This past Sunday, Brazil elected a new president. The electoral campaign was polarized from the start, with hate speech and attacks everywhere. Everyone I know had some sort of fight or disagreement with family members, friends, co-workers and even strangers because of the elections.
While half of the Brazilian population was celebrating Jair Bolsonaro’s victory, the other half was scared. His far-right rhetoric, lack of experience and credentials and extremely authoritarian profile (not to mention his very public and frequent homophobic, racist and misogynistic comments) will put the Brazilian democratic institutions to the test in the next four years.
At TIE, we work with organizations that address some of the most complex problems and with some of the most vulnerable communities in our society. We believe not only from a personal perspective but from daily observing the work of these organizations, that democratic values, tolerance and inclusion are and should continue to be the basis of all economic and social development initiatives.
According to Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, history shows that for a democracy to degenerate into an authoritarian government, the president would need to attack the press, Congress, the judiciary and the bureaucracy, subdue the state governments, attack organized civil society and stir the masses. So far, the masses have already been stirred; the state governments are and have always been weak in Brazil; Congress is widely known to be extremely corrupt; and the press, bureaucracy and the judiciary have already been under attack by the elected president and his followers (including his son, a Congressman who said one week ago that he would like to shut down the Supreme Court). The elected president has already stated that he intends to cut all funding to human rights NGOs, criminalize certain civil society groups that work for agricultural land reform and environmental issues and stated right after his electoral victory in the first round that he would "end all activism in the country".
Knowing the history of TIE, you can see how the third sector landscape usually reflects the political and economic situation in the country. When TIE started in 2006, 55 million Brazilians lived in poverty, 1 in every 4 people. There were parts of the Northeastern region that had a Human Development Index similar to Sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, the majority of the international development institutions and NGOs were here, investing in the country. But, in the years following, there was widespread belief that Brazil seemed to be improving in a number of ways, and in response, many of the NGOs and foundations left the country, as their resources and support were no longer needed. Now, it seems like that we’re going back to where we were years ago, and NGOs that fight for minorities and human rights are going to need a lot of support.
We are really glad to be based here and to be able to partner with the Brazilian civil sector in such a critical moment. We believe that civil society will play a significant role in protecting our democratic values. We support and will continue to support social initiatives and leaders who share that vision and who are actively involved in building a better future for everyone.
When on TIE, people gain important insights and information that can then be used when they return to their companies. If you’d like to learn a few more cool facts that could help future meetings when discussing emerging world growth strategies or even to help add an interesting perspective at your next dinner party, read on!
Plankton create two-thirds of all the oxygen we breathe.
Uganda has a population of 33 million people, and more than 50% of them are under the age of 15 years old.
Scientists predict that we may lose half of all species on the planet by the end of this century, mostly due to human activity. Thousands of species of plants, animals, birds, amphibians and reptiles are lost every year. This trend is known as Sixth Mass Extinction (the Holocene Extinction).
Giraffe are under risk of extinction and their population numbers have plummeted by almost 40% over the past three decades.
The poaching of elephants for their ivory, though illegal, is still a significant threat to their survival, with up to 25,000 animals a year still being killed across Africa.
In Malawi more than 85% of the population consists of subsistence farmers.
In India, companies are required by law to spend at least 2% of their profits to support social initiatives.
Currently, 40% of Brazilian households are headed by women. In 1995 this number was lower than 23%.
The leading cause of death for children under 5, and the second leading cause of death in adults, in Malawi is lower tract respiratory infections from smoke inhalation.
The Mesoamerican Reef System (MAR) encompasses the largest coral reef in the Atlantic, stretching for 1,000 kilometers from the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico to the Bay Islands in Honduras. It is the home for over 500 known fish species, some of the largest remaining population of manatees and sea turtles and possibly the largest known aggregation of whale sharks.
To step out of your comfort zone, out of your silo, and completely embrace a new culture is extremely powerful. You start to see the world in a different light, see new ways of doing things, and realise that we in the West probably don’t have all of the answers.
