Just Keep Going

 

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Last sunrise of 2018 in Saigon, complete with my favourite ferry crossing.

Happy New Year from Saigon!

There’s nothing like the arrival of January to spark action. Resolutions, I’ve had a few. The most plausible so far being a commitment to eat and drink more slowly, rather than inhaling meals and bottles of wine as if food rationing and prohibition laws were about to be imposed.

Less plausible resolutions include: writing more; drinking less; reading more; and looking at my phone less.

I say ‘less plausible’ in that I’m fairly confident of being able to strike a balance with objectives like these – it’s just a fear of setting myself up to fail by insisting on rigid, self-imposed restrictions. Moderation, it’s often touted, is key, but then so, too, is our ability to feel in control of what we are doing.

More’s the pity that, in many ways, I simply enjoy so many of these pursuits (including my job, and the ebb and flow of travel and time it requires) that I feel more practice is still required to find a useful daily cadence to accommodate all the ‘things’.     Continue reading “Just Keep Going”

Back in This

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CARE’s Innovation Team working the camera at Goodlight Studio, Birmingham, AL.

This time last week I returned from the USA – a giddy eight flights and two weeks of work and immersion into some of the country’s civil rights history, as CARE contemplates setting up programmes in America.

I’m still absorbing all that I saw and heard…

From talking to activists outside The White House the day after I arrived; to discussions with colleagues in D.C. about CARE’s future presence in Nigeria, where we are aiming to build the resilience of those affected by ongoing humanitarian issues there; through to time in Atlanta with my incredible team, exploring ways to lift up the opportunities for innovation across CARE’s network; before pausing for a weekend’s moment of Southern Decadence in New Orleans, a city whose authenticity and openness (in more senses of the word during that particular weekend, and which requires it’s own discreet blog post) to diversity and to humanity really are as creative and appealing as one imagines they could be; followed by road tripping up and into the State of Alabama, for more planning sessions at the fabulous Goodlight Studio in Birmingham, and a whistle-stop dive into some of the iconic civil rights moments of the 1960s, which unfolded in this infamous part of the country (from the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing of 1963, to visiting Joe Mintor’s garden displaying thirty years of work in bringing to life historical events in his garden, through the medium of scrap metal and every day objects); all of which culminated in a final leg in Montgomery, meeting the team at the Equal Justice Institute (EJI) and hearing from Lecia Brooks and Richard Cohen at the Southern Poverty Law Centre, privileged encounters (amongst others had that week with lawyers, journalists, pastors and advocates for change) offering up precious, honest and heart wrenching insights into the social justice journeys that so many generations across the “Deep South” have been experiencing, each story a momentary platform to quench the individual (and increasingly collective) thirst for action which pulsates through the corridors of these justice-focused institutions, and through the determination of those who inhabit them on a daily basis; until, with my last 24 hours to spare, I flew up to Connecticut, to spend time with one of my oldest and dearest of friends, whose son, my godson, Sam, and I played pool whilst, trading insights about the speeches of Martin Luther King, taught at Sam’s high school, and equipping him and his peers with knowledge, in a way that left me more inspired about how this next generation of power holders and decision makers, of mothers and fathers, of politicians and business executives, might be gifted the intuitive sense of how their fingerprints and footprints can have positive meaning and a place in future history books, as they embark on their own life missions to become their best selves…     Continue reading “Back in This”

Brexit: a view from afar

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Picture credit: http://www.newstatesman.com

I’ve been living outside of the UK for more than 7 years, although I doubt am any less informed or confident about what lies beyond March 2019 – post Brexit – were I to have continued living in South West London, rather than shifting to Vietnam, as I did, in early 2011.

I was in Da Nang listening to Radio 4 when the Leave Campaign victory was announced. I’d not managed to organize an overseas vote in time, yet was one of the first to hear the result at 6am local time here. This was followed by a majority of my old school friends waking up back home and immediately affirming their dissatisfaction and shock at the new reality.

