Understanding the context for climate change solutions of the world’s most vulnerable

June 21, 2009

by Darren Willman

SUNDAY 21 JUNE 2009 – The International Commission on Climage Change and Development’s report on managing the climate change issue says “context matters”.  In those countries most vulnerable to climate change, Africa, I surveyed members of AIESEC as representatives of youth opinion for the unique solutions in their countries.

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The Global South

June 19, 2009

The Global South, also known as the Third World, the North-South Divide, The Rich-Poor divide, is a sad reality in the world today. AIESEC is present in many of these countries, and in some, for instance India, it has thrived, giving much to their society.

But the beauty of AIESEC is that it does not just enable the Global North t0 affect the Global South, the affect is also the other way around. The introduction of these countries into AIESEC have given much to our culture. Roll Calls –  fun and funny introductions of each country – were originally introduced by AIESEC Africa.

Here is the story of one AIESECer from AIESEC Nigeria, and how AIESEC and the mobility AIESEC has allowed him has affected him, and how he has gone on to affect a developed country – the Czech Republic.

n690867031_1705178_9113“”The environment and heredity are two factors that influences the growth and development of any individual. Heredity a factor one cannot influence (unless of course one can decide who his parents are going to be), and the environment (the ambiance) a factor which is controllable arising from the type of climatic conditions surrounding an individual, type of food eaten, family, people, language, cultural and educational atmosphere.

Part of my environment was and is still influenced by AIESEC . Before encountering AIESEC as an  organisation and now as a family I had always had dreams and aspirations of making a positive impact on my society and mankind as a whole but really had no idea of how to achieve that. I always felt the responsibility weighing down on my shoulders.

My first experience with AIESEC was through an invitation by a close friend of mine to my first  AIESEC conference and during that conference, the first thing that struck my mind was what AIESEC stood for „a global, non-political, independent, not for profit organisation run by students  and recent graduates of higher institutions of higher education. Its members are interested in world issues, leadership and management. And which does not discriminate on the basis of race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, creed, religion, national, ethnic or social origin“. I immediately saw how possible it was for me to align and achieve my goals in life with that of AIESEC.

I come from a native English speaking country of about one hundred and fifty million people, highly competitive with limited opportunities in every aspect and being part of AIESEC offered me with that needed platform to discover and develop my potential providing me with leadership opportunities to become an agent of positive change in the society. It unlocked in me hidden latent potentials like leadership, outspokenness, ability to communicate effectively, tolerance of others, broadened  my world view and provided with an opportunity to work and have fun with  young people of similar passion and intelligence like myslef and share experiences and most importantly challenging my world view on a continual basis.

Through its international internships I now currently live and work in the Czech Republic teaching English language and I have come to see how important what I am doing has on the future lives of my students and my new society. The feeling of doing something productive and needful is  exhilarating and sublime.

My contribution to AIESEC is to continue being an agent of positive change, service to humanity, mentoring of others, acting sustainably, and building a better world through integration of cultural differences towards peace and humility.”

Raymond Oyibo.


What is Entrepreneurship?

June 16, 2009

Entrepreneurship is really hard to define, since for each one this word has a different meaning. Is it all about willing to start something? Is it about putting ideas in action?

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My Internship

June 16, 2009

Marcia Tiro, Development Intern in Cote d’Ivoire

Marcia , 20, joined AIESEC at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, where she majored in Natural Sciences. As an active member at the local and regional level, she took on many roles before becoming a participant to the Exchange Program and leaving for Cote d’Ivoire for a development based internship in the domain of HIV/AIDS.

Marcia shares her experience as an AIESEC Intern here.

SustainabilityAs I contemplate on the first month of my internship in West Africa I have realized that in developing countries such as Cote d’Ivoire the key to helping prevent the expansion of viruses and diseases (from a sustainable point of view) such as HIV/AIDS is education, especially education of the younger population. That is why the ASK (Answers, Solutions, Keys) program is so effective and is needed in HIV/AIDS infected areas (such as Cote d’Ivoire). The purpose of the program (when well organized) is to educate high school and university students on topics not only surrounding HIV/AIDS, but sexual education, self-esteem and self-growth (topics that shape your personal actions and thoughts). This causes a domino effect, as when one individual is educated they will spread the word to 5 of their friends, etc. Being a part of the ASK program in Abidjan and seeing the keen faces of the students at the sessions (who I must add are not there out of force but out of personal choice) melts my heart. Education really can be applied around the world, it may not have such a huge impact as it does on developing countries but it does work.

