The Persistence of Memory

By resolution 54/134 of 17 December 1999, the United Nations’ General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Sophia Ivarsson at the Swedish National Defence College has done research on gender aspects of peace-keeping and rescue missions. Through her studies, she makes it clear why it is important to continue to develop knowledge of the UN Resolution 1325 and how to implement it. Because it matters where you decide to put your rescue camp, since it can provide protection for women fetching water. Because the decision to clear mines in the woods, in the fields or in the pathways may have a profound impact since men often use the trails whereas women collect sticks in the woods in order to cook food. Because employing local women in the rescue work can have a major influence of the development of the area and of female entrepreneurship. Because women taking part in peace-keeping missions can get access to parts of the society that are hard for men to get into.

The Director General of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Anders Nordström, comments today in a debate article on the lack of Swedish participation in the campaign “16 days of activism against gender crime”. In case you wonder what this is all about, the United Nations Population Fund lists 16 forms of gender-based violence, and it is present in all regions not only the so called developing countries. For those of you who would like to understand more about how violence against women are used as a clear strategy in armed conflicts I recommend the film Intended Consequences, which is in addition to its important message a very good example of multi-media storytelling.


Bright Future

The future seems a great deal brighter with Barak Obama as the new president of the United States of America. Apparently even some republicans think so. According to cognitive scientist George Lakoff, Obama seems to have gotten the hang of storytelling and the proper use of metaphors. Apparently, this is something Swedes appreciate since most of them preferred Obama over McCain. He also seems to have understood the use of Web 2.0 technology and how to reach young people.

One of Barak Obama’s celebrity fans, Oprah Winfrey, said that “When I look into the future, it's so bright it burns my eyes.” However, there are some people who would like the future to be somewhat darker. National Geographic for example, featuring the article “Our Vanishing Night” in their November issue 2008. Light pollution is becoming a major concern but there are also solutions. The Starry Night Lights website has recognised that dark skies are green and lists lights that are supposed to be less polluting.

Las week I was invited to Infracontrol’s Future Party. After inspiring speeches from CEO Johan Höglund, automotive expert Hans Nyman, and adventuress Renata Chlumska as well as spirit-lifting songs from Göteborg Gospel we all took the elevators to the year 2015 on the sixth floor. There we found demonstrations of Infracontrol’s future products. We could be guided to the nearest free parking space, or have mobile stations warning us about wild animals crossing the roads, or remotely handle incidents in underground stations making trains and escalators stop and start at our will, or get commuter information recommending taking the train instead of the car because of traffic jams.

However, many of their so called future products are already here. One of their current projects is looking into how the lights at Arlanda airport could be adjusted to shine only when needed. This would cut the energy costs a lot, but also contribute to decreasing light pollution.

What I like most about Infracontrol is their dedication to develop technology based on human needs. Although their solutions are very high-tech and complex from a technical perspective, they put usability first whether it concerns systems for energy, traffic, or security management. They also take a sustainability perspective on their technology, wanting to help people and organisations to become more efficient in their use of resources.

I think both Barak Obama and Infracontrol want the future to be both brighter and darker, and that they will achieve this by applying metaphors and technology when appropriate.

The photo is from Lights in Alingsås 2008.


Small Pleasures

November is the absolutely worst month of the year in Sweden. It’s dark, cold and rainy. In order to fight depression, I try to cherish small pleasures and this weekend I have really revelled in them, involving all five senses. I went to bed Friday evening without setting the alarm, falling asleep under my thick winter duvet after reading a chapter in a clever detective story. When I woke up, I got up to get the newspaper, but went back to bed to read and fall asleep again. Waking up a second time I put my feet on the sheep skin rug and curled my toes. I put on my thick terry cotton robe and made a hearty breakfast with boiled eggs, fresh vegetables, mango juice, yoghurt and tasty raspberry muesli.

I dressed in my bright red and turquoise raincoat bought at Louisiana and my high black rubber boots and walked to the nearby folk high school Wendelsberg to look at the beautiful buildings and listen to lectures, participating in their 100 year celebration. I walked away much more knowledgeable about amusement parks through the public park, watching the last leafs falling down. Then I popped in to our local library and read some magazines sitting in one of their fancy modern chairs looking out on the lazy river. On my way home I bought some fresh flowers from the local florist and one of them was a Protea reminding me of the trip I made in 2003 to South Africa with my Mother.

