Soul-searching Sustainability

Hi all!

Last week was our final week of class at EOI. On Friday, my colleagues and I delivered our last class presentations and gathered outside the EOI building on the green fields to share the multi-ethnic food that each of us brought for our IMSD international lunch buffet! Eva, Leda, Almudena, and Esperanza was there to join us and the weather couldn’t have been better. It was a really wonderful lunch so my thanks goes out to everyone who attended and those who shared with us your national cuisine!

That said, I must say that even though the Master’s is coming to an end (we still have our final projects to present in July), the bonds we’ve created and the knowledge we’ve absorbed will continue to be an essential part of our lives. I will always remember the good times we shared and how amazing it was to learn from each other, inside as well as outside the classroom setting. I believe that we will cross paths again in the near future. Perhaps some day we will become partners or associates, who knows? Regardless, I’m sure that we will be seeing each other again after July, and I welcome my friends to come visit Malaysia anytime they wish to do so! 😀

I am also pleased to inform that in hopes of  continuing my pursuit and passion in issues concerning Sustainability, I recently launched my own little blog:

Soul-searching Sustainability

I hope you will find time to visit it. It is where I plan to continue my soul-searching adventures in this field of study.

Of course I will return here from time to time as I’ll never forget my EOI blog, which has held so many memories of my splendid time studying under the IMSD programme. In fact, I will re-post some of the blog entries that I have published previously here onto the blog of my new website because they contain useful information that are related to the topics I will be discussing.

This is certainly not goodbye and so I refuse to say “adios“. I will keep in touch with you soon and wish all the EOI students out there the best of luck in their final projects!


Social Entrepreneurship: Motivated to Make an Impact!

Hola a todos!

In the last few weeks left of our IMSD programme, we have been exposed to the characteristics and practices of social entrepreneurs, and the promising potential of Bottom of the Pyramid. Indeed, the field of social innovation is one that I have been closely observing and analysing in my course of study at EOI. It is a field that I began to take strong interest in from the moment my mother explained about grassroots social innovation. The idea that innovation could be harnessed from the most vulnerable groups in society and that businesses could do well by doing good is a concept that continues to fascinate me. It’s the reason why I was extremely excited to embark on learning more about it after my group and I decided to focus on the topic of collaboration in social innovation for our final group project.

In one of our courses on social entrepreneurship, we had the pleasure of having Mr. Daniel Truran again at EOI to share with us his expertise and experiences on the subject matter. From his dynamic and animated presentations, we learned of several key points, which included:

1. Social entrepreneurship can be a lonely job – it may sound depressing, but this doesn’t mean that it can’t be a fun or fulfilling career path. For many people who pursue their passions vehemently, there will come a time when they will find themselves striving on their own for something that they so righteously believe. This idea of going on a quest to disrupt the status quo, to bring change in the system, and to make a difference in the world is a noble one, but it does not come with a bit of sacrifice and a lot of resilience. For social entrepreneurs who persist and strive for success, great satisfaction, empowerment, and many rewarding experiences await them.

2. Talented people need sources of motivation – in fact we all need sources of motivation to keep us moving towards achieving our dreams! Social entrepreneurs are people with a lot of passion and as individuals who seek to contribute their talents towards social good, they need to be able to motivate themselves. These powerful sources of positive energy can be found anywhere, from the support of families and loved ones, to emotional experiences that move them to action or a sudden realisation that there is more meaning to life as we know it.

3. Communication flows have evolved from uni-minded to pluri-minded – with the exponential growth of “web 2.0” in the last couple of years, gone are the days of the one-way highway of communication. Social media have taken the world by storm and businesses need to accept that it is becoming increasingly important for them to open channels of communication between the company and its stakeholders. Businesses these days have to always be prepared to answer queries that customers may pose online, and should make efforts to address people’s concerns in a courteous and efficient manner.

4. The working environment & TGIM (Thank God it’s Monday)! – teams and employees at the workplace must be motivated to come to work and contribute their best efforts. One way to do this is to make the working environment a place to look forward to. It may be in the form of flexible working hours or team-building activities or a creative office space or interactive facilities – whatever it is that works best for a specific business and its employees.

Sometimes all it takes is a moment of rest and recuperation before workers are able to focus their energy once again towards the goals and objectives of the company. To attract and retain talent, a workplace should be constructed upon values and practices that inspire productivity, not instil fear and anxiety in its employees.

With these lessons learned from the class, it is hoped that each and every one of us will be inspired and motivated to pursue whatever it is we dream to achieve in life, one of which could be to become a social entrepreneur with a potential to generate significant impact in the world. 🙂

Click below to watch a video that inspired me:
David Kelley on How to Build Your Creative Confidence

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Materiality: Apple & CSR

As the most valuable company in the world, it is surprising to know that Apple has not published a CSR report. However, it did publish documents on business conduct and supplier responsibility. Its business conduct explains the company’s values and principles, and guides employees on how to manage business activities and interactions with stakeholders. Meanwhile, its document on supplier responsibility reports on how the company manages social responsibility throughout the supply chain and emphasizes its responsible practices. The company’s website also has pages on how the company addresses environmental issues where it states its carbon footprints and the efforts being carried out to decrease it. This section gives customers information on how Apple has improved the design of its products so as to enable these electronic items to function in a more energy-efficient way and also be easily recyclable. In addition, it informs customers on how to recycle old Apple products through the Apple recycling programme.

Despite the steps that the company has taken to address some issues that concern its stakeholders, the question is: Has Apple truly integrated CSR into its business model? I came upon this question as our class was analysing the CSR reports and materiality matrix of several companies in the ICT sector. As a user of Apple products, I am among many people who go about functioning in my daily life with the help of an iPhone and iPad, plus a majority of my fellow classmates come to class every day with a Macbook. Obviously people still purchase Apple products and I’m sure there are those of us who can’t imagine our lives without it now that we’ve developed a dependency on these items.

It seems that Apple is somewhat making efforts to address the current concerns of its stakeholders, which are appearing as hot topics in the news and media. But as far as integration goes, it has yet to prepare a complete and assured report on its initiatives, and how it intends to grow in a sustainable manner. At the moment, Apple has not been as transparent as it could be and for a big corporation like itself, there are responsible consumer expectations for it to invest more in efforts to report on the sustainability of its business. Apple may need to confess to the weaknesses it has with regard to the safe and ethical production of its high-selling products, and not just assure people that it will make efforts to do what is right.

While its products have changed our lives in ways we never imagined, there is a lack of trust in the company as detailed information on the sustainability of Apple’s business activities are only provided through its website and nothing more. With so many controversy surrounding its supply chain and consumer’s demands to know what Apple is doing to solve the problem, it would seem that the company’s refusal to publish a CSR/Sustainability report would lead to assumptions that the corporation has something to hide and that perhaps it has yet to integrate CSR practices and principles. Until Apple takes some serious steps to provide relevant information on its sustainable measures, and being more transparent, it will continue to risk its reputation of being perceived as another corporation that only cares about making profit at the expense of society and environment, regardless of the quality or innovative use that its products have to offer.


CSR in SMEs: Lessons Learned

Hello all!! 🙂

It’s been a while since I posted here. To give you a quick update, our Masters programme has advanced into the CSR module and we are seeing how it links back to sustainability. We have been studying and analyzing the CSR/Sustainability reports of several multinational corporations, learning how to engage stakeholders, looking at international labour rights and supplier codes of conduct, working together on constructing a materiality matrix, and debating on whether or not certain companies have truly integrated CSR into their business models.