Appreciating the indulgence of writing about a decision that I was unable to organize myself to participate in originally I have, nonetheless, followed the foreboding sequence of Brexit shenanigans over the past two years.

An inherent sense shared on the day of the result was that there had been a melding of different persuasions, which conspired to produce the unexpected outcome: some voters swayed by ‘red-top’ immigration propaganda; some by a sense of wanting, once and for all, to be heard through the ballot box midway through the tenure of a government administration who were cockily prepared to bet their Notting Hill mortgages on the final numbers; others by a more considered and ultimately frustrated feeling of sustained economic unease, exacerbated by the centralized powers of Brussels policy makers; or, an equally frustrated commitment to vote nostalgically for a societal and political construct which more resembled the UK’s former standings in the world.      Continue reading “Brexit: a view from afar”

Lending: the new giving?

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Vietnamese hill tribe handicrafts

I live in Saigon, Vietnam, and it’s hotting up once more as we approach the muggiest time of the year.

Luckily, for me, this week I have been in Hanoi and luckier still, yesterday spent the day visiting local hill tribe communities about 180 kms north west of the capital.

Not only did the mercury drop down lower for the day, as we snaked our bus round the mountains through wispy clouds and potholed roads, but we were privileged to meet incredibly talented individuals, tucked away as they are from the life of urban Hanoians, and cut off from the collective consciousness of the world outside Vietnam.

The objective of the visit was as part of an expansion of an initiative in the UK that CARE International have built over the past four years, called Lendwithcare.

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Local hill tribe community
Continue reading “Lending: the new giving?”

Raising the bar on tax

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What can you do today that will make a difference?

George Osborne, the UK Chancellor, was front page news yesterday, receiving positive plaudits from Action Aid and the ONE Campaign, as well as from other organisations also not known for being routinely generous with such public praise.

The story in question centres around how large corporations have skillfully dodged paying taxes to poorer countries in which they conduct business.  Osborne used his attendance at a G20 meeting of finance ministers to make UK Govt commitments to a “new agenda of transparency” that will move towards stamping out skillful tax dodging by said corporations.

At the same time, he took the opportunity, quite rightly, to reinforce his government’s own pledge to increase to 0.7% (of GNI – gross national income) the funds it spends on international development programmes around the world.

The argument against increasing this UK “aid” budget has been made time and again since the Conservatives took office nearly 3 years ago, and no doubt Osborne’s piece in the Observer will not go down well with many.  Whilst 0.7% is a small percentage compared to other government budgets, it still amounts to tens of millions of pounds of tax payers’ money.  All other public sector budgets have been cut and, last year, the UK economy flat-lined, triple dipping back into recession. Continue reading “Raising the bar on tax”

Reinvention in the public eye

On the road to redemption?
On the road to redemption?

After yesterday’s admition of guilt (10 years too late) and accompanying resignation from his Eastleigh seat, MP Chris Huhne will almost certainly be the face of the next edition of Private Eye.  Fame at last, in my books – I love the Eye – and only wish it had the membership of facebook, and perhaps the world would be a cleaner place.

So, Chris Huhne.  He “perverted the course of justice”.  Lied for a decade to protect his career.  He stood (and almost won) in the leadership contest to be head of the Liberal Democrats.  He is now facing a prison sentence.  On paper, it’s a solid performance.

If anyone required some sort of “reinvention,” as we embrace the Year of the Snake next week, it is Mr Chris Huhne.

Lance Armstrong may be able to sympathise.  Armstrong went on Oprah last month, and confessed to a nation about his sorry tale.  A day of trending on Twitter, and perhaps Armstrong’s own redemption journey has begun now in earnest, and will see him resurrected in a year or two, in a new role.

What is the take-away from comparing these two fallen-from-grace public figures, in their respective professions and life pursuits?  What does any of it all mean for those of us not in the public eye?

Once you move on from shaking your head at their misdemeanors, and thinking “what were you thinking at the time?” I am just not sure what purpose any further raving on the matter will ultimately serve to satiate, other than our own tendencies to jump on hate bandwagons and point the finger. Continue reading “Reinvention in the public eye”