The Girl Effect – catalyzing positive change

This morning on Twitter, Idocente pointed me to The Girl Effect. WOW! As some of you know, I have been a champion of the GiGis (Girl Geeks in service of the World Cafe community) and have long been a (prejudiced) champion of females in changing the world. So it is no surprise I had a positive response to this site.  Take a look at the video.

Over breakfast today in Bonn, where I’m doing some work this week, my friend Ulf and I were talking about where we have seen positive change take place.  (Check out his cool work with Science-Connects.) We shared stories about how things seem to work better from the ground up. Where people with passion and ownship make things happen, building on assets and in spite of barriers. Girls and women are certainly catalysts for this in many parts of the world. Take a look at this data from The Girl Effect fact sheet (pdf).

  • When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children. (United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990.)
  • An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent. (George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881[Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002].)
  • Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers. (George T. Bicego and J. Ties Boerma, “Maternal Education and Child Survival: A Comparative Study of Survey Data from 17 Countries,” Social Science
    and Medicine 36 (9) [May 1993]: 1207–27.)
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man. (Phil Borges, with foreword by Madeleine Albright, Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World [New York: Rizzoli, 2007], 13.)

Since I was in Israel and Palestine last month, I have been struggling on how to write about my experience in a way that is not about judgement, but about reflecting what I saw. The tyranny of person over person is heartbreaking, regardless of the reasons and justifications we create. But from what I saw and learned about, women and children are victims as Israel and Palestine continue without a solution for sustainable peace. The statistics around maternal and child health paint a compelling picture that war, occupation, and the patterns that trigger them are bad for women and children. High levels of maternal depression correlate with poor child nutrition. Raising rates of stunting in children from persistent malnourishment (low nutrition and poor nutrition) are staggering. Cultural challenges that resist healthy patterns of breast feeding and trigger increased poor child health and adult obesity and heart disease in Palestinians.

Where is the hope for something better? For basic human rights of food, shelter, clothing, clean food and water and yes, even peace?

It is with the women.

The women of Palestine and Israel, both, who build bridges across the divides were the most compelling points of light I experienced amongst the bleakness that presented itself. At the conference I was attending, I met a midwife who works for the Jazoor Foundation for Health and Social Development who gave me one of the few moments of light and hope I felt during my visit. She was passionate about her profession of helping women have healthier babies. She was passionate about teaching others to be midwives, even amongst professional disdain from other health care professionals. (US midwives will remember the time when they were dismissed by doctors, and are now an important part of the maternal child health system.) Her brains, her heart, her attitude radiated light. She worked with other amazing, passionate advocates for health, social development and peace in the organization, led by another brilliant, passionate woman. (I’m kicking myself for not having her name handy, but it is on my home computer and I’m on the road!)

Women who are catalyzing positive change.

I would name this radiant midwife, and share a short video we made of her, but I have not asked her permission. I’ll try and remmber to do that when I get home to let you experience a bit of her light.

So the message of The Girl Effect site resonated with me this morning. Wherever we work – in businesses, education, non profit, or independent spirits in the world, what are we doing to foster this light in girls and women? Because so far, they are the best bet I can see for making positive change in the world. By no means am I dismissing boys. But girls are so often dismissed, when they may be the best chance we’ve got.

(A small suggestion to the Girl Effect folks. Your about page is in flash, making it hard to copy and share the stats. Yes, I know I can download the data, but that is one more step. Plus data is still locked in a PDF. For strong virality, making it simpler and easier may be more important than making it slick. )

Innovation: the human flip chart

I love reading Gillian Martin Mehers’s blog, You Learn Something New Every Day. Now there is my kind of person! Recently she posted about a facilitation challenge that I related to: going to a gathering venue and not being allowed to post things on the way. As I’m fully into flip charts and graphic recording/facilitation, I always ask in advance if I can put stuff on the wall, and if not, I arrange for pin boards or some alternative. However, Gillian and her team came up with a new one – human flip charts. Tight Parameters = Opportunities for Innovation.

There are two things I appreciate about Gillian’s improvisational response to a challenge. One, it is creative. Two, in engages and involves everyone in the room in the solution. The “problem” isn’t just the facilitators’. It is the challenge and operating conditions of the group.

Where we are able to give over both control AND responsibility, I find we get greater engagement.

Edit: a few hours later, I find this picture of CIFOR’s annual meeting Open Space Marketplace — one of the more innovative ones that I’ve seen!

The Book of Love

I have written in the past about the power of love. Keith Olbermann gives a tour de force editorial on why this culture is needed in the world as a response to the passage of California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage. You can see it, and see the transcript here –>  Olbermann: Gay marriage is a question of love – Countdown with Keith Olbermann-

At the end of his comments, Olbermann said:

This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.

But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this:

“I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam,” he told the judge. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all: So I be written in the Book of Love; I do not care about that Book above. Erase my name, or write it as you will, So I be written in the Book of Love.”

Edited Later: See also this video from the weekend march in Seattle from Ashley and Thomas Again, the theme is Love.

Twitter, being cool and a great video

If you haven’t already heard about Twitter, the microblogging tool, it is never too late. I’ve been focusing on it as a tool for collaboration, learning and social presence.

With a lot of self-effacing charm, James Clay brings us this delightful video: Are you on Twitter?. I’m not sure this will increase your comprehension of the tool if you are new, but if you are already on, you’ll probably appreciate the humor. But it brings up the issue of adopting a new technology because it is “cool.” Take a look at the video, then I’ll continue below…

There are early adopters who will try anything. The second wave come from people who learn about a tool from a friend who has recommended it or hear about it and sense it is the new cool thing. There is temptation to try because of the coolness factor. That can be a pro or a con. It can tip us off to something useful. Or it can lead to “yet another thing to attend to.”

How do YOU tell the difference?

Viv McWaters’ Haiku Facilitation Improv Tips

The older I get, the more I love open group processes. Improv is one of those. You take a minimal but clear structure and then you run with it. Viv McWaters translated some improv principles into facilitation tips using another elegant, constrained form, the Haiku! Lovely. Since I’m too dang busy to write anything original (with mountains of half written drafts) I’m pointing you to and sharing some of Viv’s cool work.

Facilitation – Evaluation – Beyond the Edge – Viv McWaters
Improv principles for facilitators in haiku

Accept offers, say
Yes! And… be open to the
ideas of others.

Be average. Be
obvious – and then see how
you soar, and excel!

Working with another?
Look after your partner well,
And you’ll both look good.

Just jump in. Go on.
Start anywhere. Begin
and be surprised.

Do something – move your
body. Listen, observe and
trust yourself. Go on!

Made a mistake? Bow…
And then try something else new.
It’s the only way.

What if? What if? What…
Just let go of the what ifs
And be present too.

Even though I’m not writing much, I am present with you in this universe! Till later…