Monday, 20 April 2015

Surveys are Us... Tips to design engaging and meaningful surveys #kmers

When was the last time you completed a survey/questionnaire that had self-explanatory and clear questions and you could figure out why it was important to complete the survey? When was the last time in completing a surverycould get a good feel as to how  the results will serve as an input to bring about change?

Whether we like it or not, surveys  have become a staple of modernity. Be it that they are customer satisfaction surveys, be it that they are census, opinion polls, household surveys, attitude surveys or surveys for research purposes.

Typically surveys are used to:

  • get feedback from "audience"
  • collect information/statistics about an "audience" group
  • understand the "audience" needs, challenges and opportunities in an effort to make informed decisions 
  • assess the impact of an intervention and/or activity on an "audience"
Should you need to design a survey, you may wish to take a few minutes and consider the following:
  • What's purpose of the survey? Why are you designing and launching it?
  • What type of data/information and feedback you wish to collect?
  • Who is your audience? (demographics, social and economic status, occupation, literacy rate)
  • Why is it important to reach out to your audience?
  • How will you be using the results, outcome and data from your survey?
  • What is your plan to share the survey results with your audience?
  • Is the survey a one-off, a follow-up to a previous survey, part of a research project?
  • Are you undertaking the survey on-behalf of a third party?
Survey goal and purpose (the why)
Once you have clearly identified and articulated the goal and purpose of your survey, make sure you write it down, because this is what you need to use as your survey's introductory text!  Include the survey deadline along with   how and when you'll be sharing the survey results in your introductory text.

Know your audience (the who)
Surveys are a communication tool, as such it is important to know who is the target audience. Here are some points to consider:
  • know who you wish to reach, as this will determine the questions you will be asking, the timing and format in which you will be sharing the survey 
  • provide clear instructions, including what you will be doing with the results and how long it will take them to complete it. Be honest, if it takes 20 minutes to complete the survey, say so, as otherwise you may risk putting off your audience and end up having fragmented and unusable data
  • make sure your survey is tailored to the literacy level and language group of your audience
  • if you opt for on-line survey, make sure your audience has access to the appropriate technology
The questions (the what)
Once you've figured out why you are doing the survey and who is your target audience, you need to compile your questions. One overarching tip for formulating powerful questions, is to KNOW what you will do with the responses. If you cannot figure out how you will use the response of your question, either reformulate the question, or opt to drop it. You may find the following suggestions useful:
  • craft clear and concise questions (preferably in plain English and jargon free)
  • ask one question at a time. Do not stack your question and do not AND/OR in your question
  • use multiple choice, true/false, checklist and rating scale as these make your compilation task easier and you do not run the risk of having to interpret the response
  • use even number for rating scale type questions (for example: 1-4 where 1 is poor and 4 is excellent). This way you will encourage the respondent to provide a meaningful answer as opposed to settling for the middle ground. This said, where appropriate provide N/A (not applicable) option. Make sure you assign numeric values to your  rating/scale questions. This will facilitate the compilation
  • where applicable and appropriate consider asking the respondent to provide the occurrence of an activity as opposed to simply asking them to give you an approximation such as  never, seldom, often, always
  • keep open-ended questions to a minimum (structured questions make compilation work easier and you do not risk falling into the 'interpretation' trap)
  • group questions logically and if appropriate breakup your survey in logical sections
  • figure out which questions are of utmost importance - for which you require an answer or else your survey will be void - and make those mandatory
  • include demographics (such as gender, age etc) so that you can disaggregate the results. If your survey is anonymous, make sure the demographic questions are in-line with your anonymity framework
  • use validation questions as appropriate 
Format (the how)
Once you know who is your audience, you will be able to decide whether to opt for electronic, print or interview format (in person, telephone). In determining the format, consider the following:
  • access to technology
  • literacy rate. In case of low literacy rate, you may opt for a pictorial version of the survey or conduct a face-to-face or phone interview
  • respondent's cultural context and make sure you are gender sensitive
If you opt for on-line or print format (mailed or manually distributed), remember the eye wants it share as well. Make sure your survey is well-formatted and visually appealing. In case of print survey, allow enough space between questions and allocate adequate space for  response to  open-ended questions.

