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…
Here is a conversation I’m copying from FaceBook (from when I was in India with my dad and Dr. Naram), so I can remember it, share some more details, and answer any more questions people might have:
“Can I share with You something amazing?
I came to India to meet my dad. Doctors in the U.S. didn’t know how to help him anymore. In just 2 weeks here at Dr. Naram’s clinic – pain in his chest and abdomen & numbness in his legs and feet went away, he stopped taking diabetes medicine with his blood sugar levels normal, AND his energy level is 20 times better!”
That is what I first posted (with many of the comments shared below).
Since then, my dad is now back in the U.S. and off of all his medications except one. No more medication for cholesterol, no more for high blood pressure, no more for helping with sleeping, or for chest pains, or for numbness in his legs — his blood sugar levels make it unnecessary for him to take diabetes medication. The only medication he is still on is for arthritis, which will take a little longer to get off of.
Things are not perfect, but compared to 3 months ago, it is surprising how much things have changed, and how there is so much more hope now where there was frustration and fear before.
So grateful for Dr. Pankaj Naram. Out of gratitude for Dr. Naram, I just captured this video from my dad talking a little bit about his experience…
Faculty and professionals from around Africa share their insights on the Top 7 Reasons Why Most development efforts using ICT (Information and Communication Technology) fail.
Below are some of the Key Questions from this video — please share Your thoughts too!
(Most of it was filmed from Winneba, Ghana, during the ICT4D Poverty Reduction Summit)
(To view the video above, you need to be on an Internet connection that allows access to YouTube.)
Questions for Reflection:
– Do you think the things you are doing will still have value in 10 years? What about 100 years?
– Do you really understand the context, and the key elements of the system you are trying to intervene in?
– Are you involving End-Users in the whole process, from Idea to Evaluation?
– Do You View Yourself as “Helping Poor People” vs “Partnering with and Learning from Rich People”?
Questions for Discussion — What are Your thoughts:
– Do You think Most ICT4D Projects Fail?
– If so, why do You think they Fail?
– In Your opinion, what are Elements of ICT4D Projects that “Work”?
For the last 3 days I have been driving the route between Maputo, Mozambique & Lusaka, Zambia — transporting some equipment for project partners who are meeting there. To say the least, it was an adventure — perhaps a miracle that we made it all the way through — and a trip that I learned a lot from.
At one point, Xavier, my colleague from Mozambique who was driving with me, said — “You know this road is a lot like Mozambique. As the national road of Mozambique, it is supposed to be in great condition, but look at it.”
Then my mind retraced what I had seen on our journey, drawing analogies to the state of Mozambique, of Africa, (and of “development”):
– richness of land
– incredible endurance of people (e.g. women walking huge distances along the road barefoot or with sandals, carrying massive loads on their heads and a baby strapped to their front and/or back)
– lots of police stops, looking for bribes (but let us pass as our truck conveniently looked like a government vehicle so they were worried about stopping us)
– more potholes
– kids with shovels half-way filling in potholes, but not all the way, so they can show you they are working and can ask you for money (to actually fill the pothole would ruin the business idea)
– lots of places to grow & harvest (people selling bananas, oranges, pineapples, coal, cashews, papayas, maize, honey, etc…)
– fellow travelers from all over — South Africa, Zimbabwe, etc
– buses and trucks packed full of the maximum amount of people you could possible fit in that space
– lots of beaches to enjoy, off the beaten road so that not as many people have access to them
– seems as if no one is there looking out to warn you about dangers ahead
– goats & cows crossing
– trucks or cars broken down (just when get up a good speed, a pot hole comes out of nowhere — taking many cars by surprise, and leaving them broken by the side of the road)
– houses & towns still burned from the 16 yr civil war which ended in 1992 (war was between the resistance movement and the government)
– gas station credit card machine was broken, so I walked with someone for about 20 minutes through town to 3 different ATMs that didn’t work, and then the fourth one we found worked, so we could pay and go
– flags from the main 3 political parties posted every once in a while along the way
– national parks without animals because they were all killed during the civil war
– if there is electricity in most villages along the way, it is often only available from 6pm-11pm at night
– lots of industry, informal markets – more and more people walking with massive loads on their heads, backs, or bikes
– local materials used creatively to build homes, corals for animals, stands to sell, places to gather
– kids smiling & waving to you all along the journey, ready in an instant to dance and laugh with you if you wish
If this road was to tell you about the country, what would you think the country was like?
Here are a couple particularly poignant experiences from the journey – along with some of the lessons or insights that came with them….
Ingenuity & Creativity of People
About half way on the trip we needed some money, so we found a bank.
Outside was a man who offered to exchange money at a higher rate than the bank. Nice.
After asking my friend, he confirmed it was a good rate, so I decided to change 100 Euros. The man counted out several 200 Mt bills and a lot of 50 Mt bills, and handed it to me to make sure he counted it right.
