t __” “I just don’t have the skill, etc.” – Well, no one has all the skill. You have certain talents which you can focus on. As you grow, you will need talent with others who are talented in different areas in order to really do something together that you can’t do on your own. If you think any problem is personal, it is because you are being too dependent on yourself, too hard on yourself, not seeing what you are good at, and not allowing others to be good at what they do too.
What to do
Utilize this time to rediscover the world and your place in it – to tap into the resourceful, innovative side of yourself. There absolutely is a purpose for your existence on this earth (with family, and also likely something that you will contribute to your community or the world). Similar to the seasons, the larger economy will shift even if you just wait and do nothing.
But why not utilize this time to your benefit? In order to see a shift in your work, you probably need to first have a shift in you — in your own sense of innovation and resourcefulness.
Here are 5 innovation ideas…With any problem or opportunity (personal or professional) you need to get:
– New voices– Ask yourself, what are the new voices I need? What are criteria I need in these new voices? (someone to model, someone with a skill set, someone with resources, perspectives, etc) Who could help innovate? Who would be on the cutting edge here? In having these new conversations, talk to the people, engage them, don’t judge them, go back and forth, brainstorm all ideas out there first, don’t kill ideas too early.
– New Questions (and ask these questions to yourself as well as to the new voices) – Bill Gates, richest man in the world, asked this question: “How do I become the intelligence that runs all computers?” He didn’t even develop the Microsoft software. He bought MS dos for 50K, then he innovated it, which saved a lot of time. Now his focus is more how to make a difference in non-profit area. What questions do you ask yourself? What are some new questions you need to ask right now? (if you can’t think of any, get new voices and they will come with new questions)
– New Perspectives – Go to new places to stimulate new perspectives. Your life is different when you experience these things. For example, Nokia – they keep their market share by innovating all the time, getting to know perspective of customer – they actually go to where their customer is. Nokia sent tech people out all over, and the idea that they came back with was to have phones with different colors – and gave customers the ability to design their own color on Internet. Business exploded by 20% in a way no technical innovation could ever have done. Go to new homes, new companies, new communities – don’t just talk to people on phone or online – get in these new environments, and it will spark new ideas.
–New Passions – When you have new people and they open up and feel ready to share, it provides new passions. If you don’t quite know what you are passionate about – do the first three and usually passions appear. Especially if those in leadership positions reinforce and encourage themselves and others to do things that are exciting to them – things that they can feel passionate about.
– New Experiments – Try strategic innovation experiments. Google gives people 25% of time to work on something not directly related to core business, a “skunk works”. Give yourself (and team if you have one) an opportunity to tap into passion and run with it. Take risks, break rules, be a bit of maverick – this is often critical to taking your life to the next level.
How does the economic situation influences Developing Countries (and ICT4D)?
Here’s a video I created for my ICT4D class about the effect of the economy on developing countries, and one reason why ICT4D is attractive. I filmed it while here in Washington D.C., after recently being in Trinidad and Guyana where I presented progress on our Consortium to the ACP Secretariat and European Union PMU.
Some questions to discuss:
* Why are the economies of developing countries more vulnerable and influenced with fluctuations in the global economy?
* Why are they open to getting hit so much harder than developed regions?
* What role might ICT4D play in providing more stability for developing countries?
* What obstacles would need to be overcome in order to utilize ICT4D for these benefits?
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 have just been in Florida for the last 4 days, where I saw how powerful this principle is. My brother, Gerald Rogers, had an idea about two months ago to put together a multi-speaker event, which he invited me to, but I had no idea what to expect. Well, in that short period of time he lined up some of the most powerful speakers (people like Tony Robbins‘ son Jairek, the business guru an NY times best selling author Chet Holmes, Than Merrill and other TV personalities, former sports stars and incredibly successful entrepreneurs), over a thousand people signed up to come, and for the hundreds of people who actually attended – it is quite possible everyone left with their lives dramatically changed for the better (including me)!
Gerald Rogers with Than Merrill
Testimonial Video (after just the first day)
Gerald had really never done anything like this before! But perhaps being driven by a passion to make other people’s lives better invites the universe to conspired with you — as it did with helping Gerald succeed in creating a world-class event! In addition to the speakers, I was impressed so much by the quality of the other friends I met there too. It seemed impossible to walk out of the experience we just had without being inspired and recognizing how this might indeed be one of the best times ever in the history of the world – and being motivated to take advantage of opportunities which are present and to really make a difference.