Timing (the when)
The timing of a survey can contribute to higher response rate. Knowing your audience will help you decide when is the best time to launch your survey. For example, if you were to survey farmers, you would try to avoid  peak harvest time, as  you know they will be busy in the fields and have other priorities.

I am adding the survey deadline under this heading. Decide how long you'll be running your survey. Seven to10 days seems to be the norm. Send a reminder four and two days before the survey's deadline.  

Field test
Put yourself in the shoes of the respondent and think of the frustration in completing a survey that does not work, or has unclear questions. 

This is why it is really important to field test your survey before launching it. By field testing, I am not just talking about making sure the technical and mechanical part works. More importantly, the field test is to assess if all your questions are clear, make sense and relevant to your audience.

For field testing, choose people who were not involved in the design process. If you can afford the luxury of having someone from your audience group, go for it and have them complete the survey. That would be the best litmus test.

Response rate
While it makes total sense to aim for 100% response rate, conventional wisdom says that average response rate for on-line surveys is 30-40% and 60-70% for mailed ones. 

You would hope that all your respondents have duly completed the survey. This is why it is important to decide which are your mandatory questions so that you avoid the risk of getting partial responses which could jeopardize the validity of your efforts. 

Read carefully the answers to the open-ended questions. To the best of your ability, try to stay as objective as possible. This is why it is best to keep these types of questions to the bare minimum.

Once you've compiled the results and you get a good understanding of what the results are telling you, share it with your respondents. You may do so in a narrative form complementing it with graphs and charts.

In sharing the results, depending on the type of survey, let your respondents who were diligent enough to complete the survey know how and when you'll be taking action.

While I know the above is far from being comprehensive. Nonetheless, I hope you find it useful. I encourage you to also check out The University of Wisconsin Survey Center for valuable resources and guidance on how to design and implement surveys.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

The role of media, journalists and reporters in a networked global world #globaldev

Reading the New York Times Op’d “Yes, we were warned about Ebola”, I kept thinking  how can we make sure mainstream media covers development and humanitarian issues before these transform and become catastrophes? 

I kept asking myself how can we influence the “subjective” selection of news and raise awareness that in our networked world the outbreak of a disease, drought and famine miles away from our home, wars in distant lands, genocides among cultures different than ours, extreme weather conditions in different parts of the world, while at prima facie may appear as local news ultimately will have dramatic and serious impact at a global level, thus impacting us as individuals.

So would not it be better if the pseudo local news is covered adequately from the outset, as opposed to when the damage is done?

Unlike the medical profession that encourages prevention as a cure, the media seems to prefer to wait until some “newsworthy” event - aka catastrophe - happens to then “run the “news”. This is not because reporters and journalists are evil people, it is because that is the nature of the beast. 

If we look back in time in the novel Scoop, Evelyn Waugh described news as follows: “Look at it this way. News is what a chap who doesn’t care much anything wants to read”.

Couple of decades earlier, Pulitzer talks about news as “What is original, distinctive, dramatic, romantic, thrilling, unique, curious, quaint, humorous, odd, apt to be talked about, without shocking good taste or lowering the general good tone, above all without impairing the confidence of the people in the truth of the stories of the character of the paper for reliability and scrupulous cleanliness.”

More recently Alain De Botton defined news as "The determined pursuit of the anomalous.”

John Bogard a century ago shares his view on what constitutes news: “When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.” 

I wonder whether the reporters covering dog bites will ever consider the incidence of rabies before deciding to discard the news of a dog biting a man  as “non-news” as opposed to  wait until rabies in the neighbourhood becomes a pandemic to cover the story.

Let’s pause a moment and remind ourselves that the goal of journalism is to keep citizens informed and appraised of the news that may affect them as individuals or impact their communities. And yes, journalism also has a watchdog function, to report on what governments are doing. And we all know that news has a cycle. Something that is news today, may not be news in three days time. 

While this may be true for what I label as conventional news covered by major media outlets, this is not the case for development news. 