However in cases where you are educating larger “communities” and villages, you need a different approach than to come in with your ideologies of development and education of “this is HIV/AIDS and this is what you need to do to stop the epidemic”. Fortunately during my internship, I have also been given the opportunity to work in a non for profit NGO based in Abidjan called Le Soutien (www.lesoutien.org) and it is through this organization that I have learned that the most effective way to spread education and help in the domain of HIV/AIDS is to go straight to the source (the children and especially the orphans affected and infected by HIV/AIDS, and also women empowerment). The non-for-profit focuses on providing resources for orphans and vulnerable children affected and infected by HIV/AIDS (OVC) .

Picture 1Once a week, the children come to the office for a day of activities (eating, learning, counseling) and are able to receive medicines (if needed). The focus is on family and community and providing a support network for the children to develop in a positive environment without discrimination. Home visits to the homes of the OVCs are also done. Another project they are working on is called Project NUNSSEU (The child is the future) this is a project based in Danane (Village in the North of Cote D’Ivoire) for a period of 3 years (10 villages each year). The counselors in the Le Soutien office in Danane travel to each village and help to mobilize the village. Since women are the heart of the household (with out women you cannot have children), Le Soutien focuses on women empowerment and provides womens groups with land so that they can make money and feed their children. Since the village sees this positive impact that the organization does then they can trust the organization and are able to be mobilized on topics such as HIV/AIDS.

Through this whole experience, I have found that short-term development internships really are about learning and experiencing, a lot of self-growth. And the only way that we can really “make a difference” and create a “sustainable environment” is to bring back what we have learned to the same domain back home. We need to share our stories with others and exchange our new networks with each other to create a large global circle.

My Internship

June 15, 2009

Luca Nizzola, Citizenship Coordinator at Microsoft

Luca joined AIESEC in 2005 in the local committee of Geneva, Switzerland, in the last year of his studies in international relations. Initiall joining only for an internship, he quickly realized that AIESEC offered much more than that. After 2 months as team leader for the external relations team,  Luca was elected Vice President External Relations in his local committee. One year later, he was elected at the same position but this time in the national commitee. After that,  he left for Sao Paulo, Brazil, to organize the AIESEC International Congress with a team of 55 individuals from all over the world. He concluded his AIESEC Experience with what he wanted to do when he joined the organization : an internship. Luca is currently working as an intern in Brussels, Belgium, for Microsoft in CSR initiatives.

SustainabilityTell us about your internship…

I’m assisting my managers in reaching out to goverment leaders in the European Union institutions to make them aware of Microsoft CSR initiatives mainly in the area of environment, e-health and education. What I love about my internship with Microsoft is that I learn a lot about how such a huge company is functionning and dealing with such topics. Besides, as a graduate in international relation, I enjoy getting to know the EU institutions and sometimes participate in some meetings due to my internship.

I was very surprised and impressed by the work Microsoft is doing all over the world mainly through its departments of Citizenship and Community Affairs. Microsoft is working closely with NGOs and foundations to enable them to perform through different initiatives such as software donations, support to apply for international grants, IT skills building and more. On environment, Microsoft is investing a substantial amount of its 9 billions dollars budget in Research and Development to develop more energy efficient softwares and operating systems like the upcoming Windows 7. I was for instance very impressed by a prototype that Microsoft Research has produced. It’s a USB stick called Somniloquy that once introduced in your computer augment network interfaces while your computer is at sleep and can reduce energy consumption between 60 and 80 % !

What was AIESEC’s role in attracting your interest in CSR and sustainability?

I had never heard of CSR until the moment I joined AIESEC. At that time, CSR was chosen globally as one of the 5 main topics that AIESEC wanted to work with, mainly to enable members to develop leadership skills in a specific topic that can impact the world today. AIESEC in my country and abroad organized plenty of seminars and conferences where CSR was one of the topic of discussion and where business leaders, academics and NGOs were sharing their views on the topic. This helped me a lot to discover and understand what CSR means and what businesses are doing today in that area.

n507571342_2656476_2477105How did your involvement in AIESEC build your interest in CSR and sustainability?

As local and then national Vice President External Relations, I was the one who was responsible for engaging companies in AIESEC activities. I had to find ways to involve them in our internship program but also in our national conferences and other projects. Thanks to AIESEC I had the immense privilege to interact regularly in my mid twenties with business leaders all over my country. And that’s by working closely with them that I could have a glimpse of their business activities, CSR being one of them. I discovered that companies in Switzerland were much more active than I thought in this area and were running many interesting and meaningful programs. The more closely I worked with them, the more aware and interested I became about CSR.

How is AIESEC curreny making an impact in CSR and sustainability?