Recently, we completed a course on CSR in SMEs with Daniel Truran who is Director General of the ebbf and some of the lessons we learned were:

  1. SMEs are able to cater to customers more efficiently due to their small size and less bureaucratic form of governance. They also seem to have more potential to become innovative due to the limitations experienced with regard to lack of resources and staff. Together, SMEs can make a big difference in the world.
  2. Establishing the “Love Brand” is all about engaging with stakeholders in a way that keeps them loyal to the company brand. Whether there is a phase of economic downturn or the arrival of a new and appealing competitor, the true love for the brand is what makes people trust that the company will continue to produce quality products for its beloved consumers.
  3. Leadership is important in an SME that wishes to be sustainable and successful in the long-term. It requires a leader who is able to lead by example and who not only applies principles of CSR to external stakeholders but to its internal stakeholders as well. One of its most valuable assets are its employees, and thus an SME should be able to motivate and inspire its ground staff, executives, and managers, in a way that would enable them to feel engaged and truly a part of the company. To gain this type of loyalty and to make sure that it is sincere, the company needs to inform and educate employees, and find out if they really share the goals and aspirations behind the company’s values and principles.

In class, we also looked at how some SMEs managed to survive economic crises and how the workplace can be constructed to cater to the needs of employees, which made a difference in talent retention and levels of productivity.

Source: Daniel Truran

All in all, I enjoyed our interactive course and it was a great pleasure to have Daniel join us afterwards for the IMSD international lunch! May our paths cross again! 😀


Climate Change: Summary of CDM Project 4567

Project 4567: Methane Recovery from waste water treatment in seafood industry in Maharashtra, India.

The CDM project aims to recover methane from wastewater treatment in seafood industry at Maharashtra, India. The registered project is small-scale and hosted by the Government of India while the private entity and project participant is Gadre Marine Export Pvt Ltd (GMEPL), which claims to be the lead manufacturer of seafood known as SURIMI. The CDM report defines SURIMI as “a stabilized myofibrillar protein obtained from deboned fish flesh i.e. washed with water and blended with cryoprotectants”. GMEPL is located at Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.

Districts of Maharashtra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The project involves installing an Effluent Treatment Plant for treatment of wastewater in order to generate biogas. The project activity will utilize renewable energy technologies to supply thermal energy generated from the biogas for the manufacturing plant, and thereby replace use of fossil fuel. The units include solar thermal water heaters and dryers, solar cookers, energy derived from renewable biomass and other technologies that provide thermal energy.

The project plans to contribute to sustainable development in the following ways:

  1. Social – generate employment opportunities for both skilled and unskilled labour.
  2. Economic – develop renewable sources of energy and create local employment opportunities while helping to conserve finite sources of energy i.e. fossil fuels.
  3. Environment – reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), such as CO2 and CH4, and help improve air and water quality. The controlled environment where the wastewater will be treated will also reduce the strong malodours produced from degradable components of the waste involved in the process, thereby eliminating presence of flies and mosquitoes in the surrounding area.

The project will contribute to technology transfer as it plans to employ an up-flow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) technology for treatment of the wastewater. Wastewater treatment in seafood industry is mentioned in the CDM report to be among the first of its kind in India in terms of technology, geography, sector, type of investment and investor, market, etc. The capture of biogas & utilization of captured biogas as a fuel for thermal purposes is also a new concept in the seafood industry in India.

UASB Scheme

The positive impact of the project is the reduction of GHG emissions in the atmosphere. The characteristic of this new technology also leaves a positive effect on the air quality in the surrounding environment, and the methane gas is not wasted since it is utilized to produce energy. Negative impacts on the air would be due to the emissions of burning biogas for energy generation. However, it would emit less hazardously since biogas is considered to be a relatively “clean” fuel.

The baseline of the CDM project would be to continue using open anaerobic lagoons to treat the wastewater, as opposed to closed digesters that lead to capturing methane.

The project activity is a less known technology in seafood industry not only in the state of Maharashtra but also in India. To justify the additionality of the proposed project, the CDM report states that prevailing practices in India and existing regulatory or policy requirements would have led to implementation of a technology with higher GHG emissions.

The project was seen as a risk in the opinion of investors who would prefer to opt for an anaerobic deep lagoon as a wastewater treatment facility. To overcome this challenge face in the implementation of the project, the report states that the CDM revenue is expected to alleviate the significant barriers by providing the additional revenue for the plant, which would be gained by the sale of carbon credits.

The CDM report does not particularly mention anything with regard to the climate resilience of the project, but given that it is dealing directly with the seafood industry, it might be affected by the amount of  seafood being produced.  Nonetheless, the structure and technology itself can be assumed to remain minimally affected by future climate change.

Example of a UASB Tank

 


The Paradox of Hunger and Obesity

Through our course on Rural Development, I learned of the complexities within the global food market, and how problems of food insecurity have arisen as a result of several factors, such as poverty, inequality, and social conflict. The problem of food insecurity has also been exacerbated by the processes involved in globalization, international trade, and technological advancement.

Among the many issues we touched on in class, however, one topic that I was able to learn more in detail (due to the group work that was assigned to us) was regarding the paradox of hunger and obesity. It is a fact that the two problems could co-exist in a given society or community. According to the New York Times, the paradox could exist in the same household or even in the same individual: “the hungriest people in America today, statistically speaking, may well be not sickly skinny, but excessively fat” (Dolnick, 2010).

Fresh Produce

The country that my group decided to focus on was India because naturally the idea that we had on the topic of hunger vs. obesity mainly involved developing countries and economies in transition. We wanted to look at how the rapidly growing economy of India is dealing with these major issues and how it is affecting the development of the country.

However, reading more and more on this issue made me think of developed countries such as the United States, and how they too are experiencing this sort of problem. But in industrialized countries like the U.S, hunger or more accurately referred to in official reports as “food insecurity”, may not necessarily be physically apparent. For example, a person could be living in hunger, but due to the lack of access to fresh produce or inability to go to a proper grocery store, he or she will turn to eating whatever is available which could be pizzas, doughnuts, and other greasy types of food. These instant and unhealthy forms of food are often available at relatively low prices and frequent consumption of it causes individuals to become excessively overweight.

As explained by Mr. Berg, author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America?,  “When you’re just trying to get your calorie intake, you’re going to get what fills your belly…And that may make you heavier even as you’re really struggling to secure enough food” (Dolnick, 2010).

Surviving on Fast Food

Many cases of food insecurity can be found in districts of New York, especially in boroughs like Brooklyn and the Bronx. From my own experience of living in New York City, I can see how the two problems of hunger and obesity could co-exist. As a young student with limited budget, I myself often frequented McDonald’s and other fast food joints simply because they were more accessible (their chains can be found at any given block in NYC) and because they were able to offer meals at low prices. However, I was fortunate in that I possessed other options to choose from, such as fresh vegetables and halal meat because I could afford to purchase them at the local grocery store.

Imagine the limitations of other groups of youth who may not be able to afford such options, and so have no choice but to survive daily on dollar menus that consist of fatty burgers and greasy fries.

According to Dr. Rundle of Columbia, the problem of hunger and obesity among the poor can also be caused by their lifestyle, an outcome of poverty: “Poor people ‘often work longer hours and work multiple jobs, so they tend to eat on the run’… ‘They have less time to work out or exercise, so the deck is really stacked against them’” (Dolnick, 2010).

Indeed the curious case of hunger and obesity is one that researchers are still trying to understand. It may be surreal for some of us to think of overweight people as individuals who are actually living in hunger. But the truth is that it happens and it is happening now as I write this blog post, which is why it is crucial for community leaders, legislators and policy-makers to understand that it is a hidden form of poverty, and can be linked to unemployment and major health concerns. If not seriously addressed, the paradoxical relationship between hunger and obesity will continue to persist and has potential to bring negative impacts to society as well as impede the sustainable development of a nation.

