Leavin’ the ‘hood

It’s not that it’s necessarily nicer or better elsewhere, sometimes it’s not even very different. But there is a certain “eyes-wide-openness” that comes with leaving your ‘hood which makes it so exciting, even if I am just in Cincinnati on business for a day. The fact that I have never been here let’s me enjoy my sneaking out for breakfast before work starts, having a look at the neighborhood, listen to how people talk and feel more alive.

And then I think back to my last crazy work trip before having my baby: 3 continents in 7 weeks, by the end of it I was a heavy 7 months pregnant. Now if you travel like that and still want to be productive, it’s all about saving energy (your own), which means traveling as if you didn’t leave: Close your eyes, ears and heart to the exotic, heart wrenching realities out there, do not connect, stay in a comfortable hotel, take an AC car to your interview partners, eat safe and familiar food only, go to bed early, basically, take your ‘hood with you like a magical coat, protecting you from any unfamiliar experience.

Ok, for me that seemed to be the only way I could keep going on a trip like that. But. And that is a big BUT: It made me hate traveling for work. You still have most of the hassle, the long flights, heat, diseases, poor logistics, jet-lag but you get none of the bright eyed “The world is all new and so am I!” feeling.

Note to self: Stay in the ‘hood. Or leave the ‘hood at home.
Second note to self: Don’t schedule 7 week, 3 continent trips when 7 months pregnant. Ever.

The best? What best?

Being a mother makes me think a lot about how we become who we are (and how, as a parent, I can influence who my daughter becomes). And while my main motivation here is to do my best as a mother, I have had a number of eye opening revelations about myself and other adults while thinking about children.

I recently read (but forgot the title of the book) about the difference between asking your child:
“Were you the best?” and
“Did you do your best?”

Let’s face it: When are we ever THE BEST at anything? I mean, compared to the rest of the world… There is always someone out there who is better, richer, more beautiful or knows more about social network analysis. So if you train yourself (or your kids for that matter) to compare yourself with others, you will never measure up. And you will always need external recognition and comparison to know how you are doing and whether you are successful.

Now imagine the major shift that happens if you start asking: “Did I do my best?” You are also asking an ambitious question and sure, we cannot always do our best in everything. But doing one’s best is something inherently achievable, it’s an empowering question, because it is (mainly) in your own hands whether or not you do your best. And comparing yourself with yourself you can become more independent from external judgment and expectations. Finally you are free to live up to your very own potential, your own success.

Accountability tools for research projects

I’m always grateful to the projects and people who tirelessly read and browse to structure the wild wild west of the internet for us and present the tools needed to one issue under a neat framework on one page. Check out One World Trust’s accountability tools for research projects. In their own words:

“Processes of innovation and research are fundamental to improvements in quality of life and to creating a better society. But to realise these benefits, the quality of research alone is not enough. Organisations engaged in policy-relevant research and innovation must continually take into account and balance the needs of a diverse set of stakeholders: from the intended research users, to their clients and donors, to the research community and the research participants. Responsiveness to all of these is crucial if they are to be legitimate and effective. In this, accountable processes are as important as high quality research products.
The database is designed to support researchers, campaigners and research managers to think through the way they use evidence to influence policy in an accountable way. The database takes into account that research organisations are increasingly diverse – they are no longer just universities, but private companies, public institutes and non-profit think-tanks. No single model can encompass this diversity.”

(Thanks Paolo Brunello for pointing this out to me)

I LOVE comments

Just in case you read something you dis- or agree with, you have another thought about or even know the answer to: Don’t be shy. Make my day. Write a comment.


What I want to do with you…

I only recently realized that I talk a lot about my ideas and projects and experiences on this blog… and then I hope you can guess what my services are and you will contact me and we will work together. Funny thing is: A lot of you have actually done that.

But now this blog has a new page called “Services and Products” and you don’t have to guess any more. I’d still say: Shoot me a line and we figure out exactly what you need and how we can do this. But if you want to first get an idea… there you go.

Maybe one general word about business philosophy: I believe in selling you as few days a possible of my time. Not because I don’t like you. But because I think it makes most sense to both of us, if I only do what you can’t do and if you learn as much as possible in the process.

Georeferenced Net-Map

Many people think about geography if they hear the term map. And I have often discussed with colleagues how we could georeference Net-Maps to see whether and how geographical location influences network position and power of actors. Intuitively it makes sense that it should, somehow, but it can be tricky to find out which location does make an actor influential: For example if you talk about the successful implementation of a project that focusses on rural small farms, who would be most influential, those actors who are closest to the farms or those who are closest to the funding sources? Are there certain network connections (e.g. chain of command in a line ministry, ethnic ties between president and the people of one region) that can surpass geographic distance?

I have just exchanged emails with a colleague who is planning to draw a Net-Map on top of a geo-map and I am curious how that works. Will it lead to surprising new insights? Will there be confusion because the map becomes to messy? Will the visual analysis be instructive enough to get a new understanding of the connection between social networks, space and influence?

Generally safe – or not?

Do you see the world as a place that is generally safe and pleasant, where every once in a while nasty things happen? Or is it an unsafe nasty place with brief spells of peace and quiet (before another storm)?

Are people in general not to be trusted and just a few exceptions act decent occasionally? Or are most people trying to be decent and nice most of the time, with just a few deviants?

Do you think the way you see it is based on facts (as in: “statistically speaking, life is not safe, everyone dies in the end” or “statistically speaking, most people don’t fall victim to murder most days of their lifes…”) or do you think it’s mainly your perception? These are questions I am thinking about a lot at the moment, maybe having a little child makes them more pressing.

And I’m convinced that a lot of it is a perception issue, because both sides have compelling statistics. So if a lot of it is my perception, the question is: Can I change my perspective if I want to? Which perspective makes more sense? Do I attract good things if I believe in them? Or will I be more vulnerable to shocks if I am not prepared by an appropriately pessimistic attitude? What do you think? What does it do to you and your life whether you see the world as – generally – safe or dangerous?