In our final placement evaluations we asked each of them to tell us what insights they saw and what meta-level patterns they noticed leading transitions in each of the countries they worked in.
Their answers are fascinating, and we wanted to share them with you.
Enjoy a brief insight to what you start to see when you step out of the ordinary and into the unknown from our brilliant TIE alumni!
We love meeting like-minded people.
And if you're like us, you'll agree that there are few things better than sitting down with someone that shares your passion, and exchanging stories.
When I was last in London I had the pleasure to sit down with none other than Soulla Kyriacou, the COO of A Blueprint for Better Business.
A Blueprint for Better Business is an independent charity: challenging and supporting business to have a purpose which serves society.
Through our TIE experiences, we hope to inspire the future leaders of the business world to find their purpose, to think differently, to approach their work differently and more sustainably, and in turn, change the way the sector works, behaves and thinks, from the inside, out.
A Blueprint for Better Business works with companies on a higher level to challenge them to do good.
This month, we asked Soulla and her team what their thoughts are on some of the challenges and opportunities companies have on their journey for purpose.
Purpose is the buzzword of the season, but A Blueprint for Better Business started talking about it back in 2012, before it was cool!
There is a real business opportunity available for companies which choose to embrace a purpose which serves society. Ever-increasing evidence shows that purposeful companies can benefit from: increased employee engagement and motivation, enhanced reputations, improved customer and brand loyalties, and better long-term financial performance.
The word ‘purpose’ however, like many movements, fashions and popular business lexicons before it, has been co-opted to mean all manner of things, and it is now in danger of losing its original meaning.
Purpose is the ‘why’ of an organisation. It is not intended to be an inspiring tagline to add onto business cards and presentations – it is the entire premise behind why a company exists in the first place. Start-ups and infancy organisations often find it easy to define their purpose: primarily because they remember the reason that the company began. They remember that thing in the world that they were annoyed about, or the unmet need in society that they thought they could fix.
For large multinational companies which span the globe, have existed for decades (if not centuries) and employ hundreds of thousands of people, determining the ‘why’ of the business isn’t quite so easy. Their original reason for being has probably evolved several times, and different corners or regions of the company may have moved in completely opposing directions. This makes it hard to bring every department and person together under a common goal – especially if that goal is one which genuinely serves society, as opposed to just maximising short-term profit for shareholders.
There is a lot of discussion currently taking place around how these companies can ‘do’ purpose, but truthfully, purpose is not something that you can ‘do’. It is not a rebranding exercise. It is not just another interesting topic of conversation for conferences. It is something which is lived and breathed throughout an organisation. It is something which can guide and shape the decisions-made and behaviours-chosen on a daily basis, for people throughout all levels of a business.
One of the key challenges in creating a purposeful business, is not in fact, about having a purpose.
Being purposeful is less about an intention or an eloquent statement, and more about developing genuine relationships where trust and reciprocity is bountiful. It’s about inspiring a mind-set that it is people, not just resources, which create value. Being purposeful is about encouraging behaviours which respect the dignity of others, and about creating products and services which actually benefit the common good.
If all of this depth can be accurately articulated within one phrase or paragraph, then a company ‘purpose statement’ should perhaps be written. If however, the business is multifaceted to the extent that a single sentence could not sum up the reason for being in its entirety, then, rather than brainstorming how to ‘rebrand’ the business, or in trying to craft this ‘perfect’ slogan, time would be wiser spent on redesigning the structures, processes and tools within the organisation, which will encourage the behaviours and thinking that are needed in order to actually be purposeful: in order to actually serve society.
Actions speak louder than words, as they say. And in the case of purpose, the behaviours exhibited within a company, mean much more than the letters emblazoned across the wall.
For more information on how to become more purposeful, visit http://www.blueprintforbusiness.org/
A Blueprint for Better Business is an independent charity: challenging and supporting business to have a purpose which serves society.
We host public events and private forums. We convene experiments in corporate environments and run workshops for consultants. We contribute towards public conversation, and share our knowledge with wider society. We create safe spaces for discussion: where we are able to question long-held beliefs and assumptions about the purpose of business, and about what motivates people.