Obesity Trends in the U.S. from 1985 - 2003


Open Innovation: Discovering a World of Ideas and Collaboration

Recently at EOI, my colleagues and I were given an opportunity to contribute our ideas on making EOI more sustainable. It was part of our class assignment and we were instructed to logon to an online platform where we could state our ideas and elaborate on the vision we had in mind. The ideas we uploaded were then shared with students from our class and with those of other Masters programmes at EOI as well. We commented and added on the ideas proposed by our colleagues, which resulted in a sort of online brainstorming where we were able to exchange thoughts and recommendations on the proposed ideas.

Through participating in this activity, I learned about the concept of “Open Innovation”. The term was coined by Chesbrough in his book “Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology” (2003). It derives from the notion that companies have begun shifting from “closed innovation” processes towards a more open approach to innovation due to several factors. These factors include the increase of mobility and availability of highly-educated people, significant increase in availability of venture capital, and also the important roles of other companies in the supply chain. This new model of innovation differs from the traditional model, which placed more emphasis on research and development laboratories. The process of the traditional model involved trimming down large numbers of ideas and concepts and selecting a few that was considered to best meet the requirements of the company. According to openinnovation.eu, Open Innovation functions differently as it works on “combining internal and external ideas as well as internal and external paths to market to advance the development of new technologies.”

Closed Innovation

Open Innovation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proctor & Gamble is an example of a company that has placed its innovation strategy at the heart of its business model. “Connect + Develop” is P&G’s Open Innovation initiative, whereby the company collaborates with external sources to produce innovative products and services. According to its website, 50% of the company’s product initiatives involve significant collaboration with external innovators and that P&G has established more than 1,000 active agreements with its innovation partners. The website invites people to learn how to license and sell their innovation to P&G. Some products that were a result of P&G’s collaboration with other companies are Olay Regenerist (P&G’s skincare organization worked with a small French company that produces the antiwrinkle technology), Pringles Stix (a product provided by its partner in Japan while P&G manages the trademark, distribution, and marketing), Mr Clean (extended its products to go beyond household cleaning, such as auto-cleaning kits), Bounce Lint and Freshness Roller (developed at P&G, but manufactured, distributed, and marketed by OneCARE), and many more involving packaging design, trademark licensing, and programs that leverage on word-of-mouth advocates.

(Click here to visit P&G’s Connect + Develop webpage)

This concept of collaborating and innovating together to produce a product that improves customers’ experience and satisfies their expectations is a very interesting approach that a company could adopt. It shows how businesses could benefit by sharing ideas and collaborating through Open Innovation to not only gain profit, but also add value and make a difference in the lives of their customers through their innovative products.


Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): Nord Stream Pipeline

Brief Background on Case Study of Nord Stream Pipeline

Nord Stream is a 1,224-km twin pipeline system that is currently underconstruction and is being built to run through the Baltic Sea in order to transport natural gas from Russia to Europe. It is considered as the direct connection between the gas reserves in Russia and the EU’s energy markets.

Nord Stream Pipeline

The 10-billion dollar project is handled by Nord Stream AG – an international consortium of five major companies, which are OAO Gazprom, Wintershall Holding GmbH (a BASF subsidiary), E.ON Ruhrgas AG, N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie and GDF SUEZ. Nord Stream AG is based in Zug, Switzerland and was established in 2005 specifically for planning, construction and operations of the gas pipelines.

Due to the transboundary nature of the Nord Stream Pipeline, extensive consultations were conducted with the five countries – Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, from which permissions were required before construction of the pipelines could commence. However, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland were also invited to become a part of the consultation process because the project may also affect their countries.

The Espoo Convention is an agreement that was adopted in 1991 by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. It sets out obligations for parties to assess the environmental impact of projects at an early stage of planning and binds signatory nations to notify and consult one another on grand projects that are likely to have significant environmental impact across boundaries.

Since the Nord Stream Pipeline project involved nine Baltic Sea nations, the Espoo Convention served to remind all the countries affected to review the project’s potential impact. National legislation thus called for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be completed before a national permit for the project could be granted. Hence, Nord Stream conducted various surveys and studies on the Baltic Sea seabed and ecosystem and as a result, the Nord Stream Espoo Report was prepared and published in 2009.

This EIA report is set in a transboundary context with emphasis placed on protecting the environment, and allowing for response from the public and other stakeholders. According to nord-stream.com, some examples of the mitigation measures that were undertaken are the “avoidance of sensitive sites, the scheduling of construction activities to avoid the breeding periods of seabirds and spawning periods of fish, and the use of control measures to manage the spreading of sediments”.

(Click here to download and read the report)

In addition to the agreements established with the countries involved, Nord Stream also launched an environmental monitoring programme at the beginning of the pipelines’ construction in April of 2010, and is planned to continue monitoring the progress of the pipeline through 2016.

The first pipeline (Line 1) has already been completed and delivery of gas from Russia began in November 2011. Both lines of the Nord Stream Pipeline system is expected to be operational by the end of 2012. According to the Nord Stream website, the pipelines combined will be able to deliver up to 55 billion cubic metres of gas annually.

(Source: http://www.nord-stream.com)

Click below to watch a news report on the project partners and European leaders turning the “valve” at the inauguration of the first pipeline, as well as some inputs on EU energy security.

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Climate Change Vulnerability: Malaysia

According to the Climate Vulnerability Monitor report of 2010, Malaysia is in general moderately affected by climate change in terms of health impact, habitat loss, and weather disasters. Nonetheless, the report shows that in current trends as well as future forecasts for 2030, climate change will place severe stress on the country’s economy.

Source: Climate Vulnerability Monitor

Under the Readiness Matrix of the Global Adaptation Index (GAIN), Malaysia received a low vulnerability score and high readiness, which places it in the lower-right quadrant of the matrix.

According to GAIN, this means that adaptation challenges could still exist in Malaysia, however it would require little assistance in dealing with them. As seen in the chart below, Malaysia’s GAIN rankings from years 1995 to 2010 indicates that although Malaysia’s position in the order of the ranking has moved up and down over the years, it has nevertheless managed to remain at a generally stable and consistent position.

Source: http://index.gain.org/country/malaysia

It is interesting to note that the report that was prepared by Climate Vulnerability Monitor mentions that almost every country assessed registers high vulnerabilities to at least one climate change impact area (2010 to 2030). Taking also into consideration the climate change challenges that neighbouring countries would experience, and how it could affect the growth of Malaysia’s economy, it is crucial for Malaysia to commit and invest on efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change and mitigate the problems that are associated with it.


Climate Change: GHG Emissions in Malaysia

According to Malaysia’s Second National Communication to the UNFCC (also known as NC2), Malaysia’s Green House Gas (GHG) emissions in 2000 amounts to 222,99 Mt CO2 eq. This is a 55% increase compared to the emissions recorded in the First National Communication (INC) of 1994. However, the report indicates that Malaysia is a net sink due to a removal of 249,78 Mt CO2 eq, which was recorded from Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF). Hence, after accounting for the removal, Malaysia’s net emission based on the expanded calculation is actually -26.79 Mt CO2 eq.

Source: Malaysia Second National Communication to the UNFCC

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions amounted to about 75% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in 2000, which has increased compared to 69% that was reported from INC in 1994. A large portion of Malaysia’s GHG emissions (66%) comes from the Energy sector, which is dominated by the power and auto producers that use fuel in their business activities. While emissions from the Energy, LULUCF, and Waste sectors have increased, the emissions from the Agriculture sector have decreased slightly, due to a change in assumptions and guidelines.