It is making an impact by providing a platform for people to develop through leadership roles, international internships and its learning environment, the so called AIESEC Experience. Very often people join AIESEC with a very vague idea of what they want to achieve in life or more simply, where they would like to work after university. What is so great about AIESEC is that it helps you, without noticing it at first, develop crucial skills, understanding and knowledge of the world around us. During my time in AIESEC, I was surrounded by like-minded people all over the world that became eager to do something with their life. Some people wanted to improve education in their coutries, other started their own business or NGO while others currently work in CSR branches of well-known corporations. AIESEC not only provided them with key competencies to improve the state of the world, it provided them with a set of values that will hopefully guide their life and their work in the future. When some of the AIESEC alumni will work for a SME or a multinational company later on, I hope that not only the competencies gained but mostly their values and their mindset will impact their colleagues, their partners, their business and their community at large. At least, the potential is there. That’s for me how AIESEC is making an impact in CSR and sustainability.

Country Partnerships

June 15, 2009

cb-flags-bigIn AIESEC, each country operates completely independently from the others. There is nothing that forces one country to work with another, unless both countries gain something from the relationship. Mostly in order to develop our exchange program and products, but also for other reasons, many countries make agreements with other AIESEC countries – country partnerships – to move away from the sometimes random nature of single exchange matching, which works something like a marketplace.

Why are these partnerships established? Further, many of these country partnerships do not work effectively. In fact, many fail completely. Why do some country partnerships succeed while other’s fail? Why do countries choose other countries to partner with? What does it take to develop a high quality country partnership?

One successful partnership – the China India Partnership.China India

“The Chindia partnership was established in 2007 because there appeared to be market potential in both countries, simply because India is the biggest TN providor and China is the biggest EP providor, both countries could raise more than it they could previously match.There was a golden opportunity to do exchange in a big scale and a more efficient way.

While in the beginning it was very MC driven,it is now much more LC driven, as LCs invest in HR and financial resources to improve matching efficiency.

As an MCP, the partnership represents the most important partner in terms of strategic development and exchange growth, together, we created a lot of new products and new approaches to developing exchange. While there were some challenges, especially in terms of cultural differences, we found the strengths of each country matched. Both countries are emerging markets, and have managed to grow together with the same ambition and attitude towards success.”

-Roxie Ren, former MCP of China

A different sort of partnership – The Big 5.

central_europeNot all partnerships are based purely on exchange. The Big 5 partnership is an LC level partnership organized by five LCs who exist in similar circumstances- LC Prague in Czech Republic, LC Bratislava in Slovakia, LC Vienna in Austria, LC Bucharest in Romania and LC Budapest in Hungary. All these LCs are the biggest in their country – in almost all cases by far the biggest. For instance, LC Prague does twice the exchange of the second biggest LC. Budapest University does about four times more than the closest.

“The Big 5 cooperation was developed to learn from each other in areas we are strong at, to create some synergy effect in managing the committee -exchange was not a principal goal.

I perceive the biggest benefit the challenge from other LCs, creating a sense of competition. Also we learned a lot, saw what is working in AIESEC Prague very well and what we can learn from others. Also it was great to cooperate with foreign LCs to learn things.

Challenges included communication – everybody was very busy, ensuring people kept the promises they made and In trying to realize a common X project – it ended up without any results, hope it will be done again and next EBs will learn from the mistakes.”

-Martin Gasko, former LCP of AIESEC Prague.

The Problems with International Virtual Communication

The internet makes the world a smaller place – virtual communication tools have revolutionized the speed with which we can communicate across borders. The growth of social communication is proof of this – communities of 08_F_041_032601_virtual_cppeople from all over the world interacting in things they are interested in.

There is one major problem with this though – anyone who has tried to set up a country partnership simply using virtual methods will tell you one things – it doesn’t work!

What is the break down here? In most cases, it is the need for the personal that is lacking. It is difficult to feel a sense of commitment to words on a page, or a disembodied voice over skype. Face to face interactions, and better still social ones that build a sense of camaraderie are often necessary to build country partnerships. More recently, another break down in the process has begun to be dealt with. Often, it is MC level people creating these partnerships, where as it is EBs that deliver on them. There are many points in which an MC level partnership can break down. A track at the recent CEEMOS conference aimed at solving this, by putting EB level exchangers together, so that the people doing the work were making the agreements. It has been reported that many of the agreements to come out of this conference have been extremely successful so far.

world-connect-people-community-internationalThere has to be a connection. You cannot simply make an agreement across borders and cultures virtually. This strips the process of true human interaction. You have to Move people to Move people. For better partnerships, and increased levels of exchange, it is important to leave your borders and go meet the people you’re partnering with. Mobility, among AIESECers is key, to increase the amount of people we send on exchange.

Climate change requires the world to be more culturally sensitive

June 13, 2009

by Darren Willman

SUNDAY 14 JUNE 2009 – Mass migration as a result of climate change will be an issue of growing importance in the next 40 years.  But as Western Europe and European Union remain conservative and reserved, they reveal a need for cultural empathy and understanding across continents.

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