Innovating against the inevitable

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Local street in Calamba City, Philippines

Paula Atun, a young Filipino entrepreneur living in Calamba City, thought she was filling in an online survey, with her idea on how to catch and filter rainwater. She’d seen the idea on the Discovery Channel.

A few weeks later, CARE Philippines had signed her up as one of their local ‘innovators’, tasked with investing over PHp 1,000,000 ($20,000) into this idea, and leading the production and distribution of it to 15 local households, the inhabitants of which are either elderly or living with disabilities.

Paula had, in fact, inadvertently applied to the Philippines TUKLAS Innovation Labs project. And her idea was eventually chosen as one of forty, shortlisted by CARE Philippines and three NGO partners managing this DFID and Start Network initiative.

The Philippines is the second most disaster prone country in the world, and the objective of TUKLAS is to source ideas from local communities for disaster preparedness. It then instigates a process for funding and building the capacities of local creators and entrepreneurs to pilot or scale these.      Continue reading “Innovating against the inevitable”

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Thoughts on Motivation

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I’ve just listened to a lecture given by a running expert (a “Barbarian ultra-marathon runner” from Denmark) named Simon Grimstrup, who described his motivations for running.

He stressed these as being quite separate to being motivated to be ‘fit’ – he has zero motivation for that. Instead, his calling in life, and his formula for staying motivated, has always been a combination of the trails, the vistas, the mountain peaks, the comraderie, the adventure, the joy, the competition, and the “hunt” for achieving your once in a lifetime perfect race.

On Thursday next week he’ll enter as one of 10 international elite runners into a 403km Gobi Desert race. He thinks running that sort of distance is in fact utter madness, but he is driven to want to do it.

For those who’ve already sponsored me, and sent kind messages (thank you!!) – the reason for this Friday lecture is because Issy and I are up in Sapa (Northern Vietnam) taking part in the Vietnam Mountain Marathon 2017.
Continue reading “Thoughts on Motivation”

Freedom of Self

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Rest and relaxation in Dar Es Salam, after last week’s HEAT training course

In the confined parameters that determine air travel, as I whirl back on this particular occasion from Africa to home, the experiences learnt on last week’s work trip (comprising an intense training course on Safety and Security) seep through into my consciousness as stone traced markings through paper.

The sharp seam of learning from this particular course was about coping. Coping with confrontation, dilemma, trauma, danger, but mainly, coping with having one’s freedom stolen from underneath your nose.

Since I boarded at the sleepy port of Zanzibar (where 24 hours of “RnR” were spent, and were, for once, an essential bookend to the training course itself) the all too familiar rituals deployed to keep oneself either awake or entertained were running on auto pilot: movie watching; email triage; a few chapters of a novel; social media; face-timing; eating; drinking; freshening up.

With each slice of indulgent escapism, as we are prone to seeking out the most special film to watch, or song to absorb, the constant hunt for ego inflating ‘likes’ and ‘mentions’, that buzz of booze from miniature bottles, all such things, in the end and inevitably, skim the surface of satisfaction, treading the waters high above that particular ocean of Self, rather than dropping lower, as a pearl diver would, in search of deeper treasures: the Soul, and the spirit of being, fathoms below.

This, or, in round terms, just taking things (but mainly, one’s freedom) for granted.

Ironic then that it is only when these freedoms are removed that we get the chance to sink that bit lower and nearer to this Self of ours and, beyond that, to our own truths.

What I mainly reflect on, now that the adrenaline from last week has receded, is how adaptive we all are to crisis situations.

How the unthinkable very quickly can be rationalised and dealt with. Deprived of the freedom to move, see, talk, choose, organise we, in fact, thrive. A bodily revolution of senses takes charge, a new paradigm of prioritising, thinking and imagining rises up, the respective captains, colonels and generals of Being.

We are forced to find new ways to take back control, to inch forward in spite of our inability to behave and feel as free as we are used to and, in that brief chapter of time, we transform, we resolve, and we experience resilience.

Stripped down in that raw state, devoid of our regular freedoms (and in some cases, addictions) we allow ourselves the space and conditions to more profoundly understand.

For that momentary eclipse of the ordinary, arming me with a wholeness and with peace, I will be indebted for a long while yet.

 

This Is Water

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Last week I was working in Kathmandu. This is a picture I took whilst there. I think it means ‘Water’ in Nepali. If not, it’s still a pretty picture.

It’s the last day of June, a typically pleasant month, heralding in for many of us an array of sporting events and the prospect of summer holidays, before moving us into the second half of the year – as it will do in a matter of a few hour’s time…

In the US, the July 4th celebrations are almost ready. For Muslims the world over, Ramadan began yesterday. The existential crises unfolding in various parts of the Middle East and Africa clog the headlines, in spite of a planet obsessed this month with tales from the World Cup in Brazil (or, for some of those British readers amongst you who have long given up on the football, the ups and downs of following Andy Murray in the tennis at Wimbledon). Continue reading “This Is Water”

It’s Inclusion, stupid

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As so to Singapore, fleetingly, to speak yesterday at Diageo’s inaugural “Women in Hospitality and Tourism in Asia” Conference.

As an $80bn turnover corporation, Diageo were not satisfied with only launching a daytime event, comprising of a range of speeches and panel sessions looking at the women’s empowerment agenda within their own industry, no, they also pulled together the first ever women’s empowerment “Journalist Awards” the very same evening.

Hats off to them for a well organised – and at times, genuinely inspiring – watershed day for a company such as theirs, the largest alcohol beverage company in the world, who have spent the past 18 months recasting their aspirations in society around “empowering women through learning.”

CARE have been supporting these efforts, through skills training and micro-finance initiatives in Nepal and Sri Lanka, and we are also discussing how to use our own experiences over the past 10 years in Cambodia, where we have successfully lobbied the government and the private sector to implement a more responsible Code of Conduct for brewers and drinks companies who distribute their products at a local level, largely employing women as beer sellers. Continue reading “It’s Inclusion, stupid”

ANTs and the Fun Theory

photo credit www.kendrickwan.com
photo credit http://www.kendrickwan.com

Why is it that many of us default to spending an inordinate amount of our time worrying?

Do you find yourself, as I do more often than not, merely seconds into your waking day each morning, thinking instantly about those things past, present or future which make you feel anxious?

On a typical work day (when, I should add, my kids are not staying at my house, in which case my day would inevitably start with berating them for jumping on me at 5:30am, and then pointing out, yet again, that the darkness outside signals “night-time” before going to even greater lengths to stress upon them that “everybody” else in Saigon is still asleep) the first few blinks of the eyes all too often stimulate for me a certain set of thoughts. Continue reading “ANTs and the Fun Theory”

The Illusion of Choice

These 10 Corporations Control Almost Everything You Buy
These 10 Corporations Control Almost Everything You Buy

It’s worth clicking on the info-graphic above to see the finer detail it contains, although the over-arching sentiment makes its own headlines.

It would be perfectly reasonable to take a look at the graphic, shrug your shoulders, with a “yeah, so what?” and perhaps avoid taking any type of hypocritical stand point by bemoaning the enormous footprint, influence and Orwellian doom-mongering speculation that might come from accepting that the world’s corporate elite monopolise so much, given you yourself may well spend your hard earned cash buying, using and consuming the products that these companies market and sell.  On that charge, I am also guilty on many counts. Continue reading “The Illusion of Choice”