When I think about my brother, there are few people in my life that can make me laugh as hard or feel as loved as he does. Now there are few people who have done as much to inspire me to believe more in myself and think bigger. And it makes me so happy to see how Gerald is now thinking bigger in a way that allows hundreds (and no doubt thousands) more to benefit from the gifts and talents that God gave him.
What if I told you that in two months from now you could help do something that would forever improve the lives of hundreds of people (both those you know and love as well as those you have never met)? Would you believe me that you could – and then have the courage to make it happen?
How much more could you do to make this world a better place, if only you had the courage to think bigger, focus, and follow through?
What are the strengths and talents that God has given you, so that you can make this world a better place?
What is it that is holding you back from doing that — and what could help you to eliminate the fear or mediocrity in your life so that you could increase your belief in yourself and your ability to think bigger?
I am back in Finland again.
(Have I ever mention how much I like this place? – If you have never been to Finland before, you need to reconsider your life goals) 🙂
Part of why I like the University of Joensuu is because of their strong international programs, and in particular their connection to Africa.
I recently accepted a position as the coordinator of the EDULINK ICT4D Consortium of African and European Higher Education Institutions.
Last year we wrote a grant proposal to the EDULINK funding call (a part of the European Union’s efforts to support and develop ties with the developing world), a couple of months ago we heard news that they accepted it, and this last week I sent out an official confirmation of the EU funding to each of the partner institutions.
The current partner institutions include:
the University of Joensuu, Finland;
Tumaini University/Iringa University College, Tanzania;
the University of Southern Denmark, Odense;
UNESCO Centre for ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London;
the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana;
Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique;
Maseno University, Kenya;
C. A. Diop University, Senegal
And with the following two associates:
the Association of African Universities (AAU)
and Entertainment Robotics, a private company that develops ICT4D.
The specific objective of this project: To strengthen each of the partner institutions potential for effectively producing and utilizing ICT for development; specifically improving academic curriculum and research capacity through (1) workshops, (2) student and faculty exchanges, and (3) online contributions to a virtual hub (for collaboration, resources, and open sharing of results).
I am excited about the position because it allows me to be flexible in where I live (as I can do most of the work online), and the project is focused on an area that I feel passionate about. I feel we can make a difference, even though progress usually turns out more slow than we would hope (it is more like sitting and watching a tree grow than it is like watching a train pass).
As you can see from my previous blog entries, instead of western countries simply offering aid to the developing world (and often unintentionally making things worse than before) – I’m a strong believer that it is MUCH better if it is a two-way flow of ideas and communication, synergistically coming up with solutions together that no one partner could on their own, helping with the “development” of the European partners as much as with the African ones.
We need to get rid of the idea that Africa is a poor person that we need to pity and help! In my opinion, such an attitude is patronizing and simply fosters dependency. Africa is truly rich, and they have all they need and more!
In a sense they might benefit from association with Western countries, but in that same sense Western countries need Africa just as much or more. It seems much more healthy and helpful to have relationships and attitudes that encourage a two-way synergistic sharing and implementation of ideas and resources (where the end result is better than either party could come up with by themselves).
Hopefully the fruits of this consortium experience will be ICT4D innovations, curriculum, and research that meet real needs and contribute to improving the quality of lives and the human potential of all involved.
Along those lines, my questions for you in this blog entry are ones that we asked at the TEDC conference participants in August:
What do you think are the unique strengths of Africa and its people?
In your opinion, what is it that Africa and Africans can share with others, to help “develop” even Western countries, and make the world a better place?
(I ask these questions about Africa, because that is where a lot of the EDULINK project partners come from, but you can answer them with regards to any another “developing” area too.)
Several months ago, before I knew I was going to be directing the Edulink project, I proposed an idea to Andy Gibbons, the chair of the Instructional Psychology and Technology department at BYU, to offer a course on the use and application of web analytics for designing and improving online learning environments, and he loved the idea.
What are my expectations from the course? That everyone in the seminar:
(1) has hands on experience with the application of it with a real case,
(2) has an opportunity to contribute to an academic publication on the topic, and
(3) that our experience together produces knowledge and insights that are greater than any one of us could have come up with on our own.
My experience so far indicates that using web analytics to make and test recommendations for a simple online shopping experience (with metrics like CPC and ROI, measured in $) is a little more straight forward than deciding what set of data to monitor in order to improve online learning environments. But lets face it, with most e-learning there is a lot of room for improvement! -It is pretty easy to see how there must be some beneficial ways that web analytics can help to monitor activity and create insights for recommending and testing data-driven improvements. The initial question of importance is to determine the right KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).