Development-related news is always NEWS. Development-related news remain news until such time that there is no famine, no drought, no adverse climatic event, no epidemic, no disease outbreak, no child malnutrition, no poverty, no landgrabbing, no gender inequality, no child labor, no exodus of displaced people, no overcrowded refugee camps, no food shortage, no genocide and no humanitarian crisis.

After all, is not covering the news a means to provide facts and give context while bringing attention to global and local issues? So, why is it that there is no steady flow of development related news and why is it that we still have not cracked this nut?

The Economist piece Coming full circle argues that “The biggest shift is that journalism is no longer the exclusive preserve of journalists. Ordinary people are playing a more active role in the news system, along with a host of technology firms, news start-ups and not-for-profit groups. Social media are certainly not a fad, and their impact is only just beginning to be felt. “It's everywhere—and it's going to be even more everywhere,” says Arianna Huffington. Successful media organisations will be the ones that accept this new reality. They need to reorient themselves towards serving readers rather than advertisers, embrace social features and collaboration, get off political and moral high horses and stop trying to erect barriers around journalism to protect their position. The digital future of news has much in common with its chaotic, ink-stained past.”

Pulitzer prize winner, Max Frankel said: “since no one can precisely define the nature of news, virtually anyone can claim to be a journalist.” And the 2006 Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that 34% of bloggers consider their blog as a form of journalism.

It’s fair to say that there are not enough journalists to cover  all the news. And today, thanks to the advances in technology and the increasing acceptance of crowdsourcing as a form of reporting, we still do not seem to be able to provide adequate coverage of development-related news.

I wonder whether the world of journalism, reporters and media in general would consider leveraging development workers as eyewitnesses, allowing them to contribute to the news agenda and advocacy journalism. 

By doing so, they will have a continuous and steady flow of information and news not only to raise awareness about global events, facts and realities that sooner or later will impact people’s lives at all levels, but also take a proactive role in contributing to what Philip Graham called “first rough draft of history.” 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Taking our social media presence to higher heights. Thank you @unsocial500, @gaurisalokhe, @mongkolroek, @Nancy_Groves #kmers #globaldev

Some argue that social media has brought us closer and others claim that it has made us more lonelier

I think it is fair to say that social media is now part and parcel of our daily lives. And like any technology, it has, to some degree, changed the way we conduct business and interact with each other.

Over the last seven years, as a development worker and as an early social media adopter, I’ve been advocating for mainstreaming this new communication paradigm in our business and core processes.  

I have used and seen how my colleagues across the United Nations Agencies, the International Financial Institutions, the NGO community and grassroots organizations have used these channels to raise awareness about the challenges and opportunities facing people in developing countries. 

I was lucky enough to learn from well designed and well choreographed social media strategies - be it during crisis such as the Haiti earthquake, drought in the Sahel, Ebola; be it to for events, and campaigns such as the International Year of Family Farming, Rio+20, #post2015, #whatdoesittake, #2030now.

I learnt from the more savvy how to better engage with the audience to harness the “wisdom of the crowd” and I was fortunate enough to be able to put my new learning and knowledge to practice.

As an earlier adopter, I saw first hand how different organizations embarked on this journey. Joining forces with my fellow early adopters, we consistently and continuously enticed our respective organizations to embrace this new communication paradigm. We  created our own “virtual community” where we shared our experiences, successes and challenges.

We used each other as sounding boards and peers when faced with challenges. After each big or small success, we collectively celebrated. And in the spirit of reciprocity we shared our achievements with each other

One of the many uphill battles that we fought together, was convincing our colleagues to use social media channels and their personal accounts to talk about and share snippets of their work. You can imagine the joy and satisfaction of those of us who over years have been fighting this battle to see our efforts being recognized in the UN Social 500 list

I must admit that having our names amongst "the most influential men and women who are promoting, discussing and describing the work of the UN on a daily basis via their own social media channels" finally gave us the boost that we were looking for. A big thank you to the @unsocial500 folks for compiling and maintaining  the list.

Thanks to the work and commitment of the wonderful folks on this list, today the United Nations not only has a solid social media presence, but more importantly all those closely involved in this communication stream have a superb support network.

With the mainstreaming of social media in our work, I believe today the United Nations is more UNITED than ever. A decade ago, asking UN agencies to collaborate and contribute to each other’s campaigns may not have been a trivial undertaking. 