Source: Malaysia Second National Communication to the UNFCC

In analysing the NC2 report, and taking into consideration the fact that Malaysia is rapidly developing, it can be assumed that GHG emissions are most likely to increase in the future. However, the Government has prepared mitigation plans, which includes reducing GHG emission intensity of GDP by up to 40% of 2005 levels by 2020 (as announced by the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister at Copenhagen during COP15). Hence, there is still hope for the country to keep its rate of GHG emissions under control if policies are implemented successfully, for Malaysia to reach the goals of its Vision 2020 in a sustainable manner.

Source: Malaysia Second National Communication to the UNFCC


Environment & Natural Resource Management: Today’s Slogan

Group 1 slogan for today’s class:

DIALOGUE FOSTERS SUSTAINABLE CIVIL SOCIETY.


Environment & Natural Resource Management

Group 1 slogans for the previous class:

1. SOCIAL & ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES: TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN. INVEST ON IT.
2. SOCIAL & HUMAN CAPITAL: OUR NETWORK FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.


Sustainability: MDGs – Northern Africa

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight development goals that member states have agreed to achieve by the year 2015.

The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

Northern Africa, which is one of the regions studied in the MDG report, is geopolitically made up of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, South Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara. The Canary Islands and Madeira Islands are also sometimes included in this categorization.

Map of Northern Africa

According to the MDG 2011 report, Northern Africa is one of the poorest regions in the world, with high levels of poverty and unemployment, and many children are undernourished. However, it has managed to make considerable progress towards reaching its MDGs.

Although the level of development in Northern Africa has not been equal to other regions, there have been significant improvements compared to past trends. For example, the report states that the region has experienced an increase, albeit slow, in primary school enrolment. The report mentions that being female, poor and living in a country affected by conflict are three of the most pervasive factors keeping children out of school.

(Click here to visit the UN MDGs website)

In terms of health and sanitation, Northern Africa is the only region that has already surpassed its MDG sanitation target, with increasing coverage from 72 per cent in 1990 to 89 per cent in 2008. Many children are still at risk of being born with HIV, but access to contraceptives for women has also made significant progress, and there has been improvement in skilled attendants at birth, which has reduced child mortality. Hence, the combination of these improvements has led to fewer births at age of reproduction and decreased instances of maternal deaths.

In terms of education and women’s development, Northern Africa is leading the way to improved youth literacy rate and is seeing an increased participation of women in parliament in addition to the number of educated mothers. However, although more girls are attending school, unequal access to education continues to persist in many areas of the region.

With regard to the environment, Northern Africa is the least contributor of CO2 emissions, but it is at risk of suffering from climate change and environmental degradation. For example, the MDG 2011 report states that its water resources are no longer sustainable.

From the information provided by the report, it seems that Northern Africa is on track to fulfilling its MDGs as the bar charts show that it is inching closer towards reaching its development goals for 2015. However, the progress has been quite slow and there are still many problems that need to be addressed. The global economic crisis has also contributed to an increase in debt, which can set back its efforts. Thus, much work is needed at national level, and international cooperation and support in terms of providing knowledge and tools to assist in its progress would be helpful.

In studying the conditions of Northern Africa and comparing its levels of development with other regions of the world, I couldn’t help but be reminded of United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s statement made on the ‘Day of 7 Billion’:

“Our world is one of terrible contradictions. Plenty of food but one billion people go hungry. Lavish lifestyles for a few, but poverty for too many others. Huge advances in medicine while mothers die everyday in childbirth, and children die every day from drinking dirty water. Billions spent on weapons to kill people instead of keeping them safe.”

(click here to read opening remarks of Ban Ki-Moon on Day of 7 Billion)

Nevertheless, according to the MDG report, economic growth has increased in some developing countries and international funding has resulted in expansion of programmes that delivers services and resources to those most in need.

Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary-General

Hence, I believe that the MDG is crucial in keeping track of countries’ progress as it holds them accountable and pushes leaders to set global and national priorities, as well as measures to follow up on their countries’ goals for development.

Yes, our world is one of terrible contradictions, but with a clear set of goals, perseverance, determination and support from global institutions and other nation-states, we are as what Mr. Ban Ki-Moon says “7 billion strong”. I sincerely hope that the countries of the world, including those in Northern Africa, will continue to progress and achieve their MDGs by 2015, for the betterment of their people and the world.

(Click below to view videos on the MDG Acceleration Framework and the Joint Programme on Leave No Women Behind)

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Energy Planning: Energy Efficiency Measures in Malaysia

Sustainable use of energy has been emphasized in Malaysia’s development plans and supported by Government initiatives. Constant efforts have been carried out throughout the years to reduce the country’s dependency on its finite sources of thermal power. Environmental considerations are also increasingly being taken into account in the formulation of more recent policies.

Malaysia has several measures implemented to deal with energy efficiency, which have been translated through national policies and regulations such as the National Energy Policy, Electricity Supply Act, Efficient Management of Electrical Energy Regulation 2008, and the National Energy Efficiency Master Plan which is supposedly in its final stages of formulation.

I particularly like the Fifth Fuel Policy, which was introduced under the 8th Malaysia Plan (8MP) between 2001-2005 because it established Renewable Energy (RE) as the Fifth Fuel to be included into the national energy mix – which used to be comprised only of oil, gas, coal and hydro.

As a result, the Small Renewable Energy Programme (SREP) was launched to encourage and intensify the utilization of RE in power generation. Under this programme, small renewable energy power generation plants can sell up to 30 MW of electricity that has been generated to the utility through the Distribution Grid System. The renewable energy sources that have been identified under this programme are biomass, biogas, solar, mini-hydro and solid waste.

Then under the latest 10th Malaysia Plan (2011), Malaysia set a target to derive 5% of its energy production from RE by 2015. This has led to Government-provided incentives such as feed-in tariffs (FiT) which have been incorporated into the electricity tariffs to support the development of RE.

In my opinion, the measures adopted by Malaysia to become more energy efficient has evolved with time and has been refined to reflect the Government and people’s changing awareness and attitudes on energy security and the importance of energy-saving.

I feel that more knowledge on this important issue needs to be transmitted to the general public, especially the youth and the rural communities. I think that a country cannot truly advance its goals for energy efficiency without engaging the people to participate in its efforts. The people play a major role in reducing energy consumption and preventing waste of energy where possible, as they are, after all, the consumers. I believe that Malaysians already understand the importance of energy efficiency and living more sustainably, but I hope that as responsible citizens,  we will try to place our knowledge of what we know into daily practices and good habits.

As Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said,

“Our planet can no longer withstand man’s unsustainable consumption and wastage. It’s our moral responsibility to bequeath to our children a more pristine and healthy planet.”(quote sourced from Bernama.com)

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Project Management: Rio Madrid Project

A block away from where I reside here in Madrid lies the Manzanares River, and ever since I moved into my apartment, I have been fascinated with the sights of the parks and facilities available alongside the river. Everyday on my way to EOI, I never fail to see people young and old walking, jogging, cycling, rollerblading, or skateboarding along the cemented “river banks” of the Rio Manzanares.

When I first arrived in this area, I assumed that the structures built along the river had been around for a long time, but I soon came to learn that it is in fact a relatively new project. That would explain its “new” look and feel, which resonates from its clean walls, bridges, and pathways.

Generally referred to as the Rio Madrid project, it is well known for its transformational plan and costly budget. Through landscaping and planning strategies, the City Council aimed to change the social activities in Madrid by improving the urban integration between the centre, south, and east districts of the city.