When I counted it, I found he was 300 Mt short of what he promised to give to me. He recounted it, and I was right, he was 300 short. So then he gave me an additional 300 in 50 Mt bills.
Only a day later did I realize that when he took the wad of bills back into his hands he took out about 8 of the 200 bills (1600 Mt), which you couldn’t tell because of how big the stack of 50 bills was – when he added in an additional 6 of the 50 Mt bills.
He understood the psychology, had good slight of hand like a magician, and overall was very creative in thinking the whole scenario through.
Other people tried to cheat us along the way, store keepers, police, rental company, import manager. Even the boarder guard on the Zambian side wanted a bribe, but in the end accepted a gift of a pineapple and a banana from me instead. 🙂
Only this one guy changing money outside the bank was actually creative enough to trick me in a new way (at least new to me).
More on this later…
The “impossible” journey: (& unexpected surprises with “progress”)
From Massinga to Vilanqulo there is a stretch of road (about 80km) that they tore up and pulled up because it was so bad, leaving a lot of dirt and two bypasses on either side of the main area. Because it was dry season, they were probably not expecting the rain to come — only when it did on the morning before we arrived, all the was left was one of the craziest mud-rally areas you can imagine.
Huge semi-tracks getting stuck, jack-knifing, sliding sideways into ditches or blocking entire areas. Other smaller cars trying to go places that left them half-burried in mud, or jammed into some space they could not escape from.
Imagine dozens of trucks like this, but in 6-20 inches of mud.
When we first encountered an impassable traffic jam, as the one driving, I proposed we back up and try and go on the prohibited central area — only when we jumped the sand/mud barrier, and started immediately sliding in a fish tail and sometimes almost slipping and skidding sideways where our back end got near the drop off areas, Xavier told me that was the worst mistake we had made.
To me, it felt similar to fun times of driving in snowy parking lots in Minnesota winters, where we would try to get the car to do that – and since we were still kind of moving forward, I decided to see how far we could get. It also was one of the rare experiences where I felt like my many hours of playing video games came in useful — as my skills in driving crazy road conditions actually did seem better because of it.
Some other cars saw us take a new route, and found a different creative solution on the far left side there was another road they could make progress on, and so after a while they slowly passed us — until they got stopped by some huge trucks stuck that were coming from the opposite direction.
To make a long story short, we found ourselves overcoming one huge seemingly impossible obstacle after another (massive potholes, huge trucks stuck, very deep water/mud, etc) — with periodic cheering & sense of relief until we went a little further & saw what was ahead next.
Eventually we were the only vehicle that was left making forward progress — many others trying to get out of their stuck vehicles and themselves sinking a foot or two in mud. Local people had come out on the sides of the road to watch all the excitement.
We didn’t give up, and we kept thinking of creative ways to solve one problem after another — until finally we were the first car to make it all the way through — people on the other side did now know how.
When we finally made it to the other side I couldn’t help but stop the car and dance with some local kids in the rain — we were all laughing so hard.
Lessons learned about “progress”:
• when trying to move forward, expect unexpected challenges
• with each challenge there is an opportunity (to grow, to learn, to be more creative than in the past, to change direction or to overcome)
• when you have overcome one, there will probably be more
• celebrate the victories along the way
• don’t take yourself or others too seriously
• you don’t need to believe when someone else tells you that you can’t or that you have made a mistake in trying to do what they could not do
• it helps to have capable equipment (e.g. 4 wheel drive)
• learn from the mistakes of others
• help and/or warn others when you can
• believe you can find a way — even if no one else has done it before
• sometimes it is good to go slowly, to learn from what is going around and plan well, and sometimes it is good to go fast, to have the momentum you need to get through the muck
• enjoy the challenge – as another way to strengthen your “muscle” of being willing to do what others think is impossible
• and as one of my personal secret weapons, I always feel even more joy when giving ultimate thanks and credit to God – for the victories, for the challenges, for the journey itself
President of Mozambique – “We are not in poverty”
About 3/4 of the way to Zambia, we suddenly came to a stretch of road with no potholes, we wondered why?
We even saw trucks for the first time working along side the road, with about 10 men surrounding one pot hole they were filling in.
Then we realized why — as we saw a lot of government cars coming from somewhere. The president had been visiting.
Later that night we saw on the news him speaking at that event. He said “Mozambique is not in poverty, it is not real poverty – the poverty is in our minds, the minds of the people. The country is very rich, but people do not have the idea on how to use these resources. It is necessary to develop the mind — to use their minds to explore the resources of the country.”
Xavier said he agreed with that. He talked about how some people have creative ideas – but they are usually focused on cheating others, like the man who “changed” our money outside the bank.
Xavier talked about the richness all around, just that the people have not had the ideas yet on how to improve the conditions.