Today, when the UN family embarks on a campaign, all the various agencies chip in and participate. This is made possible thanks to well-crafted social media advisory packages which provide all the necessary assets (messages, precanned tweets, precanned Facebook updates, infographics, images, links, videos) including the license to adapt the messages. As a result, we are in a better position to amplify each other messages, avoid doing propaganda and reach out to a diverse audience.

A good case in point was the 22 March World Water Day celebration. A decade ago, all the UN agencies and IFIs  would have celebrated this day “on their own” thus hardly benefitting from each other’s experience, let alone the “wisdom of the crowd”.

The 2015 #worldwaterday was indeed GLOBAL. Our UN Water colleagues did an amazing job of bringing everyone together to share facts and figures about water scarcity in developed and developing countries. Unworthy’s Twitterchat  was a great example of partnership between and among profit and non-profit organizations to raise awareness about challenging and important global issues.

This is just one of the many instances of social media’s unprecedented multiplier effect for development! As a result, in a time and age where we need to deliver more with less and where there is a pretty tight competition for resources, mainstreaming social media in our core business has allowed us to amplify each other messages, raise awareness about different developmental issues, engage with and involve the audience.

Thanks to all the folks in the support network for paving the road to success. I am sure together, we’ll be able to design and implement many more innovative campaigns and take our social media presence and agenda to new and unexplored heights.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Embarking on a visioning session? Start by writing an obituary #globaldev #kmers

Recently someone asked me how did I think development cooperation would change in the next ten years?

This thought provoking  question made me think if ever, as development workers, we consider putting ourselves out of business? That is to say if we deliver on the results,  goals, targets and outputs that we commit to achieve, we should be able to put ourselves out of  business.

In reflecting on what is it that we can do differently to put ourselves out of business, I thought what if we were to adopt a different approach when we embark on visioning and goal setting sessions. 

If you’ve ever done a visioning session, you know that a vision needs to be aspirational and inspirational. A common dictionary definition of vision is “ the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom”. Personally I would change “imagination or wisdom” to “imagination AND wisdom”, as I believe you need both.

Typically after a visioning session, we move to marathon  goal setting sessions. Goal is defined as "the object of a person's ambition or effort; an aim or desired result."

At these marathon goal setting session we are continuously reminded that a good goal statement needs to be  SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, result-oriented and time-bound.”

The outcome of these sessions will differ drastically depending as to whether we embark on them with a committee approach or an open minded (art of possibility) approach.

In cases where the politics of the moment oblige us to embrace a committee approach, an alternative way to avoid ending up with a Christmas tree and meaningless Vision statement and equally meaningless and self-serving goals, could be to completely change approach. How about adopting the crazy paradigm of writing an obituary.

 In writing an obituary, we can crystalize eloquently and succinctly how we wish to be remembered. In doing so, we need not only come up with an aspirational vision statement but also state how we achieve the lofty vision.   And this would be our concrete and actionable goals.

I know it may seem a bit too simplistic, but I am convinced that  if manage to write an inspirational and value-based obituary we will be able to work ourselves out of the development business and/or radically transform the sector.

Wonder who will take on the challenge of holding an alternative visioning session  to write their own obituary by answering these and other questions?

  • How and who did you serve
  • What were your biggest, most memorable and impactful achievements
  • How did you change the world (for better or worse)
  • What were your value system and how did your business embody these values
  • What was priceless about your business
  • Who and what was inspired by you and your work
  • What is the one thing you are remembered for

The beauty of writing your own obituary while you are still alive is the fact that others can validate and "correct" it. This means if you are modest or magnanimous you will soon find out and still have time to shape and transform your life. And the same applies to development organizations.

Who knows, should this crazy idea be adopted, I wonder what will happen to the beloved "measurable"'indicators, targets, goals and the aspirational and inspirational vision statements.