(Click here to view a pamphlet of “Madrid Rio”)

The idea of the project was to transform one of the most degraded and neglected zones of the city to become one of the most beautiful, cultural areas with “green” qualities. Its completion was also intended to convert the Manzanares River from an urban barrier into a meeting place for citizens and a connection between neighbourhoods and facilities.

Madrid Rio - Before and After (Source: urbanistdispatch.com) Click on image to view larger version! 🙂

In relation to our course on Project Management, I decided to take a brief look at this huge makeover project to learn more on how it was planned and delivered.

The planning management of the project was first sub-divided into two phases due to its technical complexity and the high amount of investment required to complete the project. The two phases focused on different objectives which were:

1. Madrid Calle 30 (Phase 1) – to bury the M-30 highway, and

2. Madrid Río (Phase 2) – to treat the area surrounding the river by building parks, playgrounds, infrastructure, and other facilities.

The cost of the project was €3.9 billion for the Calle 30 Project and €485 million for the Madrid Rio Project. Access to the park and river was officially opened to the public on 15 April 2011. The park extended to a total area of ​​1,210,881 meters square, where 33,623 new trees of 47 species, 38 species of shrubs 470,844, and 210,898 meters square of prairie have been planted.

Like all projects, it went through a feasibility phase, planning phase, executing and controlling phase, and a closure phase.

In a project as big as this one, the objectives were met step-by-step through smaller projects that were carried out to focus on specific areas that would be affected. For example, one project would deal with the areas of Casa de Campo and Manzanares districts, while another would execute the project in areas of Palacio-Puerta del Angel districts. The planning of many focused projects such as these under one big project, displays the work breakdown structure (WBS) of the whole project as well as the divergence and convergence of the work paths that would occur in the process.

With regard to the duration of the project, the reform and burial of the M-30 along the Manzanares River was conducted in the 2003 to 2007 term.

In 2005 the Madrid City Council convened an international ideas competition to recover the space that was freed from traffic. A draft was submitted by the West 8 urban design and landscape architecture and M-Rio Arquitectos, which was formed by Burgos & Garrido, Porras & La Casta, Rubio & Álvarez-Sala.

Artistic Bridge at Manzanares River - This photo was taken with my iPhone in October 2011.

After undergoing a period of consultation, the project involving the park was scheduled to begin in late 2008. Through this part of the project, the space where the old road used to be was transformed into a large park that joined El Pardo with the municipality of Getafe. It is also supposed to connect green zones and historic gardens, and recover use of the river. Here, it can be noted that the project shows a typical finish to start dependency from one task to another because the project involving the park could only begin once the project of burying the M-30 was completed.

Some parts of the project also ran parallel to one another, hence the timelines of each parts of the project overlapped on specific years. The general timeline of the project at large shows that the special planning for the park was scheduled to take place from 2007 to 2008, while the project execution was to run from 2008 until 2010. Since it was opened to the public in 2011, it is assumed that the project was completed on time.

Indeed, the project reminds me of the Cheonggyecheon river restoration, which I had the opportunity to visit on several occasions during the course of my brief internship at Seoul, South Korea in 2008.

The large scale of the Rio Madrid Project was an impressive attempt by the Madrid City Council to transform the landscape of the area surrounding the Manzanares River. From my own experience of reading, hearing, and observing the outcomes of the project, several pros and cons can be identified. From the project management perspective, the project was completed on time but the budget was not well planned, and although it had achieved some of the outcomes that were desired, parts of the community were not pleased with the design of the walkway that combined pedestrians with cyclists. Environmentalists had also pointed out the adverse effects that the project had on the ecosystem connected to the river, while some argued that the river was only being used aesthetically as it still remained inaccessible. Nevertheless, according to a few residents living nearby the area, the outcome of the project has greatly reduced noise pollution, beautified the area, and it is obvious that the facilities made available are being put to good use by many people (myself included) that currently reside in Madrid.

Click below to view a video on Madrid Río Project.

YouTube Preview Image

New Year, New Knowledge!

Hi everyone!

This week is our first week back at EOI after a long Christmas holiday! The New Year brings a new beginning for many of us and especially for students of the IMSD programme, we are being introduced to new modules that will help to open our eyes more to the world of Sustainable Development, and nurture our creative and innovative minds.

Today we began a course on Environmental and Natural Resource Management and one of our tasks is to come up with a slogan within our assigned groups on what we think summarizes or represents the day’s class.

So my fellow team mates and I (Group 1: Syafrina, Diana, Luca, Aitana) came up with our first slogan that we think reflects the lessons learned in our first class on Environmental and Natural Resource Management, which is:

ECOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY

I think that all of us are looking forward to attending our new courses this year, and contributing more of our diverse and dynamic ideas in class to further expand our knowledge on topics of interest. And knowing my fellow classmates of the IMSD programme, we will continue to do so just that… the way we always do!

Best wishes to all! 😉

10 Jan. 2012 - IMSD students with Leda Stott, Director of the IMSD Programme at EOI


DP: In Hopes of a Better Future with Better Leaders

Along the course of my blog posts on development perspectives, I have deliberately touched on diverse issues that are related in one way or another to Sustainable Development. That is because I think it is such a cross-cutting topic that reaches so many aspects of our public and private spheres.

Through my writings and our class discussions, I have come to realise that when we discuss about development and the many paths that lead to it, many times the concept and practice of “good governance” comes up.

In my last post, for example, on Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement, I learned that the condition of the environment and the management of resources can reflect the type of governance that is being practiced in a given country. In the case of Kenya, people speaking out against the deforestation of a strip of forest eventually led to the downfall of a dictatorship. So whether we want to believe it or not, the condition and governance of the environment actually plays a deep role in the maintenance of peace and stability as it involves not only trees and nature, but human rights and democracy too.

Thus, it would seem to me that even if a country were to have the perfect social, economic, and environmental resources, and created the most intelligent think tank that crafted the best system to develop the country, it would all go downhill if the leader(s) or government is corrupt, authoritative, untransparent, discriminatory, disconnected from the people, and possess other characteristics that are associated with “bad governance”.

In one of our classes, we were given the opportunity to listen and speak to Mr. Martin Kalungu-Banda through a Skype session. He taught us that leader’s priorities are people’s priorities, and I was particularly moved by some of his words as I have personally seen how leaders can disregard the priorities of the people in order to gain their own political and economic benefits.

I remember when he said (non-verbatim) that “when you stay in power so long, you get sick… you begin to feel that you deserve to be where you are, doing what you are doing.” This idea of being “sick with power” is a scary notion but history has proven, time and again, that it is not just a horror version of a fairytale but is in fact a serious problem that truly occurs in real life to many leaders and their people out there.

The question is how do we build and maintain “good governance”? In the current scenario, does it even exist? Is there a cure for this so-called “power disease”? I would like to believe that there is a solution for it. In the meantime, we still require a system of checks and balances to limit power because if not curbed, a leader in power has potential to transform from hero to villain by abusing the powers that were entrusted to him/her.

In his book, Leading Like Madiba: Leadership Lessons from Nelson Mandela, Mr. Kalungu-Banda gives the following advice:

“Great leaders know how to move themselves from centre-stage. They know also when it is time to go. They prepare for it and make sure they have a successor who will build on what they have achieved. They enable other people to emerge as potential candidates. This is what sustains the leader’s legacy while guaranteeing a smooth transition. It is not about cloning themselves; it is recognising that they cannot lead forever and that they must create the conditions for fresh leadership to emerge.”

Perhaps then the greatest solution should come from within the leader’s own self – that is to be able to recognise that power is a privilege, not a right, and to know when one’s time in power has run its course.

