Category Archives: empowering people

Thoughts on The Great Reset: COVID-19

IMG_6400In some ways quickly and in others in slow motion, the world has changed in front of our eyes and screens. We, everyone in the world, have been impacted by the same cause, almost at the same time. This turmoil caused by the Covid-19 pandemic underlines how we are interconnected and it is a wakeup call for us to realize what truly matters and what not. Needless to say, there is a big difference in the challenges posed depending on where you are and the degree of how privileged or not privileged you are. As to this reality of inequality what comes to mind is one of my profound beliefs;

“From those to whom much is given, much is expected”

So, what kind of mindset is needed and what can we do in this period of colossal transformation?

  • Stay fit physically, emotionally and spiritually
  • Be adaptable, positive, creative, courageous, empathetic and mindful of others
  • Connect, communicate and share your ideas and feelings to your loved ones, your colleagues and your community.
  • Offer help and encouragement to those in need

It is “The Great Reset”. I saw this expression first after the financial crisis of 2008 but I believe this time it is even more the case as it is impacting and transforming everyone’s lives in a massive way. How can we prepare for the future?

  • Stay positive.
  • Deal with what is needed today and tomorrow but think and plan for long term.
  • Master remote working, redefine how you work effectively and build trust with your team, suppliers, customers and investors using the necessary tools.
  • Discover or learn new skills that you were not aware you would be interested in. (webinars, Coursera, masterclasses)
  • Search for new opportunities that are surfacing.
  • Adapt, listen, learn, be empathetic.

We have a great opportunity (The Great Reset) to make our world better and more resilient by reinventing, redefining and improving on ourselves, our businesses and our planet.

Recommended reads:

B Corp Summit 2019: Driving a new agenda for capitalism

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IMG_5318 (1)The 4th European B Corp Summit took place on Sept 23-24 in Amsterdam. Great energy as this community drives a new agenda for capitalism and it feels that we are close to the tipping point! The B Corp movement using business as a force of good is growing steadily. Today there are 3000 B Corps in 70 countries and 600 in Europe while 100,000 companies are using the B Impact Assessment to improve their businesses. Two main topics were highlighted throughout the summit; 1) the shift from shareholder primacy to a commitment to all stakeholders, and 2) the emergency of the climate change crisis.
John Elkington, world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development introduced his new concept and book for tomorrow’s capitalism “Green Swans”. The global agenda is changing exponentially, from responsibility and resilience to regeneration. If exponential problems are known as Black Swans, exponential regeneration calls for Green Swans. So, he calls B Corps the ugly ducklings that would likely become the Green Swans.
Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder of B Lab, stressed the urgency of system change. First, recognize the system failure then fix it: change from shareholder to stakeholder capitalism, from a culture of more to one of enough. Jay also shared the draft of B Lab’s Declaration of Climate Emergency and System Failure to be launched soon, committing further this community to tackle climate as a business strategy.
News: In January 2020, B Lab is launching the SDG Action Manager in partnership with the UN Global Compact. Using this free tool, one can 1) get a clear view of how your operations, supply chain, and business model create positive impact, 2) take action and track progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals 2) New B Corps announced at the summit: Bodyshop, Danone Belgium, Danone Netherlands.

Key actions: collaborate, let’s get working together, B the change!

Paradigm shift? From shareholder primacy towards commitment to all stakeholders

1080x360_BcorpOn August 19th, 2019 the Business Roundtable (the association of CEOs of America’s leading companies) released a new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation. This new statement was signed by 181 CEOs who commit to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders-customers, employees, suppliers, communities and stakeholders. This is a significant move away from their stance since 1978 as principles issued until now endorsed shareholder primacy (that corporations exist principally to serve shareholders).
The long-awaited paradigm shift! Or shall we be sceptical that these changes will be implemented?
In the days following this announcement, we have seen debates shaping and many cautionary but constructive articles being published. There was an immediate critical response announced by the Council of Institutional Investors raising outdated concerns that the statement undercuts notions of managerial accountability to shareholders. The B Corporation movement founders, who have been in the forefront of redefining the role of businesses into one that delivers value to all stakeholders, published an excellent article “Don’t Believe the Business Roundtable has changed until the CEOs’ action match their words” This title sounds a bit harsh but it is important to hold the CEOs accountable and a full-page ad “Let’s get to work” was posted in the Sunday New York Times urging them to get to work (together).
In addition to the B Corporation movement, there has been in the past few years some signs of this impending paradigm shift as witnessed by the letters to the CEOs written by Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock “linking purpose and profits”. Another powerful movement that is growing is lead by Singularity University which is shaping leaders and organizations by using exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges and build a better future for all. This latest statement by the Business Roundtable is a gigantic step forward and although it might take some time until their action matches their words, slowly but surely we are getting aligned and moving in the right direction. No turning back.

