Tuesday, 26 February 2008

"The practice we should use daily is listening"

I could not resist this article:

Rebels with a cause | BP Magazine | bp.com
So unlikely from a large multinational I know so well to celebrate individuality and diversity. And then to use my nom de plum as well. Looks like I have left a lasting mark there after all!

But seriously, what is all this about?
" Seeing both sides. Four people describe life working on both sides of the oil and non-governmental organisation fence"

Could there be a link with 'social business' here too? Let me read the actual article and see. Here are some interesting quotes:

"It is society that gains, he says, by open dialogue and people seeking solutions."
(a former senior BP executive now heading WWF in Australia)

She says the oil sector needs more practitioners who better understand the methodology of community development, while the development sector needs to come down from its moral high ground and accept that it will not be able to make the change it seeks without engaging with industry.
(a global community relations coordinator at BP formerly a 'green economist' at WWF in Pakistan)

“I only found one important difference. For a social NGO, the immediate motivation is to create a better life for people, via education, housing etc. For the industry, the social model seeks to facilitate operations, make them viable and to leave a legacy."
“What really moved me was the possibility to raise the importance of social matters in the organisation, and to go from thinking to doing,” he continues. “Given BP’s evident leadership, it was possible to interact with community representatives to influence the structure and formulation of local and regional development plans. I found a denser field of action, where focua and permanent action leads to more palpable results."

He says communicating is fundamental in this field and to overall BP success, and corporations could do more of it.
“The practise we should use daily is listening,” he says. “At the same time,
NGOs have to get to know the corporate world better, how it works and its priorities, and could also make good use of corporate goal, measurement and risk assessment systems.”
Corporations like those systems and results, of course, but social development programmes are never ‘complete’.

“After more than 15 years, someone might say ‘it’s all done,’ and that would not be right,” he says. “Communities change, overcome the lack of one thing and feel the absence of another; children become adults with responsibilities and, since they are BP’s neighbours, they also adopt positions regarding what we do; politicians pressurise companies to get involved in their purposes. This all translates as history repeating itself, with new challenges and achievements, new actors and audiences.”
(a BP Columbian community affairs group member formerly at a leading NGO focusing on education, housing and disaster relief)

What, if any, links exist here with Muhammad Yunus? My immediate reaction is that quite a number of observations above bring out pointers for the direction of Yunus related work.

1. It is essential to engage both sides of the argument around 'for profit' and 'social business' in an open dialogue with people seeking solutions.

2. Recognise that systems and measurements in different spheres of business may have to be different yet discipline they impose is necessary in both.

3. Boundary-crossing activities and programs require people who have
successfully crossed those boundaries themselves.

4. At times of change nobody is always right. A healthy dose of humility coupled
with the daily practice of listening is essential.

5. People who work in large organisations are as likely to be committed to
creating a better world as any of us.

6. Find a former corporate senior executive to lead YunusUK and encourage the
practice of making it happen through operational delivery discipline.

7. Discover 'rebels with a cause' inside large companies and engage them as the
future Yunus ambassadors.

This should be a rich basis of a conversation with Tomorrow's Company team http://www.tomorrowscompany.com/.

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