For many of us, the New Year symbolises the beginning of a better tomorrow. As 2011 comes to an end, I wish the world love, health, peace, prosperity and most importantly, better leadership and improved governance in all sectors.

Here’s looking to a better future!

Happy 2012!!! 🙂


DP: Seeds of Life

Hola!

I hope everyone had a wonderful and merry Christmas over the weekend with family and friends. It’s a cold Monday night in Madrid, but warm thoughts of my family and tropical paradise located on the other side of the globe are helping me get through this winter season. 🙂

I was taking time to do some additional research on the group project that I am currently working on. My teammates and I were tasked to research and analyse on the Green Belt Movement (GBM), which was founded by the late Prof. Wangari Muta Maathai – an inspirational leader, role model, women’s rights activist, and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from Kenya who recently passed away this year after a long battle with cancer.

Wangari Muta Maathai (1940-2011)

The more I read of Prof. Maathai and listen to her speak in videos of past interviews on the importance of protecting the environment, conserving resources, and learning about the causes and symptoms of environmental degradation, the more amazed I am with the vision and pure determination that someone like her possessed.

Who would have thought that the simplest act of planting a small seed could lead to a better standard of living? It lead me to believe, more than ever, that environmental protection and sustainability is indeed essential to us as it is directly linked to our livelihoods as human beings. Simply put, when our environment is in bad condition, our lives will be in bad condition as well. Thomas Berry states, “the natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to diminish our own existence.”

Prof. Maathai’s wisdom has reminded us that if we were to plant and nurture a fruit tree, it bears fruit that can be fed to children and sold in the market, it provides a cool shade, prevents soil erosion, conserves rainwater, and absorbs CO2. If more trees are planted, the benefits will surely multiply.

Through its efforts to restore ecosystems and increase national forest cover, the GBM claims that it has planted over 45 million trees in Kenya. Planting trees has also helped to increase household income, and has become a source of strength and self-determination to many women who participated in the programme, thus empowering women and promoting gender equality. The significant amount of change and development on the environment and community that GBM has helped to achieve, has gained my profound interest and admiration for the works of the late Prof. Maathai who had sought to provide benefits and opportunities for her people and country.

My readings and online research has taught me so much about the significance of planting a tree. Today, the GBM has grown to become more international, with more programmes that range from crop diversification, to environmental education in schools, to capacity building, and more. It also collaborates with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other organisations on global campaigns such as the “Billion Tree” campaign.

Billion Tree Campaign

In my opinion, a complicated problem doesn’t necessarily need to be solved with complicated solutions. When our environment worsens and pulls us further away from our dreams of a better life, why not start with planting a tree?

It will take time, patience, and perseverance but as Prof. Maathai once said, “The planting of trees is the planting of ideas. By starting with the simple step of digging a hole and planting a tree, we plant hope for ourselves and for future generations.”

"The planting of trees is the planting of ideas" - Wangari Maathai

 


Business Strategy: The Case of Mars Ice-Cream

Questions and answers for the case study on Mars ice cream’s distribution strategy.

1. How would you resume the strategies adopted by Mars to launch its ice cream products?

To come up with the next strategy for Mars in the launching of its ice cream products, we should first analyze the market environment for this type of product, such as its consumers, its competitors and the market penetration of Mars ice cream products. We also need to analyze Mars in terms of its past distribution strategies adopted that have succeeded or failed and the reasons behind the success or failure. We can do this by utilizing the PESTEL analysis to consider all the variables that could affect the sales of Mars ice creams and a SWOT analysis to understand Mars’ internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as the external factors that could lead to opportunities and threats for its ice cream products. We could also use Michael Porter’s 5 Forces to determine the competition and the bargaining powers of the suppliers and buyers. However, since we are only focusing on Mars’ ice cream distribution strategy at the moment, we can attain an overall picture of the barriers, challenges, and competition for Mars ice cream products by utilizing the competitive analysis of Michael Porter’s 5 Forces, as follows:

Michael Porter’s 5 Forces

Barriers to Entry & Exit

• Technological: there is a need for frozen storage and transportation of the ice-cream products are costly.

• Financial: the distribution of Mars ice cream products are costly and items need to be sold in large amounts to balance transportation costs. There are also difficulties of making up economic loads within a compact geographic area.

Potential New Competitors

• Many: there are many ice cream companies out there, but Mars can still be competitive since it uses quality ingredients such as real cream and real chocolate. • Competitors are also offering free freezers to exclusively sell their products, and small retailers have accepted them.

Customers Power of Negotiation

• High: Mars ice cream is generally more expensive than other brands, and its choices are limited. Potential Response Strategy from the Competitors to the activity of our company. • Aggressivity – Mars has failed to negotiate distribution agreements with other companies. The company has been denied access to Unilever and Nestlé freezer cabinets in many European markets.

Suppliers power of negotiation

• Medium: it depends on where the ice cream is distributed because small shop retailers will order less as they can only sell limited numbers, but more can be delivered to supermarkets and hypermarkets as they would be able to store larger amounts of ice cream.

Substitute products or services

• May Exist: the ice cream market is very competitive for Mars but at the moment, the company doesn’t sell dessert ice creams, bulk packs or children’s novelty ice creams, for which there is also demand. There are possibilities for Mars to expand its range of ice creams and combine it with its confectionary products.

Recommendations

• From the analysis conducted above, Mars can resume its next strategy to launch its ice cream products by:

1. Diversifying its ice cream products to fulfill the demands of its consumers. In doing so, it could then offer freezers to the retailers to exclusively sell its products, together with its other range of ice creams.

2. Considering alternative venues for distribution, such as what Oreos did with McDonald’s and what Hershey’s did with Burger King – create an ice cream dessert or a Mars chocolate cheesecake for example, and sell it to fast-food chains’ consumers.

3. Fulfilling the demands of all levels of Mars consumers through creating several ranges of ice cream products that would vary in ingredients, flavor, packaging design and distribution location. For example, an ice-cream range for kids aged 4 to 12 will be packed in colorful, visually attractive packages, have flavors named “icy choc mountain”, “rocky almond”, or “chocolate spaceship”, and will be sold in smaller sizes, at cheaper prices, and distributed at school cafeterias, malls, street vendors, supermarkets, and small shops. On the other hand, the high-end ice-cream range for adults aged 21 and above will be packed in sultry dark colors, with catchy words displayed like “real cream, real chocolate, real Mars”, with flavors named “chocolate seduction”, “Mars meltdown”, or “crème caramel”. It will be like a combination of Magnum and Vienna ice creams.

4. Leveraging on its already popular name brand of confectionary products by focusing the marketing of its ice cream products around the fact that it is Mars, and not just any other typical ice cream on the market. This would serve to remind its consumers of the quality and reputation of its confectionary products, and persuade them to perceive the Mars ice cream as they would perceive the Mars chocolate bar.

2. Do you think that Mars will ever make significant profits from its ice cream operations? Why? How?

Looking at the scenario and information that was provided in the text, it is unlikely that Mars will make significant profit if it continues with “business as usual”. It seems that its range of ice cream targets specific customers & does not reach all consumers such as children. Thus, in the ice cream market that is already dominated by bigger companies, which are competing aggressively, Mars would have to be more dynamic and innovative in launching its ice cream products, and should leverage on the fact that it is already well-known in terms of branding and confectionary distribution. It should also seek ways to cooperate with other non-ice cream companies such as fast food chains or diners, in order to introduce Mars ice cream in their dessert menu. Perhaps then it would have a better chance of attaining a bigger piece of the ice-cream market pie.


Environmental Accounting: Case Study Analysis

Imagine a factory located upstream that pollutes a river. It produces steel for the automotive industry. Downstream, local fishermen find they catch less fishes due to the pollution.

