Don’t Forget Your Homework: The Importance of Risk Assessments

No-one is likely to die as a consequence of my current work, so why bother? Because things do go wrong, risk assessments are an important way of preparing for handling the awkward moments. Whenever undertaking a new piece of work, engaging with a new group or applying a new tool.

First impressions count

First impressions in facilitation, however, are more than the type of clothes you wear. We need to spend more time in the contact phase. We need to give more emphasis to the learning journey at the start of programmes.

Failing to re-contract

When things go wrong, it’s like a domino. With much of the work remotely, the report was all over the place, written by different people with different ideas on their minds. We went around in circles. External circumstances changed and the direction of the work took a U-turn.

When things don’t go right

Who has not fallen learning to ride a bicycle? As a keen road cyclist, who uses clips in her shoes, I know that if you use clips, no matter how good a cyclist you are, you will fall when you try and unclip the shoes unexpectedly – and the fall will seem ridiculous to people watching, as it all happens in slow motion. It is a matter of “when” rather than “if” you will fall off your bike!

Cities and urban poverty

“How can a Brazilian environmental consultant not be specialised in forests?” Most Europeans I come across immediately associate environmental issues in Brazil to the Amazon. I always have to explain over and over that over 75% of the Brazilian population live in cities and that the environmental problems of cities are as important as those in the Amazon.

Don’t Ask More From People Than What They Can Give

Having studied in a Catholic school, from a very early age I was told to follow the Golden Rule: “You should treat others as you would like others to treat yourself”. I always had a slight problem with this rule, what about if others don’t like the way I treat myself?

The Joys and Pitfalls of Co-facilitation

Co-facilitation is like dating, you only find out if there is chemistry between you and the other co-facilitator if you try it. If you have a chance to co-facilitate, go for it! However, be aware of the pitfalls and try to have a mitigation plan if things go wrong.

Dealing With Technology

About 45% of the people said they can’t spend more than one day without their mobile, with 62% checking it at least once an hour. In this context, how should we treat technology in adult classroom environment?

Time to change the way we teach: a revolution is needed

We have been teaching the same subjects, in the same way, for decades. The props we use have changed: we have technology gadgets now. Rather than the blackboard, we use PowerPoint (which can more often than not be called “death by PowerPoint”). Apart from technology, however, the concept of teaching has remained unchanged. The teacher passes down hard facts and information to the students, who are expected to digest it and articulate their views in an essay.

Embracing Uncertainty

How many times have we heard: “… and then something else happened.” No matter how much we plan, when it comes to implementation of plans, something else often happens. Yet, for some strange reason some people, like me, are obsessed with planning. I’ve had people praise me for my target-oriented personality. In fact, since I was a child I had my whole life planned ahead of me.

Living As A Whole Person – Not As A Facebook Profile

When people ask me what I do for a living I often ponder if I should give them the short answer or the long answer. The short answer is that I am an “environmental consultant”. Sometimes, I go a step further into explaining that environment has many meanings and that I have specialized into sustainable development and climate change, that actually have a lot to do with people, society and the way we run our economy.

Life is a Journey

Rabbi Alvin Fine, Life is a journey and death a destination poem is so simple and so beautiful for its truthful account of the cycles of life. Seeing death as a destination does not mean that “whatever you do does not matter, as we will all die anyway”. Much on the contrary, because our lives are finite, we should be truthful to ourselves and make the most of each phase on the journey.

Is talking about our vulnerability allowed in the workplace?

Guy Winch states in his TED Talk: ‘Why we all need to practice emotional first aid’. As much attention should be given to our mental health as to our physical health. He argues that we talk easily about physical pain, like broken bones, upset stomach, migrane and that we should do the same about emotional pain, like failure, rejection, guilt, loss, or loneliness.

Finding Your Flock

There are different ways to bounce back to positive mode. One of my coping strategies is to build relationships with people that share the same principles and values as I do. I used to look for people with similar passion to sustainability unconsciously, until I heard a talk on diversity and leadership by Gita Patel. She highlighted five simple lessons we can take from nature by observing how geese fly.