A combination of a summary of the class’s ideas along with my own thoughts over the last couple years of thinking about it will be forthcoming…
Questions for now:
For anyone who might be reading this blog entry – – If you were designing and/or teaching online classes, for example, (as opposed to teaching one face-to-face and being able to see student’s reaction and adjust the experience in the moment) – what kind of things do you think would want to look at to help you make adjustments for the needs and experience of those you were teaching? – Ideally what kind of things do you think you would want to be able to measure and monitor in order to give you insights into what is going well and/or what could be improved – (and for whom)?
I did something this last week that I immediately regretted and continue to feel bad about – wanting to help but honestly feeling as if the situation was worse after my arrival than before.
I’m asking for your thoughts in what I could have done differently.
Thinking about it, I have started to see the experience as an analogy for how aid/development is generally given and received in Africa.
I was in a little village about an hour and a half outside Kampala, checking on some options of places that I can bring the participants of the upcoming TEDC conference. A friend of a friend was kind enough to offer me a ride back to Kampala, and so as a thank you I wanted to buy something to share with him.
Funny enough, we drove past the “American Super Market” (which was run by people from India) so in addition to taking a picture, I went inside to look for something to share. I got some peanut m&ms, and just outside the store gave some to this friend, a girl he was talking to, and then just to be nice also to the guard sitting outside the front door.
Before I knew it, a dirty little pair of hands attached to a cute little dirty orphan popped out in front of me in a motion of wanting some too.
My first thought was compassion, “Of course I want to do something nice for this little guy, when I have been given so much and he has been given so little, due to no fault of his own.” Just as I went to pour a couple in his hands, I was jostled as another pair of slightly bigger dirty hands pushed the other ones out of the way in order to try and catch the candy. Then another pair of dirty hands attached to a cute little dirty orphan joined them, and another, and another, until in what seemed like a matter of seconds, I was surrounded by hands and orphans. A lot of them had left their places sitting on the street near the building and now surrounded me. (someone told me nearly one in four children in Uganda is an orphan, mainly due to AIDS – although most of them get taken into live with extended family, these ones looked like they lived on the street)
I quickly counted heads (15-20) and how many candies were left in the bag (about 11) – not enough to go around.
I looked over to my companion for some advice or help; he just shook his head at me (like “stupid mzungo”) and walked quickly across the street to the car to start it because he was in a rush to get back to Kampala.
I obviously looked confused and at this point the kids were kind of pushing each other for spots at the front so that they didn’t get left out.
My first thought was to simply do nothing and keep the candies to myself so that it would be “fair” (or at least equally unfair for each of them) – but that thought made me feel selfish and guilty.
I was trying to think quickly but my friend was already in the car and it seemed like more and more anxious kids kept coming over and surrounding me.
So I just light tossed the bag towards them while I broke free of the crowd and hurried across the street to get in the nice, comfortable, clean car.
I looked back just once to see what happened, and instead of the candies being spread as equally and fairly as possible among all the orphans, they had fought and struggled over them until one or two of the bigger kids won all of them and the rest got none.
By then we had driven away.
Maybe you can see now why this situation keeps bothering me.
My question for you:
What could/should I have done differently?
Feel free to give simple answers or ones in which you creatively think out of the box. And don’t be afraid to hurt my feelings either, I’m asking for your honest thoughts.
After I get some answers to these questions, I’ll share a bit about how it seems like an analogy for current aid/development situations in Africa in general. But for now, I’m just interested in how you think I could have done things different with this particular incident?
Everywhere I go, I am surprised how much people all over the world know about the U.S.
• When I was in Russia a couple weeks ago, a young man came up to me and asked me if I was from the US. Then he began to ask me all kinds of questions about the housing market and sub-prime loan crisis. He wanted to know when I thought the market was going to recover, and what the relationship was going to be between the stock market and the upcoming elections.
• When I was in France, a woman who was originally from Scotland but now living in Norway taught me some interesting things I didn’t know about the current US presidential political candidates.
• When I was in China, a few people talked to me about wanting to move to the U.S., one man describing to me the uniqueness of some of the freedoms we have.
• When I was in Finland, I heard a black man from Tanzania defend the current situation in America to a white woman from South Africa who was speaking against certain parts of it.
I know other countries are talked about (e.g. French president’s new wife, Spain wining the Euro 2008, Russia’s and Putin, Zimbabwe’s election scandal…) but the situation in the US seems to command so much of the discussion of ordinary people around the world. To be honest, sometimes the discussion has made me feel somewhat awkward to be from the US, and at other times it has made me feel some degree of pride – but always it makes me think what a big responsibility it is to be the focal point of so much discussion.
I heard the CNN news host Glenn Beck talk at the Freedom Festival on the BYU campus about how much America craves for a leader, but how the greatness of America was never found in Washington DC or any of its politicians.