Future of Learning Graphic Novel now Live (Singularity U)

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The output of the workshop, the graphic novel of the Future of Learning is now live! Also SU has created the Exponential Guide to the Future of Learning, which provides valuable content and resources on this topic.
From SU website;

The Future of Learning SciFi DI workshop brought together more than 50 participants, including SU Faculty and staff, startups, mentors, and alumni, as well as local teachers, students, nonprofits and foundations all connected to the field of learning innovation. We explored trends in exponential technologies, took a deep dive into augmented reality and virtual reality, discussed the future of learning and work. Identifying current challenges in the global education system, we tried to re-imagine these challenges after assuming a number of technological and social advances that could occur within fifteen years. Then the participants were led through a process of capturing the life and story of an individual living fifteen years into the future, which artists and writers in the room transformed into the graphic novel. Through the characters of the novel we explore central questions about the future purpose of learning, what it will mean to be a student or teacher in the future, what a school might look like in the future, what a curriculum might look like, and what life might feel like in general. In particular, we imagined a world where a school could follow the student instead of the student attending a school, where today’s learning curriculum and grading system is replaced by students advancing in their learning by solving real-life problems, where the boundary between being a student and teacher blurs, and where adults and children often learn together.
While we hope you’ll enjoy immersing yourself in this particular version of the future, we encourage you to design your own. What will a student, teacher, school, and curriculum look like? What technologies would you incorporate, and how would they help bring about a world where everyone could be inspired to learn and teach, solve real-world problems, and find opportunities to contribute to their community?

Digesting and expanding on the learnings from Singularity U. We are just getting started….

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8 weeks have passed since the intense week at Singularity U, where 92 curious and fun minds were exposed to and learned from the awesome experts in the field of exponential technologies as well as from each other.
Some of the phrases that stuck and continue to sink in:

-unlearn, be bold
-be adaptable
-the biggest risk is not thinking big enough
-make a note to my future self
-ask good questions
-data integrity… screen for the truth
-machine learning, cloud robotics
-blockchain, a new way to consider trust
-abundance: rising income, lifespan, food and water availability
-massive cost reduction: energy, VR, human genome sequencing, in-vitro meat, 3D printing
-digital manufacturing in space
-XR (extended reality) will accelerate dematerialization (spaces & experience)
-inclusive abundance: imperative for human survival (is it possible?)
-longevity escape velocity
-nanobots in our brains in 2030?
-quantum/blockchain/solar/AI supremacy converging in 2025?
-reframe strategy: zoom in (6-12m) zoom out (10-20 years)
-technology will allow us to do everything… exciting and a bit scary if used badly
-importance of ethics and moral enhancement

We did learn a lot then, but now it feels that the executive program was just the beginning. We are sharing great stories and news, asking better questions, so we continue to accelerate our learning journey. We are also connecting people from our networks and aiming to scale the positive impact that we can create while finding solutions to the great challenges. How exciting it is imagining what we can achieve collectively over time! Thank you SU and SU colleagues!

Orb Media, a new kind of journalism that we truly need

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OjY19iZt_400x400On June 26th, I was fortunate to attend an exclusive event where Molly Bingham, the founder of Orb Media, philanthropist, filmmaker, photographer and journalist, shared with us her amazing journey. This event was organized by Women and Philanthropy (thank you Kecia Barkawi!).

