Tag Archives: poverty

On having a mission – 8 months on

17 Jun

8 months ago I wrote about having a mission for my life. I wanted it to encompass “contribution”, “global”, “sustainability” and “poverty”. I didn’t know what this meant or how it was going to work.

I met a woman who was 67 who was working on a vocational training centre in the far west of Ghana. I realised that in around 40 years time I would be 67. So I decided to make my mission 40 years – to have it focus on the long term. As Bill Gates famously put it – we overestimate what we can do in 2 years and underestimate what we can do in 10 (or 40 for that matter).

I wanted my first step to be to begin to understand. To begin to understand what it means to be poor. To begin to understand what has been done so far. To begin to understand why this has not been enough. As part of this I wanted to give a substantial sum ($10K) to charity.

It is hard to say how I have progressed on the true knowledge front; and yet easy to show how I have progressed on the money side. This reminds me of a conversation I had recently with a development practitioner  – “people in aid complain all the time about the report writing – but how else can we show our progress? It is not as easy as showing money in an account. If a business is successful the money will be there. If it isn’t, it won’t be.”

So first to the money. In the end I was more creative with accounting for the $10K than I originally thought I would be. I found it hard to part with my own money, but my goal meant that I stopped thinking about whether or not I should give away away the money and started thinking creatively about how I could overcome my own barriers and make it happen. I first managed to turn a relatively small donation into a significant amount through a very generous matching scheme I was able to access. After much deliberation I also decided to include my expenses for my India trip last year, where we initiated a pilot project, bringing light to one community. For the remainder of the sum I asked that all my Christmas and birthday presents from the last year be donations to a charity (as pre-selected by GiveWell).

On beginning to understand, I have certainly learnt a lot during the past year in my role with Good Return. For the next period of time however, I would like to be more focussed in my learning, spending more time reading and trying to understand concepts which are well researched and difficult rather than the easy one line answers (read this Study Hacks post on deliberate practice versus achieving flow if you want to understand more about what I am talking about).

Some key learnings I have written about previously on L+L have been:

<3 of the week: Poverty has fallen, the Arab world’s first ladies and happiness in Indonesian

8 Mar
  • Smiles all round in Indonesia

    Poverty has fallen in every region of the world from 2005 – 2008, according to The Economist this week. “Half the long-term decline is attributable to China… but the main contribution to the recent turnaround is Africa.”

  • A rather sombre story to link to on today, International Women’s Day, is this piece from the Guardian on the Arab world’s first ladies. From Syria: “When we explained that this was the worst kind of tyrant, Sarkozy would say: ‘Bashar protects Christians, and with a wife as modern as his, he can’t be completely bad.'”. This is followed by descriptions of how the household is run on “wildly democratic principles”.
  • After spending some time here, I was not surprised to read that 61% Indonesians rate themselves as “very happy” – making Indonesia the happiest country in the world.  The place is just brimming with laughter.

Image credit: The awesome Deli.

The Bucket List (and why I’m not a huge fan)

2 Jan

Given the time of year I’ve been thinking about concept of a bucket list.

I’ve always been a little resistant to it – and I’m not totally sure why. I think part of the reason is because I look at most people’s lists and think – well, I just don’t need to do that.

It’s not that it wouldn’t be fun, but checking off that particular box just isn’t necessary for me to consider my life a success.

In fact checking off any box isn’t really necessary for me to consider my life a success.

Sometimes this makes me feel lost; sometimes it makes it hard to know what to do next.

So I thought – what if I think about this differently?

What about a list of things I might want to get involved in? Big things which I haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?

Thinking about the concept of a bucket list in this way made it much easier.

Mostly because I realised I was already carrying around the start of this list (some of which I have already started):

  • Have a global impact on world poverty over the next 40 years
  • Start (or perhaps lead) a small social enterprise which is looking at tackling poverty
  • Have a go at all the standard major jobs in an organisation (marketing, HR, operations etc)
  • Figure out why it is that people are still using kerosene for lighting
  • Work on a government election campaign
  • Spend a week in silence
  • Spend a week living in poverty (as best as I can make happen)
  • Pick a “best books of the year” list and read every single one
  • Become a regular contributor to a prominent online publication
  • Learn how to juggle and skateboard. Maybe even at the same time.

So what am I really trying to say here? To both you and me? Something which I’m not sure needs to be said again.

But here goes.

The world is what you choose to make it. You don’t need to make your world the same as anyone else’s.

So go out and get at it already. Whatever it is.

We’re waiting do see what you do.

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