 I guess at best they will become meaningful and real, at worse nothing will change. Being an eternal optimist I opt for the former!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Gender gap - a universal and global phenomenon - let's join forces to bridge this gap #LeadOnCa

Last week I had the privileged and honor of rubbing shoulders with 5000 women leaders and listen to and benefit from the wisdom and expertise of over 100 inspiring women speakers of the calibre of Hillary Clinton, Brene Brown, Diane von Furstenberg, Candy Chang, Kara Swisher, Rosalind Hudnell, Jessica Herrin, Jill Abramson and many more.

Wondering who had such an amazing convening power? I’m talking about Watermark’s inaugural Lead On Conference for Women which took place on 24 February in Santa Clara (Silicon Valley). The event offered connection, information and inspiration, motivation and momentum to help us women discover what we want—and go get it!

As a development worker one of our many goals is to bridge the gender gap in developing countries and to design and implement development interventions that empower women and foster gender equality and equity.

In the agricultural sector, FAO estimates that “if women had equal access to productive inputs such as improved seeds and fertilizers, yields from their fields would increase by 20 to 30 per cent. This would boost total agricultural output by up to 4 per cent in developing countries, reducing the number of hungry people globally by 12 to 17 per cent, or 100 million to 150 million people.” 

For me this event presented a unique opportunity to learn from the achievements and accomplishments of these successful and inspiring women so that I could take these nuggets and explore the feasibility of replicating their achievements in development related interventions, thus giving a voice to the voiceless and contributing to make a dent in the glass ceiling.

During the course of the day, as I was listening to keynote speakers and attending the various sessions, two things came as a great surprise to me:

  • magnitude of the gender gap in the United States 
  • realization that gender inequality is something universal - dare I call it a global illness

Back in 2013, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) report entitled Women, Work, and the Economy: Macroeconomic Gains from Gender Equity estimated that the global economy has missed out on 27 percent of GDP growth per capita due to the gender gap in the labor market.

The report estimated that “having an equal number of women to men in their labor force could increase economic growth by 5 percent in the U.S. and as much as 34 percent in Egypt. While Japan deals with an aging and shrinking workforce, women could fill the gap and boost the economy by almost 10 percent.”

"There is ample evidence that when women are able to develop their full labor market potential, there can be significant macroeconomic gains," the report says.

Hillary Clinton reminded us that “in developed countries like the U.S., closing the participation gap would result in an 8 to 10 percent of an increase in gross domestic product over the next 15 to 20 years, and In less developed countries, it could be 30 to 40 percent and around the world, GDP would grow by nearly 12 percent by 2030.”

And a recent Harvard Business Review estimates that “If women in the United States, Japan, and Egypt were employed at the same rates as men, the GDPs of those countries would be higher by 5%, 9%, and 34%, respectively.”

All of this came two days after Oscar winning best supporting actress Patricia Arquette used the Academy Award ceremony as a platform for her crie-de-coeur to raise awareness about gender inequality.

"It is our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America," she said.

According to the US Census Bureau, for every dollar a man makes, a woman earns just 78 cents for doing the same job. It is estimated that in the US, women earn 18 percent less a week than men.  And one of the most shocking statistics is the fact that in the United States  there there are only 24 women CEOs in 500 S&P companies.

With this backdrop, the 5000 participants at the LeadOn Conference while sharing their experiences committed to harness their respective power to bring about change and reverse the gender inequality trend.

Getting up close and personal with my mentors
Being in the proximity of a born leader is always a thrill, and it is much more so, if  this born leader is a woman and even more so if it is Hillary Clinton.

In the heart of the male dominated Silicon Valley, Madam Clinton reminded the high-tech industry that limiting women’s participation in the industry means curtailing prosperity and innovation.

“Gender equality is not just a nice thing to do…..Where women are included you are more likely to have democracy.”

“We can literally count on one hand the number of women who have actually been able to come here and turn their dreams into billion-dollar businesses,” Clinton said. “We’re going backwards in a field that is supposed to be all about moving forward”. 

“Today women receive only 18 percent of computer science degrees, whereas in the 1980s women took home 38 percent of those degrees. Our economy seems to be operating like it’s 1955.”

She called on female technology executives to do more to help women. "As women, let us do more to help all women lead on and lead. What you do doesn't have to be dramatic. You don't have to run for office. Although if you do more power to you.”

“[If] we want to find our balance again, we have to figure out how to make this new economy work for everyone,” she said.

