Happy workers, happy children and why social engagement should start now. 

Preparations for the kindergarten inauguration  A rural village in Kerala, South India. The last preparations are ongoing. The inauguration of the kindergarten will take ok e next week. 

Today I have met the local architect, artisans and painters. They are all very proud of the work they have done: a new kindergarten building with an innovative rain harvesting system, a clean room for the children, a simple, but healthy kitchen without smoke,  some good space to store the food ….and space for a nice kitchen garden. 

It’s great to see their engagement. 

I’m proud of them and of my local project team that supports us from NGO site, too. 

Because caring is what counts at the end:  the children can stay in a safe house, teaching lessons about health issues for village people and young pregnant women will take place.  Enforcing the local communities is key to the next steps in our Making More Health program. Strategic alignment can happen in parallel. It’s time to act instead of talking. Learning by doing. 

There are many realities in the world and finding a strategy that fits to all is complicated. However,  now is the moment where we can start to engage. We should never postpone in favor of theoretical discussions, should we?

Related content

Making more Health initiative 

Posted in children in India, culture, Education, empathy, health, India, kerala, social impact, travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A day in Chennai – a day in modern India

 A Day in ChennaiIt’s May and the temperatures and humidity is high. It’s low tourist season. After months I’m back to South India. Heading to my rural people, where life looks different, challenging, but close to earth. 

There is one day left before going to Palakkad area.  A day in the city of Chennai.  Good for visiting one of India’s famous book stores, Higginbothams, talking to some Riksha drivers about their lives and dreams, discovering some crazy design shops such as NaturalAuroville , having a walk at Marina Beach and to buying a few gifts in a Mall before having a mixed inner in one of the hotel restaurants where Indian  middle class families celebrate birthday parties. 

In India there are a lot of different Indian worlds. And this is for sure one that is a symbol of Indian’s exploding demographics and young generation. 

Get an idea of how malls are in India: 

Posted in books, boom, culture, India, social impact, Tamil Nadu, travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Just wondering why we follow old processes instead of trying new pathways to combine business and social needs

Sometimes I just wonder how the world can look if we connect business and social in a more natural way, if we do not separate it into two different worlds, if we ask how to do business in a way that in every business activity we do we consider and include the social impact, too. We need business and we need to make money. In a purposeful way. In a way where money is not spent because of looking good or because it is state-of-the art, but because it matters. Why e.g. spending an exaggerated amount of money for a Hightech conference booth, that in the middle of other Hightech booths does not really make a difference? Why not putting a simple table only, making people like social entrepreneurs talk and sharing interesting information how we care and make a difference? This could lead to innovative thinking and a cross-functional and cross- sectoral networking, more inclusion and happiness – also for yourself. What do you think? If you or your employees are interested in a really disruptive leadership experience, just check: http://www.innovindia.org

Posted in business, change, change and society, CSR, development, diversity, empathy, innovation, leadership, Social business, social entrepreneurship, social impact | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating more health with less money is possible and a benefit for business and society

Healthcare prevention April2017LaunchThe idea to set up a health‐related education program for community and self‐help group workers in rural India was brought up by two participants in our last weekly leadership program  for international business managers. When they had visited several villages and health institutions, they realized that there was a huge gap in basic health knowledge.  They felt that providing this kind of knowledge to motivated participants from the self‐help groups would be an important activity to improve local medical care. The concept for the full program had been developed after a pilot training and discussion with the self-help group members, where the needs, best practice execution and topics that should form the educational modules had been discussed. This was done together with the target groups from the city and self‐help group leaders from the rural areas as well as with the local active experts and supporters.

The training aims to enable self‐help group (SHG) workers to manage the first steps in health care by increasing awareness and knowledge of basic health‐related topics. This helps to recognize symptoms that might need medical care and to give  access to local medical care. Self- help group members bring back the knowledge to their own families and friends and become the locally trusted contact person and binding element between the population and the existing local medical centers. Thus they improve actively the local health situation and share knowledge on how to live healthier. That’s why the entire program was elaborated with and for the target groups based on their own needs and values. It was really interesting to learn which health topics selfhelp group members are interested in and why the topics they discussed are really the most relevant to them: nutrition, mental health, hygiene, women issues, how to create a heathier environment, addictions, elderly care … and how they can implement better health conditions on their own , also based on their costumes, the financial means and daily challenges.

On 03/04 April 2017 the program was launched and the first health module on nutrition has taken place. 40 women and men leading 20 self-help groups participated.

One of the local doctors gave a presentation on healthy and unhealthy food, including many pictures that were easy to understand. He explained the balance of healthy nutrition, the quality and the quantity of food needed as well as the best times to eat during the course of a day. He covered the topics of malnutrition and its consequences and what food is required at a certain age, e.g. for neonates, children, adolescents and elderly people. Lastly the locally very important topic of anemia and vitamin deficiencies were being explained, where the participants for example learned that vitamin A is important for good vision and vitamin D for the bones and where they can take it from. Participants were especially interested on how to make nutritious food with minimal resources. They learned that even low cost ingredients, such as lentils and beans, may deliver healthy protein to their family. The local doctor challenged the participants to create a recipe based on such ingredients in combination with locally available food. The participants were very creative and came up with nice recipes. With pride they presented it to the whole group thereafter.

The group played the Making More Health (MMH) game on nutrition. Questions and answer cards covering questions on certain categories, such as needs of the elderly, children growth, pregnancy, and diabetes were being raised to the participants. For every question answered correctly, the participant won a small prize. The prize? Carrots, potatoes, apples, oranges and other types of vegetables and fruits. There was lots of enthusiasm to get the answers right. At the end, the participants carried a full bag of fruits and vegetables home.

