Be Careful What You Wish For!

Last New Year’s Eve, my colleague Helena sent a text message to me asking me to give the new year a name. The words I text back were “Out in the World”. In Appreciative Inquiry, one of the principles is “words create worlds”, emphasising its constructivist perspective. I must say that 2007 truly proved this principle to me. Looking back at my travels during 2007, I will especially remember:
  • smelling the colourful flowers at Ulriksdal Castle with my friend Marie. (January)
  • wandering in the snow in the Alps in Oberammergau in southern Germany with my Mother. (February)

  • catching the light in the British Museum in London. (March)
  • visiting Boston, Cleveland and Washington D.C. all in one week, discovering the essence of social entrepreneurship. (April)

  • enjoying Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg’s excellent defence of her PhD thesis in Copenhagen. (May)
  • presenting an AI article at the IFIP 8.6 conference in Manchester with my friends and research colleagues Anna and Agneta. (June)

  • camping with my sister and her family in Motala, jumping out of joy when the sun finally defied the rain. (July)

  • meeting my Holmberg cousins and their families at the annual reunion, this time in Vallby in Skåne. (August)

  • discovering the essence of walking in the rain during the AI Summer Reflections at Bore Place in England. (August)

  • finding new ways to use my camera at the Royal Coin Cabinet in Stockholm. (August)

  • listening to the marvellous concert in the old quarry in Dalhalla together with my Frisksport friends, discovering how to do AI interviews on a bus. (September)

  • having a magical dinner in Orlando with some new storytelling friends. (September)

  • seeing a bird parade in Roswell, north of Atlanta. (September)

  • having a truly international lunch in Brussels after investing in some chocolate (all gone now, I’m afraid…). (October)

  • wandering all alone in the rainforest at Noosa Heads in Australia after presenting a research paper at the IMTA conference in Surfers Paradise. (October)

  • swimming in lukewarm water in a roof pool in Abu Dhabi. (October)

  • catching my breath after the steep walk to the castle in Heidelberg, followed by aninteresting visit to the research group at US Army Medical Research Unit-Europe. (November)

  • listening for the lions in the morning light in Mikumi National Park during our Metafari in Tanzania. (November)

  • cycling on the beach in Worthing in December before going up to London for the first AI UK network meeting. (December)

  • taking to train to Upplid in Småland, to have a merry merry Christmas with my family. (December)
I would like to thank all my friends, colleagues, partners and family members - you really have made this year something to remember. Special thanks to Helena for providing me with such an opportunity to create a wonderful 2007 filled with inspiring places and people! I wonder what I will call 2008…

Happy New Year!


Happy Holidays!

Krismas Njema Na Heri Za Mwaka Mpya! Fröhliche Weihnachten! Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! I'D Miilad Said ous Sana Saida! God Jul! Have a look at this site with Christmas greetings in more than 360 languages!

Want to hear lovely a new Christmas song? Check out “Coming Home” by Torbjörn Eriksson, Hjärnverket.


Christmas Flowers

I’m so happy my Summer Photo Competition was such a success! Lots of friends have voted, and to make sure that a proper procedure was used I asked Leif to come up with a method for selecting the winner. Sitting in the only room with aircon at Ruth and Odd’s place in Tanga, he decided that the winner should be voter number 13. Congratulations Jenny Ruther! I promise you will receive the flowers before Christmas.

It seems that the picture from Råshult captured most peoples’ heart, why I hereby declare that to be The Picture of Lena’s Summer of 2007!
The picture above is of a Christmas Tree in Tanzania. Like to see more pictures from the Metafari? Check out this Picasa Album!


Out of Africa

I’m sitting at the international airport in Dar es Salaam, named after the first president Julius Nyerere. It’s almost time for boarding and at 11 pm it’s still hot. The fact sheet from KLM says the temperature in Amsterdam is 9 degrees Celsius. I hope it will soon start to snow in Göteborg, but it can wait until I have landed. We have had a wonderful time during our Metafari telling stories from the past but also creating new stories. But what about the stories you can’t tell? The ones that are very dramatic and heartbreaking, but can’t be revealed?

I’m thinking about Karen Blixen. How she must have wondered about if she would ever return to Africa when she left her farm in Kenya. About the stories she decided to tell the world through her books, and the ones she kept to herself. I remember visiting her home north of Copenhagen with my mother a cloudy day a couple of years ago. The garden was magnificent, with a big black cat stalking mice among the flower beds. Fresh cut flowers were abundant in the beautiful house overlooking the sea. I would also be inspired to write with such a view.

