I published three posts on LinkedIn during three consecutive weeks as a commitment that I had made to myself.
I was extremely surprised by and gratified at the number of LinkedIn members who had viewed or read these posts. This might seem a bit puzzling to you but I was ‘gobsmacked’, for want of a better word. I never expected that so many members would show interest in my posts and check them out.
I would like to say a sincere ‘thank you’ to those of you who took the time to view them or read them, liked and left comments.
It might help if I explained why I decided to take LinkedIn seriously and use it as a platform for communication. It’s a bit of a ramble but I feel that I owe an explanation.
In May of 2016 I finished my contract with the organisation that I was working for and came home to Sri Lanka from six+ years in southern Africa. I had decided that I was not going to seek institutional employment but wanted to work from home. I wanted to spend more time with my family and doing the things that I had always wanted to do…. a ‘bucket list’ of sorts.
To read, write, take things easy, and among other things explore if my ‘doodles’ were an art form and had any currency. I decided that I would consult and pick up pieces of work if they were about managing complexity and problem solving related to how organisations and ‘start ups’ position themselves within a context that is undergoing rapid and significant change. The key words here were ‘relevance’, ‘purposeful’ and ‘fit for the future’.
There was also a book inside me that was for a long time endlessly nagging me, that was wanting to get out and be written, and I thought that this was a good opportunity to try.
The first two weeks were fine. I read a lot, binge watched TV series, debates on You Tube, the start of the GOP primaries and catching up with old friends and contacts. I also started studying social media platforms in case I needed to opt for more consulting work. I had more time with my family than before. I enjoyed the serious conversations with my daughters on contemporary issues and challenges. The maturity in their understanding of issues, concerns, views, and opinions were representative of the times and the age of the ‘millennials’ and the struggles that they would face in the coming years.
I was also very interested in the drivers of change in Asia. The consistency among the trends and patterns that were driving Asia and Sri Lanka into the future were remarkable. There was tremendous growth in services and manufacturing. 12 years ago, Sri Lanka’s agriculture constituted more than 8% of the GDP and was now 3%, with more than 70% consisting of the service industry and the rest in manufacturing.
In Sri Lanka, economic and development growth were predominantly due to the end of the conflict and the opening up of the north and the east. This was a huge boost to the hospitality industry. Lonely Planet named Sri Lanka as the best travel destination for 2013. Exponential growth in communication technology, a vibrant private sector and an investor friendly climate have also been major contributors.
Some local non-governmental organisations had the agility to foresee and position themselves and were successful to use emerging possibilities and opportunities through ‘social ventures’. These reduced ‘transaction costs ‘of consumer goods and services so that they were more competitive and affordable.
The government has also taken on more responsibility, adopting increasing sophistication, and use of technology to improve service delivery. The private sector has diversified and local non-governmental organisations are becoming more effective in representing their constituents driven by economic incentives.
Yet not all was not right. Corruption continues to be a major challenge as is political patronage and cronyism. Poor infrastructure, the high cost of utilities and limited mobility due to congestion has had a negative impact on productivity. This has resulted in high ‘opportunity costs’. Inequality, the disparity in wealth distribution and the marginalisation of women and girls remain high on the list of priorities, with much to be done.
These are the characteristics of ‘middle income countries’ and is broadly representative of Asia.
Within these contexts of growing economies and development is there a role for international non-governmental organisations (INGOs)? Many have become redundant and irrelevant. They have ceased operations or have transformed themselves (in most cases, too late) into ‘fee for service’ entities. Those that remain are driving too fast towards too sharp a bend. This appears to be the paradox of working in ‘middle income’ countries.
INGOs contribute significantly to emergency response and the provision of humanitarian assistance. This is a key priority for the region. UN/OCHA and ECHO in the region believe there is inadequate capability within the region to respond to large scale disasters. Disaster preparedness, mobilising an adequate ‘surge’ of responders and mass casualty management rank as the most important. INGOs can and continue to add significant value which could be improved through more effective coordination and collaboration. The lack of adequate resources will continue to be a major challenge.