We do all this with a view of challenging people to think differently, and to catalyse action towards a more responsible, sustainable and purposeful world.
So I’m off on a bit of a world tour today.
An exciting few weeks ahead that will not only find me in some beautiful cities (San Francisco, Toronto, New York and London), but also meeting some absolutely fantastic people and companies.
These trips always give me the buzz I need to keep doing what I do - full of inspiration, ideas, guidance and new partnerships.
As I prepare for my meetings, and learn more about the companies that I’ll be speaking with, I feel so positive and excited about the role that the private sector is playing, and will play, in making the world a better place.
This Fast Company article beautifully illustrates how a handful of the companies that I’m meeting with are thinking, and what they are up to.
It got us thinking about what we do, and how the third sector benefits from collaborating with the private sector, and vice versa.
So, we thought that we would ask a handful of our partners around the world what they think. How have they benefited from this type of collaboration in the past? And what is their vision for a stronger collaboration moving forward?
I think you’ll find their answers really insightful.
Have you ever wondered if you made the right decision doing what you do for a living?
Do you look around and wonder how you can find purpose and strength in an uncertain world?
The other day I was discussing these questions with Camila, our new Programme Manager.
Camila is from Brazil, lives here now, but spent a bit of time working in the US, France and Belgium. We were discussing her experience and what was one of the biggest takeaways from her time abroad.
I found her response really insightful and refreshing, and thought all of you would too.
While having lunch at work one day in Washington, one of my colleagues started telling us about the year she spent in Madagascar teaching English in underprivileged communities. Many others chipped in with their own experiences in developing countries and how they looked forward to going back to “the field”. As the only non-American and the only one who remained silent, they asked me if I planned on working on the ground one day.
Disclaimer: I grew up with immense privilege, for no other reason than pure luck. Against the odds, I’ve always had access to good education, health care and nutrition. I might be considered middle-class here at home, but for global standards, I’m actually pretty wealthy. Why wouldn’t I want to go and directly put this privilege living in vulnerable communities in Ethiopia or Nicaragua or even here in Brazil?
Well, I spent most of my life “in the field” so I’ll be very honest: it’s not easy. And it’s not for everyone.
I told them I felt my skills were more useful in an office than in a rural community and that I really had no interest whatsoever in moving to a place with no running water and electricity. I could do it for a short amount of time – but to live like that for a year or two or more? I just couldn’t do it. Looking back, I realize that probably sounded slightly blasphemous in a group of international development professionals.
Working in developing countries seems like an obvious choice if you want to help people in need. No one will deny that it takes guts to leave a familiar environment to immerse yourself in the different and often harsh realities of other countries. And to fully understand something like poverty or violence, you really do have to see it from up close. One of the benefits of TIE placements.
But it’s important to remember that the field is not the only place where you can make a difference long term. And depending on your skills, knowledge and experience, it may not be where you can make the biggest impact.
These communities are facing big challenges and they deserve to receive the best support possible. But what is the best way you can help?
I believe that it is by leveraging your talent for good: your professional skills, your expertise, your networks, your voice, your company and your ability to advocate for their cause.
All tools necessary to tackle global issues that you probably have in abundance, even if you don’t realize it. And you don’t have to live without electricity and running water to accomplish that.
Ever wondered what it’s like on TIE?
The energy. The experience. The feeling.
Well, we can show you!
A massive thank you from the bottom of our hearts to the FCB Global and Toronto teams for putting this fantastic ‘30 Days On TIE’ video together. Make sure your sound is up!
It’s a really vivacious and inspiring illustration of why we do what we do, how it changes people's lives, and simply what happens during those 30 days on TIE.
But that’s not all.
Another shout out to Adrian Fisk, who managed to capture ‘A Day In The Life On TIE’ whilst following BBH’s Emma on her TIE experience in India with the children’s organization Shaishav. Adrian, a photojournalist with extensive experience photographing in India, did a beautiful job capturing the essence of Emma’s time on TIE – and you can see a short video of the images here:
Let us know what you think once you’ve watched them!