Shifting gears and in sharing her work with the Clinton Foundation, I was about to jump out of my skin, when Madam Clinton shared the example of the how the use of mobile telephony has empowered the women of self-employed women association (SEWA) in India, as my organization, IFAD, has been working with and financing SEWA’s activities. 

At the end of a 33 minute inspiring talk, for which she received a standing ovation, Madam Clinton sat for a 34 minute interview with the almighty Kara Swisher. Swisher did a remarkable job and Secretary Clinton was truly a star in playing ball with her. Sit back, relax and watch this masterpiece.

What I learnt
Feeling the great energy and power in presence of 5000 inspirational ladies who stride to make a difference in people’s life, I learnt that it is a privilege to be a woman, I learnt and that as a woman we need to be bold to grow.

As the day progressed, we were challenged to explore when was the last time we acknowledged the strengths, power and potential of women around us? When was the last time we mentored a woman? When was the last time we encouraged people to speak up and reward them for their ideas? When was the last time we valued ourselves as a woman? When was the last time that we changed course when we felt under-valued?

As leaders we were reminded that our job is to set a vision. We were also reminded not to be harsh on ourselves, to seize all opportunities to learn, grow, do something different and walk through new doors.

We were reminded to learn from failures,  not to take failures personally and not be afraid of failing. Janine Driver in her inspirational talk made us commit “This year is about me. I shall develop, decide and deliver”. 

Thank you Watermark, the 100+ speakers and the 5000 inspiring participants for teaching me to lead on with confidence. It was truly an honor and privilege to be part of your family, rub shoulders with you and learn from you.

We shall LEADON.

Friday, 27 February 2015

What is priceless in your business?

What can be counted doesn't really count and what counts cannot really be counted 
Close your eyes for a minute and think about a value-based business that you may know and/or associated with.  Think of a business that lives by this maxim “What can be counted does not really count. What counts cannot really be counted”. Think of a business where values are not measures, or norms, rather values are meta-strategies. 

If you could think of one, then you are a very lucky person. If you found it hard to do so, do not despair and take a minute to read what follows…..

Last week in my ICT for social enterprise class at UC Berkeley, I had the privilege of meeting Somik Raha, a Decision Analyst and Software Development  Associate at SmartOrg, Inc, holding a Ph. D. in Decision Analysis from Stanford University. 

In his talk on “Finding your meta-strategy” - based on his thesis  "Achieving Clarity On Value” - he offers a methodology to discover, appreciate and communicate sources of value. He does so by urging us to dig deep and find our intrinsic values

“Intrinsic values are about finding your deepest values, these are things that move you, stir emotions, make you cry, are sacred to and for you and are unique”, says Raha. And because of this special characteristic of intrinsic value, it is hard to verbalize it.

He started off his talk by asking us to be silent for 10 minutes and to let our thoughts settle. That was just one of the many powerful moments of his talk. After which he asked us to make a list of the metrics we use to measure our goals and what we do. So, we all came up with SMART (Specific, measurable, achievable, result-oriented, time-bound) goals and next to them put equally smart metrics.

The purpose of this exercise was to show us that what is being counted does not actually count, but may be important because it drives us toward action. That action, if thoughtful, can help us create value. Can you think of something more profound and true than this statement?

Taking us by hand, we went on a journey in the world of values, figuring out how to go beyond values as measures, or values as norms, and explore values as meta-strategy. 

He asked us “What we thought was the distinction between how we treat others and the purpose of our business”. To help us better understand this novel concept, he divided values into three categories:
  • Systemic values - counting something or following a rule
  • Practical values - these are rationalizations for the rules and systems
  • Intrinsic values - deeply-held beliefs that move us to develop practical and systemic values 
And this is when we started to investigate the world of intrinsic values. Raha’s work shows that “human mind shuts down when faced with numbers”,  while inspiration leads to creativity. 

As we examined our SMART goals and our equally smart metrics, we tried to figure out what are our shared and individual values. To do so, we used Raha’s value mapping methodology - a simple method prima facie, yet an intense and profoundly different method from what one is used to. 