To me, Xavier seems like one of the national treasures of the country — someone with all along the trip shared lots of ideas for how to increase production in the land, how to distribute goods more profitably, how to create juice factories, and also asked if we could draft an entire ICT curriculum for secondary school teachers while we were driving (as the government now introduced the requirement for teachers to teach it, but not many are capable to yet).
Soon I have some good friends coming to Mozambique to work with the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Sure seems like a big job on their hands – but with people like Xavier, and some ingenuity & determination – there is no doubt about the richness that can be tapped into.
Those are a few of the lessons learned on this journey down the National Road of Mozambique.
Are there any women in your life that inspire you?
This is created in honor of You…
As I mentioned on FaceBook, it surprised me how much came out of me while creating this video! Thinking about my own mother, and all the mothers who might struggle at times, wondering if they’ve done OK…
I’m so grateful to my sister, Marie, for creating this new website (http://www.TheEverydayMother.com) and consequently inviting me to think more deeply about how to more freely love & be loved.
I’m struck by how much it has changed since last time I was here about 2 years ago.
Everything from the world’s most expensive hotel to the world’s tallest building all leave a distinct impression of Awe – especially considering about 50 years ago this was all simply desert.
This world is such a fascinating place, and I am growing to love its people all over more and more. I’m so grateful to live in it and be a small part of learning with You about it all.
I flew here from New York, where I shot this short clip at “Ground Zero”
From “Ground Zero” New York City, Dr. Clint Rogers talks about the Moments of Crises we all will face, asking what will be brought out of us in those times? How will you respond in moments of crises?
He also asks what your view is of human nature – are you optimistic that things are getting better, or are you worried things will get worse?
And most importantly, what is your part in the whole – what is Your Compelling Future, what are you willing and excited to live for and create?
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?
There is so much to write about from the time here in Nepal; investigating local ICT4D projects, visiting various microfranchises, and co-coordinating the workshop on Technology, Creativity and Entrepreneurship.
Perhaps the most valuable thing for me personally, however, was meeting this great teacher who reminded me of a cross between the wisdom of Yoda, the persevering integrity of Gandhi, and the playfulness of Rafiki (from the Lion King).
Prof. Dr. Radha Krishna Kherwar is 72, but says he feels like he has the energy of a 16 year old. He could have had government positions, but instead dedicated his life to teaching — feeling that was the best thing he could do for his community and country. So he has produced for over 40 years engineers and doctors, government and civic leaders, students who go against the grain of corruption here in Nepal.
It was so refreshing to see his work, as so many of the countries I visit are stiffled in growth (regardless of amount of aid or natural resources) because of corruption.
Dr. Kherwar and I quickly bonded, and I wanted to share a little of this wonderful man’s words and philosophy with you here in this video. (please forgive the video work, I was multitasking as I was recording:)
As I was at the airport and getting ready to leave, he told me that although it was hard for us to separate, with love we are always connected.
– What are your thoughts about Dr. Radha Krishna’s philosophy on teaching and life?
– Of all your teachers, which one(s) was your favorite, and why?
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?
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?)
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?
It seems like every country I go to, all the newspapers and TV are full of news from home.
Even the conversations seem to revolve around the same thing – Obama.
In Tanzania, it seemed like I often had conversations like this:
“Where are you from?”
A smile breaks across their face, they point at me and without containing their joy say “Obama!”
Here are some pictures from Tanzania (pictures of Obama on buses, and as screen savers on phones)
One of the most interesting moments for me was when I was watching the news with my friend who is from a war torn eastern European country:
“That is an amazing picture.” (he said)
“Which one?” (I asked)
“The one with Obama and Bush together. You don’t realize how incredible that is. People criticize America all the time, but it really is the best example of democracy that exists – to have that kind of peaceful transition of power is amazing. In my country, the president did not want to leave office, so they brought arms and a lot of people died.”
Perhaps Presiden Obama’s inauguration was the focus of more of the world’s consciousness than any other event in history?
I just hope we don’t depend too much on him to do things that all of us can do together, using a combination of our best intentions and intelligence. Time to recharge our “bettery”.
I’m curious – what are your expectations of Obama and the U.S. (especially over the next 4 years)?
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.
What an interesting time we live in, huh?
So much is being written and said about the recent elections, but in particular I have been fascinated by international reactions to the whole election.
Here are some clips from an article in the New York Times:
“From far away, this is how it looks: There is a country out there where tens of millions of white Christians, voting freely, select as their leader a black man of modest origin, the son of a Muslim. There is a place on Earth — call it America — where such a thing happens.”
“Tristram Hunt, a British historian, put it this way: Mr. Obama ‘brings the narrative that everyone wants to return to — that America is the land of extraordinary opportunity and possibility, where miracles happen.’