Molly is Founder and CEO of Orb Media, which produces a new kind of journalism that challenges the way we see our world and brings us together around the things we share. At a time when we most need to see the full picture of our planet, today’s journalism is showing us only fragments of it. As people, we have our differences, but we share a core that profoundly outweighs them.
Orb Media is a nonprofit journalism organization that reports on issues that matter to billions of people around the globe. Fusing original research, data analysis, on the ground reporting, and an engaged public, Orb Media produces agenda-setting stories about the challenges we face together as one world.
Rather than bombarding the public with breaking news while providing little in the way of context, Orb practices proactive journalism. Orb asks how events may (or may not) fit into a meaningful, global trend by covering 8 topics (linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals) that affect each of us every day: Food, Water, Energy, Health, Education, Environment, Trade and Governance. Orb produces professional and fact-based journalism exploring these topics that touch billions of people across national, cultural and linguistic differences. Orb delivers each story in four versions – text, audio, multimedia and data – in the world’s most widely spoken languages. The stories are designed to be accessible on any internet connected phone, tablet or computer. The stories are distributed through The Orb Media Network (OMN) which is composed of agenda-setting media brands from around the world who simultaneously publish stories researched and reported by Orb in order to present their audiences with fact-based, quality information on global issues. By working in this way Orb and the OMN catalyze global dialogue on critical issues, focusing the attention of government, industry, researchers, civil society, and the public. (source: orbmedia.org)

Some of their recent stories include Invisibles- The plastic inside us, a story revealing how plastic fibers have contaminated tap water around the world, this was followed by the alarming story Plus Plastic – Microplastics found in global bottled water and the most recent one is Age Well – attitudes matter in a graying world. All these stories are important to all of us in the interconnected world. Orb is remaking journalism to one that the world truly needs.

I was also hugely impressed and inspired by Molly, her courage, dedication, passion, and her journey. Molly comes from generations of pioneering journalists, in fact, she is the 4th generation. She is an award-winning journalist, photojournalist and filmmaker. In 1994 she started as a photographer traveling to Rwanda to cover events after the genocide she continued to cover war areas such as Burundi, Zaire, Chiapas, Russia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, the Gaza and Iraq. She has worked with Human Rights Watch for three projects and also worked as the official photographer of Vice President Al Gore at the White House. In 2003, she survived a 7-day captivity at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. As co-director of the documentary film “Meeting Resistance” she was awarded the “Golden Award” at the 2007 Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival. Her passion and commitment to journalism which was tested through her experience in the prison in Baghdad has lead her to remake journalism to catalyze global dialogue and create massive positive change. Thank you Molly! Watch her powerful TEDxtalk. Molly Bingham at TEDxSMU.

Impact Investment update: GIIN’s annual survey 2017

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The key highlights of the GIIN’s 2017 Annual Impact Investor Survey are shown below;

• In aggregate, 205 respondents invested USD 22.1 billion into nearly 8,000 impact investments in 2016 and plan to increase capital invested by 17% to USD 25.9 billion in 2017.
• In total, 208 respondents currently manage USD 114 billion in impact investing assets.1
• Nearly universally, respondents measure their social and/or environmental performance, using a mix of proprietary metrics, qualitative information, and IRIS-aligned metrics.
• The overwhelming majority of respondents reported that their investments have either met or exceeded their expectations for both impact (98%) and financial performance (91%).
• While two out of three respondents principally target risk-adjusted, market rates of return, there is widespread acknowledgement of the important role played by below-market-rate-seeking capital in the market.

Barefoot College’s evolution and the launch of Bindi Solar, a commercial solar product line

25396224_10155848598355903_1266241389229821444_nBarefoot College (BC), a not for profit, social innovation organization announced in early November the launch of Bindi Solar, the first global line of solar home lighting products fabricated, distributed, sold, installed, maintained and repaired exclusively by women. Bindi Solar products include; low cost solar home lighting systems, portable lanterns, micro grids, DC TVs and fans as well as a range of handheld solar lighting devices. Starting in India, Bindi Solar will be distributed through BC’s ground breaking partnerships with Frontier Markets and GHE as well as the Barefoot Solar Mamas trained across 15 states. Development of the new products has been made possible through the CSR collaborations with Apple, Goldman Sachs, the Phillipps Foundation and working in partnership with The Frey Charitable Foundation and EROL Foundation.

Over the past 5 years there has been a powerful yet smooth transformation at this pioneering and innovative 45 year old organization that has been providing basic services and solutions to the challenges facing rural poor communities with the objective of making them self-sufficient and sustainable, valuing and respecting the knowledge and wisdom they already possess. BC was founded in 1972 by Sanjit “Bunker” Roy, following the life and work style of Mahatma Gandhi. Today, BC boasts a diverse and inclusive team of dedicated individuals from both formally educated and grass roots communities, working side by side towards impact of the critical issues facing rural poor communities in access to energy, water, sanitation, education and sustainable livelihood development. It is an exceptional example of decentralized management philosophy, capacity building from within to deliver what has become know globally as the “Barefoot Approach” to community development.