Why sincere apologies matter

Why sincere apologies matter

“Sorry” is perhaps the most used expression in the English dictionary after “Thank you”. Yet, most of the times it is used involuntarily. It is done sort of unconsciously without much thought into it. In the same way that breathing is an involuntary movement of our bodies, apologizing and being thankful are involuntary verbalizations of the British culture. British people are conditioned to say “sorry” and “thank you” from the moment they first speak!

Multiple versions of one-self

If you examine our lives deeper, we will find out that each and all of us have many different lives. Maybe not as glamorous as the superheroes. But just like them, we tend to hide our different lives according to the circles we are in. We are used to putting people in professional categories: he is a doctor, she is a lawyer, that other one is an engineer, and so on.

Daring to change the way we do business

The power of metaphors and creative tools is underestimated in our professional environments. It is seen as a “childish tool”. However, research shows that the use of metaphors leads to experiences that are considered transformative because participants new ways of thinking and being, lead to a fuller and richer lived experience.

Creative toolbox: cards and objects

I have taken my creative cards and objects box all over the world. The trick is to ask people to pick the card/object first, and then only after they pick it, we ask the question of how that represents and describes whatever it is you want to discuss. At first, there is always a strange reaction from participants and a level of scepticism, which is normal. But then people get into it.

Beyond participatory approaches

At the extreme end of the engagement spectrum, where the Whole Person Approach lies, all stakeholders have the same power. This means that the “client” who commissioned the work will “die” and the “expert” delivering the work also “dies”. Both will co-exist with other stakeholders as equal and peers.

Whole Person Approach: the power of combining mind, heart, body and soul

The Whole Person Approach (WPA) enables people to bring more of themselves to their lives, work and communities. WPA works with all aspects of the person (intellectual, emotional, physical, spiritual), the system they operate within, and the inter-relationship between them, including people and planet.

Fly-in/Fly-out development model noticeable on the plane to Sierra Leone and Liberia

I thought I had misheard a fellow passenger taking about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how SDG 16 on peace and access to justice has been the least developed. It turned out that the flight was full of international development consultants. By my right side a lady from the USA (Johns Hopkins University) working with Malaria. On my left side a German lady sharing stories of how Cameroon dealt with HIV amongst sex workers.

BEAR: a verb intrinsically associated to women

In Sierra Leone, I kept hearing people had “bear”… I kept wondering, where has the word come from? Is it related to the animal bear? If so, does the word encapsulate the characteristics of the animal? Krio is a “fascinating mix of English, African, Portuguese, French and other influences, reflecting a unique history of imperialism, slavery and migration.” We have to bo beyond Google Translate to get the meaning of the words.

When gender and immigration biases come together…

“When it is very hot, the water evaporates and then meets cold air in the sky forming the clouds and then it all comes back in the form of rain drops.” By the time my cross-country coach finished his lengthy explanation, I realised he thought that I had never seen rain before!

What difference does being different make?

Everyday we are bombarded with mixed messages about our differences. On one hand, we are encouraged to “think out of the box!”, “find your unique selling point!” and “be who we want to be”. On the other hand, we are told to “fit in”, “adjust our language and message to fit the occasion (or client style)” and “integrate with the society we live in”.

First steps in the long journey of mass virtual education

One Monday in early March 2020 I was taking my class of American students on a field trip to the Olympic Park in London. By the next Monday, COVID-19 pandemic had reached the UK. From one week to the other, all my students had gone back to the USA. The rest is history in the very long journey of mass virtual learning.

Influential Resources

In an era of information overload, it is hard to keep track of everything we read and watch that makes a mark on us. We share videos, links, news and academic articles that have influenced and inspired us.

People, Planet and Purpose Programme for Oasis

We co-designed and ran a two-day workshop helping participants to recognise the areas that need more attention in their business and to develop a road map to further deepen their organisation’s applied commitment to social and environmental responsibility. We created a safety space in which participants advanced their thinking on how they could promote change within themselves, their organisations and the communities where they live and operate.

Applied Social Project for Sicoob Brazilian Cooperative Bank

We worked with PUC-PR University to design and run a module of their Executive LEadership Programme for Sicoob Cooperative Bank on an Applied Social Project. Using the Whole Person Approach, we introduced innovative tools that allowed participants to consider how they could bring more of themselves to their lives, work and communities.