Both are flourishing businesses that produce wealth and prosperity for the community. But there is a problem environmental economists must deal with:

1. Can you suggest any criteria that could be used to decide on who has the right to use the river? The factory, the fishermen, both?

There are several criteria that could be analysed in this particular case, and they include the level of dependence on the river for the fishermen, in comparison to that of the factory. The history of the two parties’ experience with the river should also be taken into account – e.g. who was using the river first and for how long? How important has the river been to each parties’ business? What is the percentage of income generated from using the river? In addition, the magnitude of the pollution in the river caused by the factory can also be studied to understand its environmental effects, such as what element is causing the decrease in number of fishes and whether it will also have an impact on other animals or human beings living in the vicinity of the river. An important criteria that should also be considered are the laws governing the use of the river and other rules or regulations that are enforced, such as natural laws, or environmental laws, in the area where this case takes place.

In many places, a river is generally assumed to be public property and is accessible to the public for multiple uses, such as swimming, fishing, boating, and other activities. In such situations, the river and its running water can be utilized over and over again by the people who use it, as long as the fishes can survive and the quality of the river’s water is maintained.

In this case study, it is obvious that the lives of the local fishermen are dependent on the river as they use it to fish and make profit. The way they practice their fish-catching activities have also been quite safe for the river as the fishes have managed to survive all this while, before the river was polluted by the factory. The cleanliness and well-being of the river is also vital to the rest of the community because a badly polluted river is more likely to cause disease, endanger the lives of fish and other wildlife, produce malodours, and will certainly be an eye-sore to the residents living nearby the river.

On the other hand, the factory is not dependent on the river to make profit. If the river becomes overpolluted or dries up some day, the factory could change the location of their dumping site and this action would have little effect on their business. By dumping their waste into the river, the factory is causing the quality of the river and the area around it to deplete as it gets polluted. Therefore, the factory’s use of the river is causing damage to public property, as the areas around the river, including any residential areas nearby the river are also receiving the negative affects of the pollution. The polluted river becomes detrimental to the community or public as people will not be able to use the river anymore since it is deemed unsafe. The potentially hazardous waste that has been dumped into the river may also leak into the drinking water of the community, and its chemicals may poison animals and other wildlife that utilize the river.

With regard to the economic prosperity that both businesses are contributing to the community, the continuous dumping of waste into the river would mean the end of business for the fishermen, which would greatly affect the local fish market and the economy. However, if the factory can come up with another solution to manage their industrial waste without dumping it into the river, both businesses can continue to flourish and the community can still benefit from the economic activities of both parties.

From the criteria mentioned and the brief analysis of the case above, it can therefore be concluded that the fishermen should have more right to use the river as compared to the factory.

2. Can you propose any instrument or agreement to solve the problem?

A cost-benefit analysis could first be adopted to analyse the costs and benefits of each party’s use of the river. Then for the short term, I would propose the use of regulation, or enforcement of the law to solve this problem. The factory should be fined for polluting the river and causing damage to public property, ordered to stop their dumping of the industrial waste into the river or they would have to shut down the factory, and perhaps some compensation should be extended to the fishermen as well, because their business was badly affected by the pollution, which caused the number of fish in the river to decrease.

For long term, I would suggest the incorporation of extended accounts such as that of the NAMEA into the national account as it takes into consideration the multi-dimensional aspects of the environment and relates it to the economy in efforts to develop sustainably. It could be used to measure the impact of certain cases on the environment, such as the case discussed above, and provide statistical analysis that can be further studied to decide on the best ways to handle future cases concerning the environment.


More Than Managerial Skills

How to become a better speaker, presenter, negotiator, and leader – that’s what my colleagues and I were taught in the course we attended on Managerial Skills. But was that all we learned from Mr. Christopher Metcalfe?

Of course not, because more than that, we were taught on how to enter into the hearts and minds of an audience, how to reach a win-win agreement, how to direct and motivate colleagues, co-workers and subordinates, and also how to manage time more efficiently and carry out tasks in more creative and innovative ways, as opposed to taking the conventional road.

In many respects, it was a class that I found very useful and in fact necessary, especially during a time when employers are seeking job candidates that not only possess knowledge and technical skills, but also the right attitude, conduct, professionalism, ability to handle work under stress as well as to work in teams and collaborate with diverse groups of people.

In Malaysia, for example, I used to work in a department of a government agency that focused on developing the country’s ICT talent pool and one reoccurring issue with ICT graduates, which the employers of multinational corporations reported to us, was the lack of good soft skills.

It is apparent that beyond being able to carry out specific tasks listed under a job description, employers are looking to hire employees that are skillful and knowledgeable but also driven and able to translate and communicate their knowledge to others. Current situations show that even with jobs in the ICT field that were once thought of belonging to the realm of the “geeks”, embodied in this outdated idea of a lone individual who works on the computer without much communication with the outside world, has changed because having basic soft skills are becoming more and more important.

Today, as I have increasingly witnessed and experienced, many jobs require employees to interact with others, attend corporate events, and present findings, suggestions, or ideas to top management.

Through our Managerial Skills course, I was given an opportunity to polish the soft skills that I already possess in a “safe” environment. It made me think as well on how I could go about maximizing the other skills I have, how to better “sell” myself to prospective employers, and how to someday become an influential leader who inspires others. I’m sure anyone who is motivated and driven to succeed will always look for ways to improve and impress.

Thus, in addition to the constant words of encouragement provided by our course teacher/trainer/coach, I believe that the lessons we learned throughout the course, including the priceless advice of doing what we can to avoid “getting shot by the Nazi” are valuable to our future career and undertakings, no matter which field we choose to pursue.


Extreme Thanksgiving

At the moment, many residents in the United States are tucking into their slices of turkey and sweet potato pie, and giving their special thanks on Thanksgiving day.

I, on the other hand, am feeling nostalgic.

As I may (or may not) have mentioned previously, I spent a part of my life growing up in the U.S of A. I still remember the first time I tasted turkey – I was 4 years old and attending kindergarten in Pennsylvania, and it was during Thanksgiving day.

Later on, I spent 6 years growing up in New York, where I attended high school and college, and also grew accustomed to the feasts and festivities associated with Turkey Day. Everytime the seasonal pumpkin soups would begin to appear in local cafes and restaurants, I knew that Thanksgiving day was near and that my birthday was not far from it.

So…in my current state of reminiscence, I happened to come across this online article that related thanksgiving dinner to climate change. Since I had recently posted on how climate change affects our food and diet, in terms of the cocoa, coffee and wine industries, I thought I would also share with you the link to this article and the image below that was taken from the article (click on it to view the larger version), which I thought was interesting.

Happy Thanksgiving & que aproveche! 😉

Extreme Thanksgiving - Source: www.care2.com


DP: Could we have our chocolate, and eat it too?

Hello everyone!

The other day, I stumbled upon an interesting blog post from the World Bank website and was moved to talk abit about its central topic here on my EOI blog.

By now, I’m quite sure that most of us are aware of the threats posed by global warming. We feel every year that our hot summers are getting hotter, we hear news of polar icecaps melting, and we see the sea levels rising and causing major floods in various countries around the world.

But to put things into a more personal perspective, how would climate change affect our households, our daily rituals, and more specifically, our diets?

As mentioned in the blog, climate change could affect even the seemingly trivial portions of our lives. The simple pleasures we enjoy in life, such as the various kinds of coffee we drink, and the different types of chocolates we enjoy – all are at risk of even the slightest change in global temperatures.

It serves as a reminder of how dependent our lives are on the sustainability of the environment.