In the afternoon I had a cup of spicy fair trade chai tea in the handcrafted mug I recently bought in Tällberg. You can see it in the picture on the tea tray I received recently at a workshop in Hudiksvall. Then I went to an aerobics class at Friskis&Svettis enjoying immensely moving to all kinds of music in good company. Back home I took a long warm shower, using rough Brazil nut scrub and then put on lovely-smelling chocolate lotion I bought in Öhr where my grandparents used to live. During the evening I mixed doing ironing with watching a chick flick with a happy ending (of course), before hitting the sack.

Sunday was dedicated to volleyball and I tried to do some pep talk to my arms while ecodriving to Herrljunga. I sang loudly in the car, playing favourites from the 1980ies but also some new music put together for a good cause. It was good fun meeting all friends and holding a small baby again, smelling the soft, warm skin. Back home I put my sore feet in a hot foot bath with bright white salt crystals while draping my wheat warmer on my aching shoulders, getting ready to write this blog post.

Of course I know that I am immensely fortunate having the opportunity to enjoy all these small pleasures. Every single one of them can be regarded as a luxury. I am also aware of that they are all related to what Martin Seligman calls the first level of happiness, not even close to eudaemonia or true meaning. However, when my mood is low they truly help when trying to reach the higher levels, living the “The Good Life” vision of the Västra Götaland Region.


The Road to Copenhagen

My trip to Copenhagen this August, visiting Resonans and participating in The Solutions Focus training, actually led to another journey. It took me all the way to Motala, "the city at the water". There I spent a great day with the Frisksport leadership teachers where we jointly explored our knowledge of instructional design, presentation techniques and storytelling while staying in Motala Frisksportklubb’s wonderful club house. Thank you for participating in creating a creative learning environment! I especially hope you enjoyed the Kolb Learning Styles video (in Swedish).

In one of the exercises, Carl did a presentation about sustainable development and his own attitude towards this. We all enjoyed his presentation very much, since it was very personal and sincere. I think he will find that there are lots of things going on that will help him in his attempts to become better at sustainability, for example the new newspaper “Climate Smart in Motala” provided by the municipality.

However, the road to Copenhagen can also lead to other places like Brussels, Madrid, Poznan and Bonn. By invitation of the EU Commission Vice President Margot Wallström, Club of Madrid, GLOBE Europe and Respect Table joined forces to create an initiative metaphorically called the Road to Copenhagen. The aim is to make it possible for business and civil society to become involved in forming input to the post 2012 climate change negotiations. Using modern technology like a wiki, avatars and a virtual forum in combination with IRL meetings, this initiative lets us participate as citizens or companies in forming a sustainable future.

So Carl (and others), what are you waiting for!?!


Appreciating the Creative Tension

When Robert Fritz started his workshop in Stockholm in September, I was filled with anticipation. This was my second encounter with him and his wife Rosalind and much had happened since I first came in contact with his change management ideas. I was very interested in finding out whether his concepts could be used in combination with Appreciative Inquiry.

Immediately I started to look for similarities between the two approaches. Both are constructivistic in character and emphasize the careful use of language. Interviews are used early in the process and visualization is used as a tool for creating images of what is and can be. Storytelling is central, as is retelling others’ stories as a means for extracting the fundamentals. Both take departure in the notion that what you want is often part of current reality, and spend more time talking about possibilities rather than problems. The conceptual frameworks can and have been applied in various settings: for individuals, couples, groups and organizations. The clients are considered to be the experts and the consultant’s role is to support them in coming up with the solutions or decisions themselves. Change and identifying underlying structures are in focus, where both problems and opportunities can be used as points of departure. Similar to many people working with AI, such as Frank Barrett, Robert Fritz make extensive use of music and art in combination with more traditional business development methods.

I see lots of opportunities to combine many of the tools and concepts from the two schools of thought. The Fritz way to do clarification interviews is perfect when trying to extract a client’s real challenge, using it as input in an AI process. Fritz’ creative tension chart is an excellent tool during the Destiny phase, when deciding what to do in more precise terms. Also, Digital Decision-Making can be used when deciding on what steps or design elements are more important than others.

The one really big difference lies in the different approaches towards intellectual property rights. David Cooperrider has always emphasized openness and sharing, resulting in making the AI Commons a globally accessible well of knowledge. Robert Fritz has also published books and videos, and you can find lots of information at his website but he also keeps a much tighter control of his material, for example through certification processes.

This mirrors a more general debate concerning the pros and cons of open innovation and open source. The key question is how to achieve the perfect blend of openness and ownership, in order to make you, your organization and society in general prosper. Do you have the answer?