Value-mapping methodology: An innovative way to find what is priceless in your business
Value-mapping helps to identify what is priceless in our business and what are those priceless things that we offer. It is an act of deep listening to “give up politics and focus on truth” and digging down inside oneself to discover our values and sources of inspiration. It is about exploring and looking for uniqueness, not universality.

Finding your meta-strategy, Somik, Raha, 2015

To help us on this journey, using the above framework, we paired up with another person where the speaker shared what is deeply important to them and the listener,  listened deeply to the sharing, asking the following probing questions to parse the head, heart and habit in an effort to find the intrinsic values - keeping an eye on silences and emotions.

To facilitate reflection, start with probing key moments by asking the following questions:
  • What are some major turning points in your life
  • What are some moments of inspirations
  • What have you believed since you were a child
Listen for loss of fluidity. When people are rationalizing and can easily articulate their argument, they are not tapping into feelings. When someone taps into their feelings, there are pauses, the fluidity of the arguments wanes and this is the sign that they are no longer talking with their head but tapping into their heart.

Stay in first-person zone. Watch out for third-person analysis - that is to say watch out for statements about the impact of your activity on others or the efficiency of the solution. When you hear such statements, ask “How does that make you feel” or “What does it mean to you to have that kind of impact”. In other words, bring it back to YOU.

To probe deeper, check for the longevity of value by asking the following questions:
  • How long has this been important to you
  • Can you share stories from an earlier experience that can demonstrate the importance of the value
  • How long do you think you’ll care for this value
To figure out what are the core motivating values and what are the practical ways of achieving it, ask counter-questions  to understand whether something is negotiable:
Why didn’t you think of this alternative?
What if you could achieve this without X, would that still be meaningful for you?

Finally to help move from systemic (bean counting) and practical (rationalization of the rules and systems) to intrinsic values, ask the following questions:
  • What choices do you plan to make based on the results of the bean counting?
  • What are the goals of your choices?
  • What end goal are you trying to achieve by counting the metric?
  • What process or outcome do you hope to improve by measuring that value?

When you identify your intellectual energy (head), your emotional energy (heart) and your unstoppable energy (habit) you’ve found your purpose and that is when you can set goals that embody intrinsic values.

An epiphany
At the end of the exercise, I had an epiphany and finally figured out why I loved being in the development business and what were all the different driving forces igniting my intrinsic values.  As Simon Sinek says "Taking a job for the cash is not as important as taking a job for the joy."

In thanking Raha for this priceless discovery, I asked him whether he had applied this methodology in the world of development. He kindly and most generously shared his paper “Values and valuation in the Amazon Basin”.

After the talk, I started thinking and asking myself how many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) embody intrinsic values? And whether the commitment and willingness to deliver on the 17 goals would grow exponentially if they all carried and embodied intrinsic values? 

I hope in coming up with action plans to implement these goals, we’ll all make sure to dig deep and unearth the intrinsic values required to deliver on them. 

Thank you Dr Raha for an inspiring and highly informative talk. And I cannot thank you enough for my personal epiphany. 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Remembering and paying tribute to David Carr

On Thursday 12 February when CNN breaking news flashed on my phone announcing the death of David Carr, New York Times media columnist and reporter, I sat in disbelief, thinking to myself, Oh My God I cannot believe this…. 

Dean Baquet, the executive editor of New York Times described Carr as “the finest media reporter of his generation, a remarkable and funny man who was one of the leaders of our newsroom.”  He was indeed exactly that.

I am not one of the lucky people who knew Mr Carr in person. Nonetheless, I looked up to him, admired and respected him because he was insightful, because in reporting stories he used a different lens than others and most importantly because he was an extraordinary  story teller. 

The New York Times article announcing the cause of his death, describes him and his writing as “plain-spoken and could be blunt; he often gathered in readers conspiratorially and was sometimes self-referential and conscience-stricken. The effect was both folksy and sophisticated, a voice from a shrewd and well-informed skeptic.”  

He was not afraid of nor shied away from being BLUNT and showing his emotions, passion and convictions. And most importantly he cared about people and what they did. 