He talked about how in America we all now have been bombarded with talk and recognition of all of the problems and all of the dangers we face – and now the whole world knows all our problems. We often talk so much about the problems we currently face, that we totally miss the blessings and opportunities that we so easily take for grant it. So what is it that contributes to the ways in which America is great?
There has been a lot of new technologies and innovations which have come from America:
• Light bulb
• Assembly line
• Artificial heart
• Safety pins
• Water tower
• Polio vaccine
• Cotton candy
• Blue jeans
But this is not really what he thought makes America great.
Where is the greatness?
From his message, at least part of greatness of America is captured in two phrases:
1. “We the People” – the first three words on the Declaration of Independence – in large print. This is the belief that government does not solve our problems, but we solve them by serving our families and communities. Glenn Beck said: “We can solve any problem. Not in Washington, but right here. The answer never comes from Washington, it never has… The answer comes like a beacon in these three words – ‘We the People’”
2. “In God we Trust” – this phrase should bring humility, not arrogance. It is the belief that if we humble ourselves and trust in God, He can guide us into an uncertain and difficult future to do things that will benefit ourselves and those we care about (both in and out of the country).
George Washington, the first president, was a good example of this – not looking for power of government position, not interested in being a politician, but simply in doing his duty to serve for the sake of freedom. Glenn Beck pointed out that when George Washington was making his stance at Valley Forge during the war of independence, he was just a short way from the government capitol (which at that time was Philadelphia). During the cold winters, his wife was the one who made shirts and pants for the soldiers. “The government and congress did not do much to help them then. The situation has not changed that much today.”
As a strange side note, one of the news stories in the U.S. this year is that the fireworks displays tonight might not be as spectacular this year because it was more difficult to get fireworks from China due to the recent earthquake.
So even in talking about the positive aspects of American society, I can not get beyond the reality of how interconnected the world is now-a-days.
Since we are so interconnected, I’m curious – from an international perspective what do you think have been some of the positive and negative impacts America has made on the world?
I would sometime like to do a study on games people play in different cultures and countries.
Going to St. Petersburg this last weekend, we joked about a ‘Russian game’ called the “Everybody get down!”-game – and how this man on the bus didn’t learn how to play it very well…
(sometime ask me more about it for a funny story)
But as I have been thinking a lot about games lately – and have started inventing one or two games that deal with intercultural communication and collaboration – I wonder these questions about the games people play around the world:
– Who is involved (adults and children, people of what ages, and what relation)?
– Are the games based on cooperation or competition?
– Are they team based or individual?
– Are they thinking/skill based or games of chance/luck?
– If it is a game you can “win” what do you win?
– Are they played indoor or outdoor?
– Are the games just for diversions or what deeper things do you learn from playing them? etc…
Here are my questions for you: – Do you know any games you (or others) played as a kid that people from other areas of the world might consider unique?
– What are your favorite games to play and why do you like them?
(For a basic introduction to microfranchising, you can go here or here)
Microfranchising is an powerful, intuitive concept that will most likely spread exponentially in a similar way to microcredit.
It addresses both social and economic problems in a novel and effective way.
There are unsuccessful microfranchises (one of which I learned about at the conference), and I need to do more exploration as to what factors were involved.
The innovations needed for developing countries are not just product innovations, but also innovations in system and process (as the ones which are implemented from developed countries often fail) – and microfranchising is a great example of that.
Microfranchising is a useful concept for developed countries as well, and for govt and education as well as business.
I want the journal we choose to publish our article in to be free and online, in order to reach the most people of the key target audience.
Here is the abstract… The Diffusion of Innovations in Emerging Economies through Microfranchising
P. Clint Rogers, Ph.D.
Jason Fairbourne (Director, MicroFranchise Development Initiative),
Robert C. Wolcott, Ph.D. (Founder & Director, Kellogg Innovation Network; MBA & EMBA Faculty, Innovation & Entrepreneurship)
Emerging markets present a host of challenges for the traditional structures and operations of multinational businesses. Everything from different consumer needs and marketing obstacles to product distribution challenges and human resource management issues (Srinivas, 2002). These challenges provide opportunities for innovation not only in product development, but also in organizational structure and management (Brown, 2004). In this article we present an innovative business management model called microfranchising which has successfully facilitated the introduction and scalable distribution of innovations in emerging economies. The impetus behind the origination of the idea was to provide sound business opportunities and services to the world’s poor by introducing scaled-down business concepts found in successful franchise organizations. The key principle is replication– replicating success to scale through three enabling characteristics: (a) organic nature, (b) modularity, and (c) micro-scalability.