My thoughts turn to a recent interview I did with the Swedish journalist Johanne Hildebrandt. She stated that she calls herself a “war correspondent” because she believes that signals that she takes her task seriously, that she is aware of that she might put people in danger if she is not careful. That her stories might in fact destroy people’s lives.

I’m grateful that the majority of the stories I have heard and created during this Metafari convey the good aspects of Tanzania. That’s not difficult, since there are many positive things happening here. Because our Metafarers made a long list of their learnings from the course, I’m also convinced that we’re all going to communicate them in a good way.

Healing Trust

The Metafari has ended and we’re sitting on the porch outside Ruth and Odd’s house by the sea in Tanga. A rare opportunity has presented itself: a local healer, whom Ruth has worked with for many years, are willing to participate in an interview. We ask questions such as “How do you know what is wrong with the people who come to you?” and “What do you think causes a disease?” and although we get some really interesting answers our conversation becomes even more intriguing when we invite him to inquire.

He then starts to tell us the following story:

A couple of years ago I worked with a British doctor whom I taught a lot about the herbs I use. He took them and sent them illegally abroad to have them tested for their healing qualities. I don’t think its right for people to do so since some of the profits from turning the herbs into medicine should benefit Tanzania.
So he wants to discuss intellectual property rights! He then continues to say that he has not only bad experience of foreign doctors but have collaborated successfully with a Norwegian hospital that orders many kilos of herbs every year. What he really wants to know is what kinds of diseases we still have problems finding cures for in Sweden and how he could participate in a proper experimental research project finding out the effects of using his knowledge. Wow! When I ask him why he wants to do this, he says it is partly because he wants to increase his own competence but also to show the rest of the world what Tanzania has to offer. Shikamo!


Blue Ocean Strategy

After most of the Metafari participants have left for Dar es Salaam, we decide to return to the beach. Since this used to be the Sunday procedure for Ruth and Odd, they are very much in favour for this suggestion and we ask Sture if he can pick us up in his boat again. This time the dolphins get really close and we can hear them breathe. According to Ruth, one of them seems to have a cold. And being trained nurse, she should know :-)

Slowly the small island comes into view. The water is so blue and clear. I come to think of the Blue Ocean Strategy. The whole of Tanzania is to some extent a blue ocean, with lots of people earning not much, but more and more. Of course, the tobacco industry has used the blue ocean strategy for many years, since Europe and the US have started to pay attention to not encouraging the young to start smoking. However, lots of interesting developments are happening with respect to the mobile phone industry. There are quite a number of telecom towers already and more are on their way.

When we visited the Masai, Leif asked how the mobile phone helps them to be more Masai. They replied that since it is always important to know about the weather in order to move the cattle to the appropriate place, the mobile phone is an excellent tool to get that kind of report a little quicker than before. One of the Metafarers comments that it appears like the mobile phone helps the settled Masai to keep their customs, but they also help us to become more like nomads, more like the Masai.

Another interesting development is the sudden ban of plastic bags. Although this from an environmental perspective probably is excellent, they hadn’t really thought about that this is the normal way in Tanzania to package milk. Maybe this is a blue ocean opportunity for TetraPak? Perhaps in collaboration with Arla?


Don’t Think of an Elephant

Late one evening at the Tanga International Conference Centre, Leif and I sit and look at the many pictures all of us have taken during the Metafari so far. The Masai watchmen gather around us to watch the photos flicker. Lots of them are from the Mikumi Natural Park. There are elephants drinking. Elephants fighting. Elephants peeing. Baby elephants and very old and big elephants. We realise that we might have to do some culling… But it definitely will be difficult not to think of them.

George Lakoff is a famous American cognitive scientist who’s behind books such as “Metaphors we live by” and “Women, fire and dangerous things”. A few years ago he published the book “Don’t think of an Elephant” providing excellent advice to progressives on how to become better at framing the political debate. Although the democrat versus republican debate is somewhat difficult to translate directly into Swedish politics, we found it very suitable for reading during the Metafari. Lakoff calls himself a “cognitive activist”. I like to be that too. I realise that I think the purpose of the Metafari should not only to be to help people to become better at using storytelling and metaphors when trying to achieve change in organisations or society, it’s also about trying to create a more nurturing approach to life. Now I just need to find a good framing for telling that.