INGOs can add value through their local partners in increasing scale and outreach for services. If local partner organisations can market, process and manage transactions this helps in lowering costs of services. This involves capability development through partnerships that are very different to traditional models. Subcontracting, grant management, compliance and audits will take on lesser importance. Working through shared vision and values, relationship management and joint risk taking will be new norm. Effective advocacy, targeted and effective campaigns will also take on greater relevance. Issues that need prioritisation are women’s rights, inequality, poverty, urbanisation, rights of migrants and refugees and good governance. This seem to be the ‘niche’s for INGOs.
The new metrics of impact will be the degree to which rights are realised, the numbers of people who benef from economic and development growth of their economies. The reduction in inequality and affordable access to water and sanitation, and other basic services that contribute to overall wellbeing are also important indicators. The key challenges are being able to quantify the value that is added and being able to define the characteristics of the ‘product’ that INGOs will deliver.
So, what has all of this got to do with my taking LinkedIn more seriously?
By week four I was impatient. I knew that I had the knowledge that could address and contribute to solving some of the issues that I had learned about. I had also discussed these issues with a variety of individuals within the private sector, INGOs, NGOs and consultants.
I felt a sense of responsibility that I need in some way to contribute meaningfully in addressing these issues.
I had learned so much from the institutions that I had worked for and that had invested in me. I also had the good fortune to work with some of the best people I have ever met and learned from …Dr. Marc Lindenberg, Steve Hollingworth (‘simple things done well at scale’), Vipin Sharma www.accessdev.org , Dr. Geeta Menon (epitome of ‘humility of self but pride in profession’), Raj Srinivasan, Lee Moncaster, Veena Padia, Basant Mohanty….so many of them.
The challenges for me were:
- How could I be an ‘influencer’?
- How could I use my capabilities and knowledge to the best possible extent? How could I communicate innovation, new ways of working, resource mobilisation, help establish and facilitate public-private sector collaboration?
- How could I help position individuals, organisations and institutions to anticipate, keep up with and adapt to the rapid change in contexts, transform their organisations and operating models and stay relevant? How could I help address complexity and help develop solutions around these transformations.?
- What were the opportunities for me to help coach and mentor the young and idealistic who wanted to make a difference? I wrote a concept paper on this and shared it with people respected within the industry with the anticipation that this might be one way of communicating.
- How could I use ‘social media’ to share what I knew from practice, implementation, and results so that those who were facing the challenges that I have highlighted above might find useful?
The best way I thought was to write for myself…. twenty years ago, what would have been useful for me to know? How could I have benefitted from what I know now and have experienced and learned? Are there others who would find at least some parts of what I post useful?
These were the incentives for me to write and share. There was also a sense of urgency that time was not kind, or on our side and was passing by on the fast lane.
I also felt that if I did not do this, it would be irresponsible of me.
- That’s why I take LinkedIn seriously now. I have committed to posting one piece of writing per week on what I have learned.
- I’m not on Facebook because it’s for people you know. They will find you anyway and communicate with you, as I’m doing now in tracking down my old contacts. I’m on Google+ because of people whom I wish I knew.
- I’m on Medium and a member of ‘The Writing Cooperative’ and I participate since it allows other members to critique your writing and comment on your drafts. This is an experience which I enjoy very much.
- I’m on Patreon which is home to 300,000+ creators (Photographers, Musicians and Singers, Artists etc.) making a living from their work through subscription payments from their fans. I will start posting my ‘artwork’ soon and if I have enough fans who make pledges I would like to commit this to young entrepreneurs who could use some contribution towards their ‘start up’s
- I’m on Instagram, initially because my phone would not let me take a picture without Instagram opening and asking me if I wanted to post my shot. But I’m glad I did because some truly inspiring and amazing work is posted there.
- I’m on Twitter. I have no idea why. I see one follower and I think that it’s me.
I trust this helps in explaining why I feel a sense of responsibility to share, do something relevant and contribute to solving todays problems. LinkedIn provides me with a suitable platform for doing that.
If you would like to comment, please leave them it on the LinkedIn post. If you would like to make contact, or share some of the challenges and issues that you would like to communicate please provide your contact details in on the contact sheet on www.danielsinnathamby.com’ and I will get back to you.
Thanks to all of you, once again.