In relation to development, the consequences of climate change are making a big difference to cocoa, coffee, and wine industries, and of course it directly affects the local farmers whose sources of income are dependent on the production of such commodities.

According to Miller, the author of the blog post, environmental risks involved in countries such as Ghana and Papua New Guinea are already being assessed, and there are efforts to find the best ways of managing the prices, and increasing the sustainability of cocoa and coffee industries.

Miller highlights that “changes big enough to ruin carefully managed, high value commodities like coffee, chocolate and wine will have much larger consequences for bulk commodities, the unmanaged ecosystem, and the way we live and work.”

It is, therefore, eseential to realise that while climate change could indirectly affect our eating and drinking habits, its effects on a larger scale could threaten the lives of farmers and the poor worldwide, as well as impede the development of our economies. As we undergo development at a time when the world is witnessing and experiencing rapid climate change, I believe that it becomes ever more important for our generation to find the best means of managing the environmental risks involved in our near future, doing what we can to reduce our carbon footprints, and developing in ways that are sustainable for the economy, the society, and the environment.

Being a true chocoholic myself, Miller’s notion that to save the chocolate, we must first save our planet, is one that I couldn’t agree with more! It is, after all, the only planet with chocolate.. and where would we be without it? 🙂


M-Learning

Earlier today, my colleagues and I each received a Samsung Galaxy Tab from EOI! 😀

We were so intrigued with our new device that we wasted no time in taking it out of its box to explore the look and feel of its internal operating system and external features.

So there I was, sitting in the classroom with my iPhone, iPad, and Galaxy Tab all laid out on the desk infront of me. I was literally surrounded by smart technology!

me & my new Galaxy Tab! 😉 (taken from my iPhone)

Before the tablets were distributed to us in class, we were given a brief talk in the auditorium on M-learning A.K.A. mobile learning. Although a major part of the talk was delivered in Spanish, I was able to understand the main points that the speakers were trying to convey.

It really made me think of how the use of mobile technology has changed the way I function and live my life in recent years.

Certainly, M-learning is nothing new to me, and to a lot of Malaysians at this point of our nation’s rapid stage of development. In Kuala Lumpur, for example, one can witness people young and old – business men and women, academics, civil servants, students, teens – using various brands of smartphones and tablets, on cars and public transportation and at the airport, offices, universities, cafes, malls, etc. It seems as though everyone is always connected, even when we’re on the go, and that there is no excuse for ignorance since access to information is readily available at the touch or tap of our fingertips.

At my last place of employment, I worked at a government agency in a department that specifically focused on developing the skills and knowledge of our country’s ICT talent pool. Thus, I was always in the presence of those carrying tablets, smartphones, and laptops with the latest software programmes to meetings, discussions, and conferences. I was also exposed to the most visually eye-catching and creative Powerpoint presentations, and often overheard my superiors rave over the latest tech updates and insider stories on upcoming gadgets from industry partners. I remembered attending a meeting at a university and finding out that there were many students who went to class without textbooks, but instead with digital books that they downloaded onto their respective tablets.

Although I still love the feel and smell of a binded book in my hand, I am at the same time amazed at how fast our societies are picking up this concept of mobile living and learning, and embracing the introduction of new forms of technologies in our lives. Before I left for Spain, 3D television was beginning to catch on in my country, and now I wonder if our future generation would gain their education in a 3D-enabled classroom. 🙂

At the moment, I am absolutely thrilled with my new tablet because it has a front and back camera, the resolution seems to be very sharp, and the touch sensor is also quite precise. I have yet to explore its apps and other features, and am trying my best to manage all the smart devices I have with me here. My only concern, of course, is making sure that they all stay fully charged!

 


DP: The Face of Development

It’s already November, which means that 2012 is just around the corner. How time flies! In the past few weeks, I have been busy attending classes at EOI and working on group projects and presentations as well as other assignments. But no matter how arduous our schedule gets, I am enjoying the process of learning and developing my knowledge on important global issues that I believe affects us all.

Last week, we learned about the theories of development and took a deep look into what development means to each and every one of us. From students to experts to pioneers of development, there seems to be many perspectives on what it is and how it should look like. We realise that the idea of development is subjective, in the sense that it differs depending on where one comes from, one’s ethnic and cultural background, economic and social status, religion and ideology, and even gender. It also varies based on one’s life encounters and interactions with the rest of the world.

So what does the “face” of development look like?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it displayed through the erection of tall, skyscrapers? Is it having the freedom of suffrage? It is internet access through high-speed fibre optic broadband?

Is it seen in food and water? Is it biodiversity and the survival of plant and animal species? Or maybe is it apparent in the number of women representatives in parliament?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I think we can agree upon is that development occurs in stages. I believe that it is an evolutionary process that requires time and an amount of nurturing, and that it is ever-changing, according to the visions of the society that may shift from time to time.

In my lifetime, I have witnessed both positive and negative consequences of development around the globe. It has made some people rich, while others remain below the poverty line, it has given way to modern infrastructure and transportation that make our lives more convenient, while also contributing to air and water pollution that are the essentials of our survival.

“Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”, they say, but I believe that whatever the “face” of development may look like to each of us, we will ultimately see ourselves in its complexion and while we strive for it, we should keep in mind on whether it is truly expressing what we want and expect ourselves to be in the future.


¡Hola EOI!

¡Hola a todos!  =D

I’m Syafrina and I come from Malaysia. I am currently a student of the International Masters in Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility (IMSD) at Escuela de Organización Industrial (EOI).

YouTube Preview Image
Click on the above video to watch Leda Stott, Director of the IMSD at EOI talk about the Master’s programme.

I was raised in various countries and cities such as Leeds in United Kingdom, Pennsylvania and New York City in United States, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, and recently I spent a year of my life in Perugia, Italy. I guess I am what some would refer to as a “Third Culture Kid”. However, growing up with a mother who managed to escape poverty through education and worked hard to become who she is today, I was always taught to remember my roots and where I come from. Thus, Malaysia is close to my heart, and I often try to seek means and ways to contribute my skills and knowledge to the development of my nation, the Southeast-Asian region, and thereby the world.

My arrival in Madrid was my first taste of Spain. Since the day I landed in this bustling city situated in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula, I have encountered a hybrid of both sweet and sour events, which have all been life-learning experiences to me as an international student.

Regardless of some of the challenges I have faced, I am happy to note here that upon commencement of the IMSD programme, my life in Madrid has become more and more fascinating as I meet and get to know my fellow comrades, professors/trainers/mentors, and others at EOI who hail from all sorts of countries, backgrounds, and expertise. It is truly amazing for me to witness the diversity of all my colleagues’ cultures, languages, thoughts, skills, perspectives, and more.

EOI Signboard - This picture was captured on the first day I arrived at EOI.

 

Today was the second day of our academic programme here at EOI and already I feel as though I’ve learned what some could have taken months or even years to attain! For that, I’m sincerely grateful for being given the opportunity to study here in this particular programme. It makes all the obstacles I’ve faced to get myself here completely worth it and I would like to personally thank EOI for the warm welcome you’ve given us.

Studying at EOI, I hope to absorb as much knowledge and wisdom as I possibly can on critical issues surrounding Global Climate Change and Sustainable Development, as well as the important role of Corporate Social Responsibility on society, the environment, and the global economy. Of course at the same time, I would love to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and maybe even adopt the madrileño accent.. haha..  🙂

Together with my fellow classmates, I look forward to learning, exploring, dreaming, and experiencing all that the IMSD programme at EOI has to offer and am truly glad to be a part of it. As one of my favourite authors, Paulo Coelho, states:

“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience”

‘Til my next post, hasta luego!



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