The million dollar question. What makes an effective leader in the 21st century?
There seem to be loads of different ways to answer this question, but a few things that we can be sure of is that we need to work effectively across international boundaries, be able to integrate different perspectives to our thinking, be able to anticipate change and see trends locally and globally.
Not everyone has the luxury of being able to hop on a plane and see, first hand, what is happening in a far off land. But this is what we do at TIE, and we know how important these types of experiences are for the future leaders of our industry. We send people to far off lands to gain important insights and information that they can then use when they return to their companies to better inform future briefs and discussions.
And we wanted to give you access to this invaluable information to help you in those future briefing discussions, when in meetings discussing emerging world growth strategies or even to help add an interesting perspective at your next dinner party.
So see below for some fascinating insights to places you’ve perhaps never been to, but should probably know a little more about, from none other than our TIE Alumni that have lived and breathed these places for a month.
Here is a small window into what is trying to happen in Brazil, Uganda, Ghana and Zambia from four different TIE Alumni over the past year:
Melissa Parsey, 2013
“A week before I arrived in Recife there was a fire in the Coehlos favela. Huge plumes of smoke rose from the wooden-structures littering the banks of the river, under the high-rise office blocks in the center of the city. There had been three other major fires in recent years, but for some reason this fire was different as it generated huge media attention, especially on social media.
One hundred families lost their homes that day, and 30 of them were connected to Espaça da Criança (the NGO I worked with). As part of our “Discovery” phase I asked the students of Ae! (the local agency I was partnered with) to monitor the conversation around the fire in the favela and answer the question — what’s changed for people to care?
We found there were a number of forces at play.
Firstly there was obvious fact — more people were using social media. People took photos from their office blocks across the city, uploaded them to their Timeline and asked what was happening. This is notable in itself. If this had happened in the UK or the US people would have checked the BBC website, or turned on the news for information and validation. In Brazil people don’t look to the national media, they’ve come to realize that it is only ever going to present the government’s best interests. Hence people’s relationship with social media is different to that of other countries — it isn’t just a social forum; entertainment… it’s become authoritative in leiu of a diverse, and credible media landscape. In the case of the fire, it was where people looked first to learn about the fire in the favela as they assumed there could be government involvement (as part of a land-grab), which would never make it to the front cover or local news.
Secondly, and related to the media, was the crushing reality that even though the country and Recife are “on their way up”, they can’t ignore the fact that the favelas exist, and aren’t going anywhere. Money that was once directed to these communities, (for example to Espaça da Criança from a trust fund in Luxemburg), is now being sent to Africa where “it’s needed more because Brazil’s doing too well”, and the government is not picking up the slack. Brazil is sky-rocketing, but benefiting the few not the many. Even though the media paints a glossy picture of Brazil and Recife’s achievements, for the average man on the street their situation is largely the same, if not worse: inflation, poor infrastructure that’s only going to get worse… everyone says you get to enjoy the way-up, but in the case of Brazil – for the majority it’s been painful. They’ve been sold a story of progress and have high expectations, which are being let down.
What we observed was that people’s conversation about the fire followed two themes: why can’t these people in the favelas help themselves, and why won’t the government do anything. No one said we should be doing more to help, or looked to themselves. Brazilians are by nature compassionate but don’t believe they are accountable – which is why CSR and charity aren’t institutionalized. There was an “us” vs “them” philosophy. Even though people may live in the same city, they have no conception that the favela is part of their community, that it belongs to families who call it home, and ultimately helping those affected in the fire was their responsibility too.
As Brazil thinks about its progress, especially as the World Cup approaches, there’s growing resentment. They’ve been sold a vision of what this will be – new high-rises on the beach, shopping centers, and International glory; but they’re also feeling the costs. This resentment is being channeled towards the government and it will be interesting to see how this is resolved, if at all in the coming year. I hope that in this project we’ve managed to prove that people are interested in investing in their community if they realize that it’s for the greater good — realizing their potential. It’s not charity, it’s common sense, and if Brazil is going to achieve sustainable growth it needs to do so as a whole.”
Tiffany Winter, 2012
“In the last month, I have come across a lot of people (Ghanaians and ex-pats), who are trying to have some social impact in the world. They are actually moving away from the NGO-model (just giving people stuff), to building social enterprise. There is an entreprenurialism in Ghana that is exciting. People are looking to create more sustainable set ups, that do social good but are businesses rather than charities. However, at the same time overall the majority of people in Ghana have a very different work ethic to the west. Their whole approach of doing business and the standards delivered on are very different.
To succeed here, you need an indepth understanding of what makes Ghanaians (and Africans) tick. Experience has shown, that just transporting western values and approches in developing countries does not work. However, if people spend the time understanding the culture and gaining insights, I feel there are huge business opportunities here to do social good in a sustainable way. People are looking to create industries to help stimulate the country from within, rather than rely on the aid from others.”
Hanne Haugen, 2013
“The poverty in rural Uganda is omnipresent. Because it is everywhere, you don’t have the sharp contrast between rich and poor as you see in many other developing countries. And you don’t get the same sense of hopelessness and squalor. Life here is hard, but people approach it with remarkable optimism and sense of community. Most of the Ugandans I have met and talked to are optimistic about their future and that of Uganda. Enormous value is placed on education and a lot is being done to aid this – by NGOs, but also (slowly) the government. A lot of families here make their living as subsistence families – and educating their children is the best hope of breaking the cycle of poverty.”
Holly McGavock, 2013
“I think what I find disconcerting here is how quickly Zambia seems to be adapting to a “Western” way of life. Driven by new malls, which seem to be the social centers of Lusaka, advertising everywhere, and access to lots of Western (and South African) television, Zambia in some moments feels very much like a midwestern city in the States where all kids do is watch cartoons and ask for the toys they see on television, and where the favorite weekend activity is walking around the mall.
That said, my experience at Barefeet (the NGO I worked with) has reminded me how important it is to preserve and celebrate culture. The guys here have a full battery of traditional songs and dances that are an important part of how they spend time together. I can’t help but wonder, however, whether their kids will know those songs, or only the theme songs to the American cartoons they’re watching on TV.
Development brings a lot of good, but it also has a darker side, and I think it’s important to think about how to preserve culture and traditions in the face of development. How can the two work hand in hand? How can Zambians take advantage of the positive things that development brings without losing what makes them unique? Organizations like Barefeet, that not only help children but in many ways help to keep culture alive are going to be crucial to keeping young people interested in Zambian culture and traditions.”
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