I regularly amuse myself, especially in other countries, with making observations about people’s behaviour.
Everybody makes these observations. And are often eager to share them with compatriots or other expats: “Can you believe what I saw them do!!??!!”.
But have you ever been thinking that such observations may be useful to your work?
That they may be just as good a guideline as any country report?
Such observations can be even more useful when you compare countries. Making you understand why what worked in one country may not in another.
Observed Differences Between two “C” Countries: Colombia and Cambodia
In Colombia, most street vendors and taxi drivers have change. In Cambodia never.
Walking the streets in the city centre of Phnom Penh meant you constantly had to look down, wading in garbage, dog’s pooh, and other “unnameable” that had been lying there for a long time. Colombians litter too, but many more do actually use the litter boxes.
In Colombia they have recycling, in Cambodia not.
Cambodia, like other Southeast Asian countries, is tremendously noisy. Music or TV in homes, shops or restaurants is always extremely loud. Not to mention the local karaoke bar. In Colombia, despite its inhabitants’ love of music, I never experienced that kind of noise. I even read an article in a local newspaper warning about the negative health effects of constant noise.
Specific Observations versus General Mentalities
These observations say a lot about general mentalities, that may have a bearing on any sector you work in.
Having change or not says a lot about the ability to plan ahead, and being prepared.
Setting aside a small amount of money for change generates more income.
Generally, littering can be a parameter for how well the population understand or care about the consequences of their actions for themselves or others. The same regards high level of noise.
More specifically, littering increases the risk of catching a disease, or ground water pollution. High levels of noise may lead to high blood pressure, and will have a damaging effect on your hearing, especially in young children.
Considering Cambodians’ inability to handle their waste, it is no surprise they do not have any systems for recycling. Hence, a recycling campaign that may work in Colombia, is less likely to succeed in Cambodia.
Furthermore, a country wading in garbage, have little awareness on environmental issues. At all levels. Talking about taking care of the environment is not easy when people are less capable of taking care of themselves.
This does not mean that everything on Colombia is rosy and that all Cambodians are self-centred polluters. Or that they do not have the potential to improve.
Plan According to Where People Are
But this observed behaviours could give you guidance on how to frame a project and what to expect in terms of results. You need to plan according to where people are, not where they should be, mentally. Or where they will be in the future.
That can be very costly, and end up in the graveyard: “here rests another unsuccessful project.” Let it not be one of yours.
The examples above were just an extract from a long list. I have previously written an article about traffic behaviour as a parameter for development.
What could you add to the list? Sharing food from the same plate? Always being late ? Others?
People should be evalutated on whether or not they positively influence others
My last article was about the consequences of hiring jerks. This article is about a few simple steps to avoid them.
Often some form of so-called soft skills are included among the requirments in a job advertisement. (Why are they called soft, when they are essential?) Still, most recruitment processes tend to focus on skills and experience.
The argument against hiring for character traits or attitude is that it is too complicated, too expensive or too something else.
So what can you do about it? If you are working with HR, part of any interview panel or otherwise engaged in recruitment.
Or perhaps you simply want to have a say, because you have experienced too many failed recruitments, too many promotions for the wrong reasons. And worked with too many managers, “bosses” or “heads” that are jerks or close to.
I have worked for “experienced” heads of offices of international organisations, who would have been fired if they had worked for a remote municipality in Lapland.
There are 3 simple things you can do or suggest no matter your position in an organization. And you can implement or suggest them with without needing much experience in recruiting. [Read more…]
This is not another article about sexual harassment. But about its wider consequences for the aid sector. It is about the fact that a person cannot exploit and harass certain individuals, while at the same time exercise integrity and leadership.
Because as Gandhi said:
One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in another department. Life is one indivisible whole
I would not trust a person widely known to harass women, or men, if he speaks about the importance of “establishing trust with local communities.”
Harassment is just part of a rather dirty package. It affects the performance of the whole organisation; and what has now become obvious, as part of the latest harassment revelations: the whole aid industry. [Read more…]
Cambodia and My Bad Excuses
Reading about the coming national elections in Cambodia, and the crackdown on the media and the opposition; I was thinking about the last election in 2013. At the time I was in Cambodia. Still, I regret that I did not do anything to show my support for those who stood up against Prime Minister Hun Sen and his party. They have been ruling Cambodia for more than thirty years. And Cambodia is ranked as number 161 out of 180 in terms of corruption.
There is no guarantee that the opposition party would have fared any better regarding human rights or corruption. But the protests were just as much about people’s right to protest.
Still, I did nothing, and that was the case, as far as I know, with most expatriates. I was thinking: ”I am only a guest here”, “they can send me out”, “my support would not make a difference anyway”, among the bad excuses I came up with.
I was just sitting indoors during Sunday demonstrations, sniffing the tear gas; or listening to the organized street rallies by the ruling party. Rallies with, probably, paid “supporters” on scooters and open trucks. [Read more…]
Inequality is high on the international agenda. For instance, at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos.
Much attention is given to inequality between countries, “the north and the south”, or within countries such as the U.S. or Britain. What seems to be more neglected is the immense inequality within lesser developed countries.
South-Africa is topping the list; and countries such as Belize and Zambia among the top ten.
One reason why this immense inequality persists, is because the poor and the rich never meet. If they do, then most often in a power-relation, as employer and employee.
International aid programmes in non-western countries mostly focus on the poor, not how to engage the wealthy. [Read more…]
Trust is essential in order to reduce poverty and violence.
That is Celina de Sola’s message in the video below.
I believe that the absence of trust and cooperation is the main reason behind the deficiencies in international aid.
No one can achieve great results on their own.
El Salvador is a country with one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Poverty and inequality is rife. Different gangs hold power in many communities. You often have a choice between joining a gang, being killed or making an arduous escape to the U.S.A. [Read more…]
During the autumn and winter of 2015 to 2016 I worked as a volunteer on the Greek island of Lesvos, in the midst of the refugee crisis. The TV pictures showed only the most dramatic and tragic events. I experienced several of those too, but my most vivid memories from Lesvos are the positive ones.
This article is a reminder of the fact that most humans are basically good. I do believe there is hope for us.
Some of my best memories from Lesvos:
A strong contrast to the bleak TV pictures: newly arrived refugees playing volleyball on the beach, setting up a makeshift net, killing time while waiting for transport to the other side of the island. [Read more…]
What should your country ideally look like in 10, 30 or 50 years time?
Following the news or listening to conversations , it is very seldom you come across anything about how people vision the future of their country. And that is the case in any of the countries I have visited or lived in. People may have some visions related to specific issues, such as a fossil free society, or less poverty. However very few, if any, say anything about what an equal and just society would actually look like. Painting vivid pictures, that makes others think : “I want to go there!”
We Need Visions
Visions give people hope and purpose, and can give rise to mass movements. Therein lied the greatness of leaders such as Gandhi and Mandela. They articulated dreams of a better and brighter future. Dreams that so many shared; and subsequently became an irresistible force the old regimes could not resist. [Read more…]