But wonder is almost overwhelmed by relief. Mr. Obama’s election offers most non-Americans a sense that the imperial power capable of doing such good and such harm — a country that, they complain, preached justice but tortured its captives, launched a disastrous war in Iraq, turned its back on the environment and greedily dragged the world into economic chaos — saw the errors of its ways over the past eight years and shifted course.”
“Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at the People’s University of China, said Mr. Obama’s background, particularly his upbringing in Indonesia, made him suited to understanding the problems facing the world’s poorer nations.
He and others say they hope the next American president will see their place more firmly within the community of nations, engaging in what Jairam Ramesh, junior commerce minister in the Indian government, called “genuine multilateralism and not in muscular unilateralism.”
Assuming Mr. Obama does play by international rules more fully, as he has promised, can his government live up to all the expectations?”
“We have so many hopes and wishes that he will never be able to fulfill them,” said Susanne Grieshaber, 40, an art adviser in Berlin who was one of 200,000 Germans to attend a speech by Mr. Obama there in July. … But she is sober. “I’m preparing myself for the fact that peace and happiness are not going to suddenly break out,” she said.
“So foreigners are watching closely, hoping that despite what they consider the hypocrisies and inconsistencies, the nation they once imagined would stand as a model for the future will, with greater sensitivity and less force, help solve the world’s problems.
There is a risk, however, to all the extraordinary international attention paid to this most international of American politicians: Mr. Obama’s focus will almost certainly be on the reeling domestic economy, housing and health care. Will he be able even to lift his head and gaze abroad to all those with such high expectations?”
I was able to meet briefly with the current ambassador from Uganda last week following a presentation I attended where he spoke.
The instant I mentioned the work we were doing in ICT4D (Information and Communication Technology for Development) he perked up and showed keen interest, saying ICT was one of his highest priorities.
As we talked, it was fun to tell him about the University of Joensuu and the work being done there, including the work being done in Uganda, the scholarship opportunities open for Ugandans, and the things we are learning from the people and experiences there.
He invited me to come and visit with him next time I am in Washington D.C.
As I’ve been trying to clarify some of my life goals, I keep thinking about previous blog entries and wondering how things might lead me back to Uganda?
Several times in my life I’ve heard a saying that goes
“The past is history; The future is a mystery. This moment is a gift — that’s why it is called the present.”
To be honest, previously I just saw it as a clever little saying and then didn’t think much more about it.
It has only been in the last year that I have really been struck with the idea of how powerful it is to live in the moment. (Appreciating the idea, however, is very different from actually living the application of it, which is still difficult for me). I watched a movie called “The Peaceful Warrior” (that I would highly recommend) which helped me see the importance of letting go of some control (or illusion of control) and the value of living in this moment, right now. Most of the time our minds are worried about something in the future which we can’t control or contemplating something in the past, for better or worse – but rarely do we stop and enjoy or even just experience right now, which is really the only thing we have.
I’ve now talked to 4 friends (two from the US – one of which was in India, one from Germany living in Finland, and one from France living in China) who have attended a Vipassana meditation course (absolutely free of charge) where you try to apply this principle through 10 days of total silence and Buddhist meditation – just trying to focus your mind on the experience of now. Each has said that for most people the first days are way more difficult than they would imagine, and even painful (being left with nothing but your thoughts, fears, doubts, regrets, uncertainties and trying to focus on the moment, without talking for the entire time – one of my friends could only last a few days). The three that were able to make it all 10 days said that by the end of the experience their life was changed – one of the most powerful experiences they have ever had.
It is more personal than I usually get on my blog, but over the last two weeks I’ve been experiencing some pretty intense “soul pain” (the kind of emotional grief which can seem at times worse than physical pain). I read some scriptures in The Book of Mormon which talk about the value of “today”, and I thought about my friends who have attended this Vipassana course. While feeling a deep sadness, I started to ask the questions: How is it possible to value this moment when I am in pain now?
How can I focus on now and not think of past joy and/or hope somehow for a better future than the present moment?
What is there to see of value in this very moment, even when the moment is one filled with pain, sadness, and/or uncertainty?
I had a few experiences (which I might or might not share later) where I came to understand some of the answers to these questions for my situation, helping to provide meaning for being in the moment, even if it was hard and regardless of what happened in the past or what the future held.
One friend of mine shared with me some stories of others in her life who are going through some pretty severe trials, and it reminded me of hearing a poignant thing from President Henry B. Eyring when he indicated that you could go up to almost anyone and instead of asking “How are you doing?” – you could ask “Where does it hurt?”
So that makes me curious for anyone reading this: How would you answer those questions (e.g. for the hard times you have gone through)?
Do you think it is possible to treasure (or at least value) a moment even when that moment is filled with sadness, pain, and uncertainty? Why and How?
Even when unpleasant, how can you want to experience and be in this moment, as opposed to any other ones that you could imagine?