If you are interested in the game and/or you want to know more about it, please feel free to contact (a small donation to the NGO to support our SHGs for further educational local iniatives is very welcome).

Based on the experiences of this first training, the local doctors and experts and most importantly the participants from the self‐help groups are highly committed to participate in the entire 2 years program. An effective cooperation with local experts from the medical and NGO world is an ideal opportunity to make this program sustainable. We really look forward to the next training module!

Are you/your colleagues agile enough to develop innovative ways of doing that go far beyond traditional Corporate Social responsibility?

If you/your managers are ready to have a look beyond the traditional way of health institutions, statistics and traditional ways of doing, if you want to learn more about values and ways of thinking in these communities, if you want to talk to experts who know the people and their needs well and have a more holistic idea on how educational and/or social and business-oriented programs can be successful, the innovative and “out of the comfort” leadership experience might be a good starting point. For more information on the leadership program (social entrepreneurial focus, sustainablity, how to combine business and social contributions, fair price, international exchange), please see http://www.innovindia.org or contact me directly. I look forward to meet you in India!

Posted in Education, health, India, leadership, Social business, social entrepreneurship, social impact, Tamil Nadu, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When people ask how business can benefit from social activities – learnings  in India 

Often I’m asked: How was it in India? What did you experience? Is it safe? There must have been a lot of poverty?! Do you go back again? Working with a NGO as a business representative ?A lot of questions and I could tell many stories, describe places, summarize events … I might be wrong, but somehow I have the impression that the people who ask often expect answers that are somehow underlining what we hear in Europe about India. And that’s in most of the cases rather negative things… But what about the winning experiences? What about the learnings? 
The inspiration – a takeaway that stays

Strange, but true: there is one question that people normally do not ask even I consider it as the most important one: Which were your most inspiring moments, those moments that made you uncomfortable, challenged you and created more than a souvenir to take home? 

So, here in short are my personal winning moments, my inspirational learnings/ lived in every moment “out of the (office) comfort zone”:

Awareness: Some situations are really tough to see. It’s not a TV show or some news somewhere, somehow, people that I do not know. Things happen in front of you and you are part of it. In the office or at home I can switch off. Just forget about it. Here you can’t. You cannot stay out of the process. The contribution you give will always leave a trace. What you do, counts. Difficult to say that the focus planned was a different one or that you have not seen. But there is a side effect, too: it makes you feel as someone who can effectuate change, do good, implement. 

Passion: Doing something needs more than willingness and a good concept. It needs people who implement with passion. That’s what I experienced when I went to the villages with the local NGO people. Passion gives you the energy to go through and to engage even more than planned in a concept paper. It gives a sense to what you do. To you as a human being and to you as an employee. Because it counts. In every step, in every co-creation with local stakeholders, in all discussions coming from different points of views (business or social) there is that much hidden learning and the idea to make more out of it just develops when you can “see” it.

Mindfulness: This is the spirit we have to take back into our daily work. If not, we should really ask why we keep doing things – at home, in the office, in our daily life. The direct contact with the outer world has another big advantage: The NGOs really understand how to make their message resonate with their audience. They get immediate feedback for what they do. They interact from human being to human being and develop not just based on agency research and statistics. Who wants to learn more about intended and unintended positive and negative effects, about impact making and performance management should definitely think about an exposure trip to India and work with NGOs. 

Innovation: We do a lot of things and activities, because they are part of our culture and values. We just do them and do not even notice that they are not normal for others. We are used to them since years. Then, suddenly, these same things and activities are questioned, not “true” any longer. The lack of them or the different usage/ look and feel of items forces me to be creative, to invent a new way on how to get a similar result or to make me understand that I do not need them at all. At home and under normal conditions these deeply held beliefs on how things are done are extremely difficult to surface and even harder to discuss and change. There is no better model for learning how to serve “customers” than experiencing it every day with “change makers”. Nonprofits and NGOs are masters of engagement, often finding creative ways to do more with less. In the combination social – business – disruptive social entrepreneurial ideas it takes you to a very different and much more impactful level of strategic thinking and concrete implementation.

Simplicity: The strategic paper work is nice, the reality looks often different and needs simple and pragmatic solutions. Implementing is based on people who make it happen. The key for success is to make complex things simple and to create trust. It’s about learning how we can go away from ‘let’s do technology or distribute items’ (or to give huge amounts of money’ as a declared CSR contribution) to a real engagement that aims to help building the capacity in the community of underserved populations. What counts in all that is to work in collaboration with local stakeholders from many different backgrounds – wherever possible – to ensure that it is accepted and sustainable. We cannot do business if do not create marketplaces first!

I’m convinced: These learnings are essential – for all who want to make a better world and those who want to make sure that they and their business will be successful even in the future! Multiple challenges need multiple solutions. Complex health issues cannot be solved by one player, one project, one single sector only.

Business has arrived in the social century

It’s not about running some social activities apart from business. It’s not about digital and social media only. It’s about acting in a different way, by bringing business and social worlds back together. We have to learn to run business also like that, to integrate the social parts into it. The social element has to become a part of our daily business!
By the way: We offer such a week experience opportunity in rural India to managers from different business sectors on an international level. Focusing on social entrepreneurial knowledge and experiencing, interaction and being out-of the comfort zone. Are you ready to make change happen? If you are interested, have a look at http://www.innovindia.org

Posted in business, change, change and society, empathy, innovation, managing change, Social business, social entrepreneurship, travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment