Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Meeting spaces, clashism, and Trafalgar Square

Now here's a public meeting space that could be conducive to raising trust?


We go about our ways,
And we clash.
And when we clash,
We make an impression,
An impression becomes expectation,
An expectation,
An allegory.

We continue to go about our ways,
Safe, satisfied with the status quo.
And when we are satisfied,
We follow in the same direction.
We like unchanging paths,
Lukewarm and timid winds.

But winds change,
And so do paths.
And when our paths change,
We contemplate and forget.
We need to remember.
Happiness sometimes lies in struggle.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Meeting spaces matter

I've been thinking a little bit about trust, and now I contemplate interaction.

In my opinion, it takes many interactions to build trust. How do we quantify trust? Is it based on the exchange of physical things, such as contributing time and resources in exchange for money? Or is it based on the exchange of non-physical things, such as the regularity of saying hello to the same person on the same side of the street every morning? I feel that it is a combination of things.

I believe that trust is based on the consistency of interaction with society, whether by one individual or those they represent. I also believe that there is a correlation between how regular these interactions are and the depth of what is being entrusted. In other words, if that which is being entrusted between two parties is great, the interactions will be of proportional consistency.

For example, in terms of a physical exchange: If I am an employed research assistant handling highly sensitive data belonging to the state, the trust between my employers (the government) and I will be contractually bound by a document stating that I will need to show up about 40 hours a week and work on stuff. Here, the depth of what is being entrusted to me (sensitive documents) is enforced through consistent interactions (me coming to work at 9am every weekday).

Another example, in terms of a non-physical exchange: If I say hello to the same store keeper every morning on my way to work, the trust between us is based on eye contact in the same position, and the benefit is a greeting from another human being. Here, the depth of what is at risk (the morning greeting) does not require an enforcement of interactions as in the first example.

Yet, I feel that in the second instance, my interaction with the storekeeper everyday is of similar value compared to my working for the state.

Now, considering that we need to make room for healthy interactions in society, so that we have a better chance of trusting each other more and thereby being more productive, I think we need to work on meeting spaces.

The reason I have attached an image of a woodshop is basically because I think we need a similar set up for social interactions. We need a garage or workshop of sorts in which all the tools are free for anyone to use. The emphasis should be on the provision of such spaces and tools.

A park is a perfect example. It's a spot where people casually spend their time with their friends, family or even alone. But it is also a place that is conducive to people accidentally bumping into each other and starting up conversations.

Now think of the tea shops and Internet cafes in almost every city. Imagine if there was an open warehouse full of office space and desks and computers, amongst other resources for entrepreneurs. This could be a hub for interactions, as long as it provided a structured work environment, and was able to cater to a wide audience.

Anyhow, I've been contemplating meeting spaces and how interactions held build trust for a while now. One of the things I hope to do in Dar someday is to start an open office/meeting space by day and a restaurant/cafe by night.

Drop me a line if you want to look into that with me. Carpe diem for now.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Finally, some blissful sunshine

The view from my room - yes, we use that football pitch, and I just came back from a morning round of ball.

Below are views from our flat's living/dining room and kitchen.

What a fantastic day in London! I never thought we would get a clear, warm day of sun, sun and more sun.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Thoughts on intangible wealth

Last night, amongst many things, my friend Inayat and I discussed trust. It made me think of an article I read in 2007 about the world's intangible wealth.

Trust - definition aside - seems to be an important indicator of intangible wealth, value that is not accounted for in our conventional methods of economic transactions and accounting.

Trust within both the public and the private sectors, across any hierarchy in any form of institution.

Essentially, if there is lack of trust within the hierarchies, civil society suffers as a whole. If there is a solid level of trust, civil society gains.

Now, some organizations, indeed nation states, may find ways of enforcing trust, for example, through market-based contracts with liability clauses, or through the arm of the law.

Other organizations, such as in those developing countries that experience severe corruption, would need to rely on a high levels of unaccounted-for trust to get work done.

Of course, organizational behaviour is also dependent on space and time, so things could be different when taking a closer look. But in general, trust is integral to civil society. It is the lifeblood of the relations we have with each other. No lifeblood, no relations, no peace.

Global Post article about young Africans in the West

Just found out from a few friends that an interview me and Mumo had with James Walsh in New York last year was published in an article on this page at the GlobalPost.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Reflections on the World Economic Forum for Africa (via Vijana FM)

"We produce what we don’t consume and we consume what we don’t produce."

The World Economic Forum for Africa concluded on Friday May 7 in Dar-es-Salaam. We put up a post about the beginning of the forum, but this post is to draw some conclusions and invite opinions as to the direction of Africa's economy as a whole.

The title of this post is a line from Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete's speech, which was extracted from his quote on this press release. It describes the disproportionate ways in which African economies are integrated into the world financial markets. That is, the trend has so far been for African countries to produce and export goods and services while return are of lesser value. President Kikwete emphasized that it is time to "move Africa from the periphery to the centre of the global economy."

South African President Jacob Zuma also seemed optimistic that Africa is going to experience positive economic change, especially due to this summer's FIFA World Cup. According to Zuma, “in a short period of time, Africa is going to be the place for doing business globally. Foreign Direct Investment will come on its own.”

Others, including Pat Davies who co-chaired the meeting as Chief Executive of Sasol South Africa, felt that time is being wasted, and that the focus needs to be on giving "business reasonable certainty and predictability and we can [create] partnerships". That is, yes we can talk about laws and regulations, but let's get moving.

As for youth - who are 60% of what we call "Africa" - not much was said. Ajai Chowdhry, CEO of HCL Infosystems mentioned "make your human capital capable, and entrepreneurship will happen." Of course, the Young Global Leaders Summit was held in conjunction with this conference, which may have delved into the potential of youth more than the World Economic Forum for Africa.

More comments from the Forum from various individuals can be found on the press release.

That being said, it is difficult to decipher anything concrete coming out of this conference. I just checked the World Economic Forum website and it's filled with headlines about the EU bailout package for Greece. So I would like to pose a few questions in an effort to gauge what we should really be focusing on as youth who see ourselves as stakeholders in our countries' development.

Therefore, I would be keen to discuss the following:

1. Considering that the World Economic Forum has a mandate, and that this mandate is known to member countries, and further that each member country outlines its goals and responsibilities before joining such bodies, what has this latest conference changed since the last conference?

2. Considering that the role of youth is somewhat encompassed separately under the branch of the Young Global Leaders Summit, and considering that the Young Global Leaders Summit does not seem to be run by anyone under 25, where can the youth themselves go to express their ideas for sustainable change?

3. If a forum is defined as a commonplace for open discussion, do forums necessarily have a "start" and an "end"? That is, is the purpose of the World Economic Forum for Africa to meet once in a while to check up on things, or is it rather a constant engagement with the means to satisfy objectives set at each conference?

4. Considering the response to number 3 above, is there formal protocol to host a constant engagement with the political, economic, and social roles of youth Africa?

5. About that graphic above, which I picked up from the press release "illustrations" page, why are we talking about designing and organization still? Most of (political) colonialism was done about 40 years ago, folks. Where are we in our own "design process"?

For further reading:
World Economic Forum for Africa updates
WEF reflections press release
Photo gallery
Image (above) in PDF link

This post is cross-listed at Vijana FM.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Comments from the unknown

This has been happening for a while now, but I seem to be getting comments in Chinese more than in languages I understand.

Update, 3 hours later: They must be spambots.