In this paper we discuss how microfranchising can solve many of the problems of traditional approaches to introducing innovations in emerging economies, and we describe as case studies two microfranchise organizations offering ICT (Information and Communication Technology) services in emerging economies: Drishtee and One Roof. At the core, Microfranchising addresses four primary challenges found in emerging economies: (1) the lack of jobs in many communities, (2) the lack of business skills among the poor needed to grow a successful business, (3) the lack of goods and services available to the poor (e.g. lack of efficient technologies), and (4) the lack of MNC’s understanding or ability to operate successfully in this vastly different context. We also illustrate how the concepts involved apply to a broader context of business and government.
Keywords: Knowledge Transfer and Innovation in MNCs/MNEs, Corporate Governance in Emerging Markets, Entrepreneurship in Emerging Markets, Marketing in Emerging Markets, Sustainable Development, Technology Transfer, Microfranchises
Attending a conference at Oxford last week (“Confronting the Challenge of Technology for Development: Experiences from the BRICS”), I heard several of the speakers refer to Finland as an example of one of the most successful countries in terms of development and productivity growth over the last couple decades (one speaker even referring to it as one “Superstar model”). Being back in Finland again, I have asked myself why has Finland been so successful (when so many other countries struggle and fail to do what Finland has done)?
[FYI – There are all kinds of quotients and formulas out there to measure the “productivity” of a country, and people are constantly debating about what should be included in them. Usually included are a combination of things like GNP, import/export ratio, capital accumulation, growth per capita, patent applications made, publications, Research and Development ROI, etc…]
So why can you give money to Finland, and they very effectively turn it into productivity and growth, when you could give it to other countries and not have nearly the same result?
Here are some of the ideas I have thought of or heard from others (You should vote for one of them or suggest your own). Why Finland has been so productive and successful:
Because Finland has such a low corruption rate (one of the lowest in the world), the money doesn’t get embezzled by government leaders, and people work together better because they can trust each other more.
Finland is very homogeneous – this also helps with getting people to work together and trust each other.
Finland is very egalitarian (perhaps due to the Lutheran influence?)- and so this helps to mediate some of the glory seeking and conflict. [e.g. I heard from one man that all government officials at a certain level are required to take a business economics course in which they get assigned a role that is not their own, then use real data and numbers from Finland’s economy to make decisions and policy recommendations. This helps them see that they need to work as a team, and appreciate the insights they learn from those with another expertise.]
Finland is used to pulling together to face very difficult challenges and great odds. [e.g. when China started becoming more of a threat economically, they flew over some of their top people who came back with a much different approach.] This is like the “sisu” mentality – which comes from things like enduring months of freezing cold weather with virtually no sunlight, living in the woods for years without talking to another person, or sharing a boarder with a country that likes to keep you on your guard.
There is a hypothesis that a country’s productivity level and growth is directly proportional to the amount of Karelian pasties they consume? 🙂
Perhaps by requiring men to wear speedos at all public pools – this bring a special camaraderie, creating a better environment for working together? Kind of symbolic of stripping issues down to the meat and bones and avoiding anything extra.
The fact that Finns don’t engage in much small talk (e.g. ignoring each other rather than saying “hi” to each other as they pass each other) maybe saves time for them to be more focused and productive?
Perhaps it is because people around the world serendipitously thought “Nokia” was a Japanese company – and so invested in it heavily? 🙂
Any other ideas that you can think of for why Finland has been so successful?
Just returning from Denmark (land of some of my ancestors), where I presented a paper at the Aarhus School of Business – “Knowledge 360” conference.
Perhaps the best thing about presenting my paper “Tools and Techniques for Online Cross-Cultural Knowledge Communication” – was that people in the audience knew about research and resources regarding cross-cultural innovation that I was not yet aware of. And it is always good to make connections with people who are doing interesting things which promise some potential of future collaboration.
One of the strangest things is that one of the most prolific faculty at the business school there, Connie Kampf, used to be the friendly girl serving me and my friends Orange Julius when we were teenagers at the Eden Prairie Center shopping mall in Minnesota years and years ago! (It is easy to remember because it was located near the arcade where we could get free tokens for getting good grades on our school report cards.)
In the last couple years, since we have both received our doctorates, I randomly met her in Malta, again in Estonia, now in Denmark and will see her later next month in the south of France!
Just goes to show what a crazy, small world this is – and that you never really know the potential or future of any ordinary person you meet on the street!
*So don’t give up on me just yet, I might one day do something worthwhile. 🙂 (No promises – but I’m just saying it is a possibility.)
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?