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.