Globally Responsible Practice 4 All for Bettys and Taylors’ Group

Together with Oasis, we designed and rolled out Bettys & Taylors Group’s (BTG) programme of globally responsible practice for all employees. We helped their employees connect their passions to their work and identify leverage points and strategic projects in their roles that would improve BTG’s performance even more.

Applied Social-Environmental Project for SANEPAR Water in Brazil

We designed and run a module of the Executive Leadership Programme for SANEPAR Water Company on an Applied Social Project. Using Oasis’ Whole Person Approach, we introduced innovative tools that allowed participants to consider how they could bring more of themselves to their lives, work and communities.

Leadership Programmes for Future of London

We supported Future of London (FoL) in an interim part-time role of Head of Leadership. We were responsible for their leadership programmes: Future London Leaders and Leaders Plus. We ensured the courses were aligned with the evolving needs of FoL’s members. Working with the FoL team and Associates, we brought together regeneration, housing, infrastructure and economic development practitioners to embark on a learning journey; gaining confidence, navigating complexity and becoming excellent communicators.

Lecturer and Dissertation Supervisor for Birkbeck College – University of London

We have taught a variety of courses, from modules on Sustainable Business Practice for Master’s students to Environmental Management Strategy for American undergraduates in an exchange programme. We brought innovative adult learning methodologies to class and used dynamic activities and real-life examples that aid students in understanding the connections between theory and practice. Mixing personal development coaching technics with academic theory, we helped students shape their dissertation and connect their past, their present and their future.

CSR and Governance MBA Module for Germany’s Northern Institute of Technology

We co-facilitated an annual cohort of MBA students from Germany’s Northern Institute of Technology (NIT) in Hamburg on a four-day journey on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Governance. Together, we explored how corporatations can promote a sustainable future, growth and reputation, and at the same time become more responsible globally.

London, People and Planet Module for Ithaca College London Centre

Built around field trips to diverse locations around London, the course is framed by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Doughnut Economics. We apply the Ikigai concept as a tool for personal development to connect the learning from the course to action in practice.

Award-winning animation

We produced a one-minute animation with a snapshot of our thinking on two broad topics: truth and power. Winning 3rd place in the video contest at the 2018 conference of the American Evaluation Association, it explores briefly how data and information in evaluations can be transformed into power and action on the results. However, what speaking truth to power means can have a myriad of explanations, depending on who you ask and how you ask.

Learning from Women to Reimagine the Future

Together with Laura Somoggi, Womanity Co-CEO, we co-designed the video-series brought it to life. We had seed funding from the Oasis Foundation and The Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) in-kind support.

Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) for UK-DFID

We played a number of roles in the design and implementation of CDKN. In the first years, we worked on the its bid and shaped the programme’s first strategy, business plan and annual budget. Subsequently, we lead Research and Technical Assistance teams in Asia and Latin America/Caribbean.

Mozambique’s Climate Change Programme for UK-DFID

We designed the business case for BRILHO – Energy Africa Mozambique renewable off-grid energy programme [£34 m / 5-year]. We innovated in the facilitation of the workshops by bringing the World Café methodology to the country for the first time.

Radical Participatory Evaluation for One Girl, Sierra Leone

We pioneered a radically participatory evaluation to determine the impact the Business Brains programme was having on girls and their communities. Using a radical peer-based and strengths-focused methodology we went beyond what is normally understood as a participatory evaluation. We engaged all 11 local staff during all stages of the evaluation.

Pushing the Boundaries of Report Writing

Writing evaluation reports can be as daunting as reading them! With the information collected by three consultants, in more than 130 stakeholders interviews, over ten focus group discussions (FGDs), field visits to four countries and virtual country engagement, to summarize it all in a user-friendly way is a challenge.

Only leaders publish their corporate evaluation results

While publishing evaluation reports is a common practice for international aid programmes financed by governments, it is rare in the case of corporate foundations. We hope other corporate aid programmes will follow the Laudes Foundation’s example of best practice.