Hamilton Nolan in his piece “David Carr, Your Best Friend”, has this to say about Carr:
“If you needed a hug, he would give you a hug. If you didn't feel that you needed a hug, he would still give you a hug. He seemed to know better than you how much you might need a hug. He always hugged, like a man who had come home from war, which in many ways he had. We would talk about sobriety and fighting and love and who was really sharp and who was an asshole. If you needed advice, he would give you advice, and if he needed advice, he would sit there and listen to you give it, even if you weren't sure it was worth hearing. If you needed to be yelled at for being an idiot, he would oblige, and he would sit politely and be yelled at himself, as well. He always had an idea about what should be done, even if he didn't always do it.”

Telling the truth
Carr stayed true to his profession. He enshrined the value of telling the truth and writing with passion.

Last year in his commencement address to the UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism he said “if you tell the truth, no harm will come”. In addressing the graduate students he said “do what is in front of you, fit in before you stick out” …. “don’t just do what you’re good at, learn how to deal with frustrations”.

He reminded his future colleagues that “journalism is permission to live". "Experience the moment…. take responsibility and ownership of what you do (be it success or failure).”

The underlying message of his commencement address, which was the “fil rouge” of his existence was how telling the truth is a way of living.  His quest for truth was almost obsessive and comes to life in his book The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of his Life--His Own.

Jelani Cobb in his New Yorker piece paying tribute to Mr Carr, says: “he (Carr) didn’t develop a brand; he built a reputation”. And he had a reputation of being a great advocate for the profession of journalism. He loved the New York Times and was perhaps the staunchest defender of the paper. 

“He was our biggest champion and his unending passion for journalism and for truth will be missed by his family at The Times, by his readers around the world and by people who love journalism”, said Dean Baquet, NYTimes executive editor

If you watched “Page One: Inside the New York Times”, no doubt you’ll remember Carr’s visit  to Vice to write the story of their partnership with CNN. And I’m sure you remember the “exchange” between him and Vice editor when the latter challenged the authority and importance of New York Times. 

Carr - who was at this best - in a vintage Carr moment, not only put the record straight about NYTimes coverage of Liberia over time, but put the guy squarely in his place.

Social media savvy
Carr was one of the very few journalists - if not the only one - who was fully conversant with the new media. He fully grasped the power and potential of social media. At the same time, he made it clear to us - social media junkies - that without mainstream media, we would not have any news to share. 

His beloved paper - The New York Times - had this to say about their equally beloved Carr: “He became better known, perhaps, for his reporting and analysis of developments in publishing, television and social media, for which he was an early evangelist.”

As Jelani Cobb said: “He was allergic to euphemism and a believer that journalism was the art of curating minutiae. He also had one of the most valuable attributes a writer can claim—an ability to withhold personal judgment” and in doing so, he did recognize that “traditional journalists” felt a bit overwhelmed and threatened by social media’s fast and furious communication method.

I love his soundbite about Twitter: “Twitter is listening to a wired collective voice. Here the medium is not the message, the message is the medium”  and he continues to say that in reading tweets “you get a sense of today’s news while you are waiting for a coffee at Starbucks”.

When the young Brian Stelter joined New York Times, Carr described him as the robot in the NYTimes basement. Shelter in a recent interview humbly shares how much he learnt from Carr…. “I carry a piece of David with me for the rest of my life…..” “David was like a father for me”. 

Deciphering digital jargon” episode of Sweet Spot series shows how Carr comfortably engaged in a digital conversation and shows how he put to use digital technology in his profession. HE GOT IT and GOT it big time.

You'll be missed.... May you rest in peace
A lot people from different walks of life admired Carr’s integrity, his wit, bluntness, his unwavering desire to tell a story and his quest for the truth.

Hamilton Nolan eloquently summarizes the magnitude of Carr’s persona: “In 58 years, he lived at least 158 years worth of life. Everyone who knew David Carr was lucky too. The only unlucky people today are those who never got a chance to know him, because they would have enjoyed it.”  

I am one of the many unlucky people who did not know David Carr. Yet, I will miss his mischievous smile, his voice, his eternal quest for truth and his bluntness.

Mr Carr, you'll be missed. It will probably take 158 years before the world gets  another David Carr. Thank you for sharing your wit and for giving us so much. May you rest in peace.

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