11427797_10153349217930903_5741614938980520567_n BC has been committed to empowering women as change agents, entrepreneurs and environmental stewards. Believing that placing women at the heart of the development process is the most reliable and effective way to pass on the wisdom, knowledge and skills that all rural poor communities already possess and which are so often undervalued and under utilized. BC engages in building confidence and competence in individuals and entire communities bringing about large-scale shifts in values and sustainable quality of life enhancement. BC is one of the few Indian organizations that has successfully exported its models for development across the Global South through a unique and visionary partnership with the Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs ITEC program. This partnership has resulted in true “Made in India” technology by and for the rural poor reaching 78 countries in the developing world.

Over the past few years this successful organization embarked to scale exponentially its operations in both depth and breadth. This launch of Bindi Solar is only one such example. The powerful yet smooth transformation seen so far is thanks to the amazing team work of Meagan Fallone, CEO together with Bunker and the awesome team of Barefoot College. BC is embracing the latest technologies and ways to work with it, embracing diversity and inclusion while maintaining the core values.

Disclaimer: source of the content of this article: press release by barefootcollege.org, photos from barefootcollege facebook page
the author is a board member of Barefoot College International as well as The Frey Charitable Foundation

Innovations in impact measurement

innovations-in-impact-measurement-coverLast November, I attended an inspiring presentation by Acumen where I heard for the first time about their Lean Data Initiative for impact measurement. The main advantages of this approach are: collecting meaningful data through lean surveys in less time and with less cost by using low cost mobile technology. In addition, it can be used as an interactive tool, to not only measure, but manage impact as key data is collected efficiently providing a fast and clear insight of the social performance achieved. This is quite a revolution from the traditional impact measurement that was designed primarily for the use of donors and investors. This puts the customer/beneficiary first and it becomes a management tool for the service/product providers to improve their ongoing operations in order to deliver even higher social impact. Another pioneering organization that has been developing new tools and methodologies leveraging technology for measuring social and environmental impact is Root Capital. Root Capital is an agricultural impact investor that grows rural prosperity in Africa and Latin America by providing loans and training to agricultural enterprises that are reaching small-scale farmers. Root Capital’s Client-Centric Mobile Measurement aims to generate the data needed about impact on small-scale farmers, while creating value both for the farmers and for the agricultural enterprises. These innovations are significant as it will improve and increase positive social and environmental impact and also accelerate and increase investments for impact.
Learn more.

Firdaus Kharas, a social entrepreneur using media to better human conditions around the world

Firdaus-Kharas-head-shotFirdaus contacted me that he was in Zurich so we had a spontaneous lunch this week (27.6.2017). He was in Italy shortly before and was planning to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but this trip was cancelled due to the unfavorable security situation. He recently completed three animated shorts to combat violence in DRC and Ecuador (tensions rising at the border as 600,000 Colombians have moved to Ecuador). If this is successful, it can be again replicated for use in other countries.
Firdaus founded Chocolate Moose Media in 1995 to produce animation, documentaries, videos and television series designed to educate, entertain, and change societal and individual behavior. The themes and campaigns range from HIV&AIDS prevention (The Three Amigos campaign), protection against malaria (Buzz and Bite), Ebola prevention, Zika virus, domestic violence (No Excuses), refugees, human rights, solar energy, and dementia. Over 3,500 animated videos in 188 language versions are available online at vimeo FOR FREE!
This is an immense rich resource available for governments, businesses, social enterprises, not-for-profit organizations, schools and individuals to use it to sensitize, educate or raise awareness on all these relevant issues. Needless to say, a short animated film or a short video that can communicate the core message of a complex issue is very effective and powerful. He mentioned the renewed interest in refugees, a topic very close to his heart, as prior to his media career, he worked for the Canadian government dealing with immigration and refugee policy.
We met 7 years ago as we both attended the Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford Graduate School of Business and we have kept in touch. It was the third time we met in Zurich. Everytime I am impressed of the positive impact he is creating. Thank you, my friend. I certainly hope that more people and organizations make a lot more use of his powerful videos.