Subtle messages to my daughter: What is exercise for?

I notice more of the world. That’s the best way I know to describe how my world has changed since last June when my daughter Aliyah was born. A big part of that are the subtle societal messages that I now see being delivered to her, about how to act, think, what is right and wrong, what is beautiful and what is ugly … about everything.

Raising my own family’s, and Aliyah’s, consciousness of these messages is realistically all I can do about this directly, absent becoming a hermit. But I can’t resist being a little activist and evangelical about what I’m learning, so I’ve decided to start a series every time I come across something with this theme. Hopefully, this contributes in my small way to the system changes that are needed.

What is exercise for?

I love exercising. It makes me feel energized and creative, and it quenches my thirst for competition (often just against myself) in a healthy way. But I’ll also admit that my relationship with exercise is not always perfectly healthy — sometimes it’s about negative body image crap.

Where does that come from? Who knows really. I’ve been deluged by 38 years of messaging saying that I should work out to look better, to get a summer body, to get the girl.

And Aliyah is about to be deluged by the same messages. Some of them are subtle, some really obvious, but they have totally penetrated how we talk about exercise.

What’s a healthy reframing of exercise? I loved this post:

Come on!  Get that body ready for your winter beach vacation!  Think about how you want to look at those holiday parties!  PICTURE HOW YOU’LL LOOK IN THAT DRESS!

I’ll never talk to my daughter about fitting into THAT DRESS.  But I will talk to her about what it sounds like to hear pine needles crunching under my feet and what it feels like to cross a finish line and how special it is to see the world on foot.  I will talk to her about hard work and self sufficiency.  I will teach her the joy of working out by showing her I love it.  And I’ll leave the rest up to her.

Great advice.

(Thanks Sari for sending it along.)

The Emmy’s were going so well until…

The Emmy’s were going so well until…

This is appalling. It’s tasteless and I would find it very hard to agree that it’s satire or a harmless joke. Satire would have been Vergara reading the speech while Rosenblum spun around on the platform.

I’m thinking about the not-so-subtle message delivered to all of the young women and girls, and young men and boys, watching last night: women are objects of our attention and distraction. This honestly makes me terrified of bringing up my daughter Aliyah with the onslaught of these messages, everywhere, and equally terrified of their effect on my nephew Cooper.

I can only hope that people’s reactions over time will continue to drive progress, and that my own conversations with all the kids in my life will help them resist the pressures they will face and ask tough questions of the society they live in.

#bringbackourgirls – Arab Spring or Fleeting Clicktivism?

Akintunde Oyebode and Gerald Caplan face off in this debate.

My assessment: Gerald’s argument is much more compelling.

History matters. Change only happens when you have really well organized, knowledgeable, and fully committed activists and organizers who work for this change over a long time. And then sometimes change doesn’t happen.

Every complete description of the Arab Spring shows this to be the case. The compelling social media campaign, the act that sparked a revolution in a moment; these were all useful and ripened the moment, but change happened because courageous people were organizing for those moments for years. Perhaps that has also happened in Nigeria in this case, but let’s not over-attribute the importance of the #bringbackourgirls clicktivism. The risk is that a whole generation will think that’s all that’s needed.

End of stuff envy?

“Twice as many people (46% vs. 22%) said they personally would rather share things than own them.”

If this shift is underway in the way this article claims, it’s truly disruptive for our economic system. But I remain unconvinced:

  1. How different is the reaction of GenY in their 20s and 30s to the Boomers, peace not war, change the world, etc? Is this just a case of a new generation expressing their idealism and distinguishing themselves from the prior generation?
  2. What’s going on in the larger and faster growing economies that will largely drive economic trends globally in the next 50 years (i.e. India, Indonesia, Kenya, China, etc.)? Is there a similar shift?

How our stereotypes of Africa are reinforced, even in serious literature

In short, the covers of most novels “about Africa” seem to have been designed by someone whose principal idea of the continent comes from The Lion King.

This article and the image below from it are striking. It also got me thinking about how my own storytelling, presentations and other actions are reinforcing these same stereotypes about Sub-Saharan Africa?

Time to challenge my behaviours.

Be wary of managing by numbers alone

More agency autonomy translates into more empowered in-country personnel. The fewer individuals on the ground that are required to defend their decisions to distant supervisors, the more creative and less conservative they will be — taking smart risks, rather than acting to ensure that they never make a mistake.

I wonder if the conclusions are perhaps making a logical leap and conflating management by numbers and management by activities?

It strikes me that it’s likely not the concept of holding people/projects/investments to goals that is the problem, instead, the research seems to show:

1) The goals must be the right goals, and they often aren’t.

2) The accountability mechanisms should be at the outcome and learning levels, rather than the activity/workplan level.

Thanks to @amirallana for this.

Social intelligence and intrapraneurship

“Insurgents accomplish their goals by identifying like-minded allies in key functional positions and persuading them that it is in their own interest to take action by demonstrating the value in sustainability,” says Unruh.

The key ingredient is “social intelligence.” Social intelligence involves the embedding of social and environmental responsibility into every level of decision-making. And it can be a valuable corporate asset. For example, “knowledge of the Millennial Generation’s greater expectations about social responsibility can be key in attracting, motivating and retaining the next generation of employees. Understanding activist and shareholder demands for transparency in political contributions can avoid damaging revelations about your company’s lobbying policies.”

What a great articulation of the value of social intrapraneurship.

The proposition that I’m least convinced of in this article is the idea that “once line managers know the personal and business value” then change and implementation will happen quickly. The questions for me are:

  • How much value needs to be demonstrated? 20% more? 10%? Measured in what way?
  • What leading indicators of line manager capacity and interest are there to understand when execution will happen, and when it will get stalled/hung-up?
  • What if the new business practice is an innovation that the line manager either will mess up in the implementation (i.e. not achieve social or business value) or not be able to get started because it requires skills or ways of thinking outside of his/her capabilities?

Also, if you’re interested in this stuff, check out EWB’s intrapraneurship fellowship:

Dealiest animal in the world? The Mosquito!

The Deadliest Animal in the World … the Mosquito!

What makes mosquitoes so dangerous? Despite their innocuous-sounding name—Spanish for “little fly”—they carry devastating diseases. The worst is malaria, which kills more than 600,000 people every year; another 200 million cases incapacitate people for days at a time. It threatens half of the world’s population and causes billions of dollars in lost productivity annually. Other mosquito-borne diseases include dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis.

Which is more corrupt?

Transparency International. If you’d asked me yesterday about this organization and their annual corruption index, I would have gushed. Sunlight is the best disinfectant I would have replied, or some similar aphorism.

But I was challenged to think differently by this article, to examine more closely how the mechanism of exposing theft and what we call corruption in poor countries reinforces an unhelpful and unjust paradigm of under-emphasizing rich countries and their power as a major part of the problem.

Are there real best buys in global health?

This article makes the case very strongly that it isn’t specific interventions that are key in driving global health outcomes, but building the strength of global health systems.

What are the best buys in global health? While many may automatically think of key interventions that are both cost effective and save lives, the best buy in global health overall turns out to be health systems strengthening.

“What we found particularly interesting is the acknowledgement that more than new technologies, it’s service delivery innovation that’s the provides the greatest bang for your buck.”

Our work with Engineers Without Borders in adaptive public services suggests this is the case across all public service provision.