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There you will find updated information about the Center for Creative Leadership's initiative to make leadership development affordable and accessible to people everywhere.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Community Leaders Speak

Some 60 community leaders from North Carolina attended three simultaneous Leadership Essentials programs held at the Center's Greensboro campus on November 24 & 25, 2008*. A video created by Josh Weinstein of Inside Cinema captures some of the participants' voices on the impact the program and importance of leadership development for nonprofits.

Evon J. Smith, Executive Director of Goler Community Development Corporation, was a participant in the program. She wrote to us about her experience:

"I suspected the leadership class was worth every minute! Each tool helped everyone in my group think differently about our emotional communication at work and our interactions with others in our personal life. It was great! The people that were in our class were wonderful and contacts we would not have the opportunity to make otherwise. I got more out of the class than I expected. Our facilitators connected with the class by presenting the information in so many different ways you could not miss getting it. Many of us stated that we wish we had a week to delve deeper into the cases where we could apply the tools learned over and over. Please never underestimate the value that this opportunity has for community leaders, especially those in the non-profit industry. "

* The program was sponsored by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Revolutionary Effects of Leadership Development

Written by Amon Anderson of Acumen Fund - Nairobi, Kenya

I’ve been studying, working with and thinking about leadership development for the last seven years, but I never stop being surprised. This summer, I led an idea session for the Center for Creative Leadership to brainstorm how leadership development could be applied in the context of poverty. But in this group of East Africans, West Africans, and North Americans, we could barely agree on semantics—leadership for the base of the pyramid, bottom of the pyramid, leadership for the majority, leadership for all… But no matter what we called it, we all could agree that not only did the poor have little access to leadership development tools, but the research and resources at hand had limited relevance to someone living in poverty.

That is not to say that there aren’t leaders. I have had the honor of meetings leaders born into poverty and raised through adversity who demonstrate true leadership irrespective of socio-economic status. Living in Ethiopia, I met Solomon, a young man who lost three of his limbs when the Addis-Djibouti railway overturned on route to Dire Dawa, Ethiopia’s second city. Solomon ended up in one of Mother Theresa’s clinics and tried a variety of prosthetic options, none of them feasible for the life he would lead in Ethiopia. He decided to pack it up and return home. Solomon wanted to start his own business and I worked with him over a period of months to figure out how he could make it happen. Solomon left his old community, where people saw him as half the man he once was, and established one of the most successful video rental shops in his new neighborhood. His business has grown quickly because Solomon has impressed and befriended those around him, and he’s not done yet. He’s sending home money to his mother, employing boys from the street and he dreams of opening a proper internet cafĂ©. After such a devastating accident, many in Ethiopia take to the streets as beggars—either by choice or by force—but Solomon chose a different path. His optimism, courage, and work ethic helped him found his shop and attract a growing number of customers each day.

For me, leadership is about unlocking human potential. In my work with the Cherokee Gives Back Foundation and the Acumen Fund, I have struggled to find entrepreneur-leaders and provide them with the financial support needed to succeed and alleviate poverty through market-oriented solutions. But finance is only part of the picture. I have participated in two Leadership Essential programs, designed by the Center for Creative Leadership’s Global Voices of Leadership initiative, and experienced first-hand the impact of “leadership development for the majority.” I see immediate potential to introduce these tools to a broader audience in East Africa, but I see an even greater opportunity/challenge. How do we take this concept of leadership development and apply it to the people living in the villages and slums. In East Africa, the “pyramid” looks more like the Eiffel Tower—a needle at the top and large in its foundation. I believe that realizing the human potential of this “foundation” will require creativity and a cross-disciplinary effort. But I also believe in the power leadership development to transform the paradigm. Solomon is one of those extraordinary leaders who succeed, no matter the odds. There are many more out there like Solomon, and with appropriate and accessible leadership development, the effects could be revolutionary.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Caribbean Health Leadership Institute

Brendan Bain, Director of The Caribbean Health Leadership Institute (CHLI), shared this report on their work and impact. CCL prepared faculty at CHLI to offer leadership development for public health leaders in the Caribbean.

“Behind Every Cloud…”
Brendan Bain, Director

October 25, 2008

When AIDS came to the Caribbean, who would have thought that it would lead to the birth of a leadership training program for Caribbean health professionals? And who would have envisaged the establishment of a partnership for this purpose between the leading Caribbean university, a top American Public Health school and one of the best leadership training centers globally? In an unusual sequence of events, the advent of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS epidemic and the establishment of a multi-disciplinary HIV/AIDS group at the University of the West Indies (UWI) have led to an international partnership for the establishment of the Caribbean Health Leadership Institute (CHLI) with funds provided to UWI through a cooperative agreement with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It is relevant to note that at the dawn of the new millennium, the Caribbean had the second highest prevalence of AIDS in the world, second only to Sub-Saharan Africa. By 2007, although case rates had fallen, the region was still second globally and ahead of all other regions in the Americas. (According to the UNAIDS 2008 report, the estimated adult prevalence rate of HIV infection in the Caribbean was 1.1% in 2007.)

In 2001, an organized HIV/AIDS Response Program (HARP) was started at UWI, a multi-campus university with a student population of over 40,000. Four years later, UWI HARP Regional Coordinator, Brendan Bain, a specialist in Clinical Infectious Diseases and Public Health, was invited to start a regional coordinating unit (RCU) within UWI HARP as part of a new multinational Caribbean-wide training program for health care professionals and community-based workers – the CHART Network Initiative ( In 2007, UWI HARP competed successfully for a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the establishment of CHLI, to be linked with CHART. The five-year grant is valued at approximately US$2.1 million, with funds coming from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) via CDC.

The CHLI program aims to add to the cadre of competent, confident and committed leaders and managers in the health sector of the Caribbean and to engender positive change in health systems that function in relation to HIV/AIDS and other health issues. The program is being administered by UWI in partnership with the University of North Carolina (UNC) and the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and is patterned after the successful National Public Health Leadership Institute program run by staff at UNC. The curriculum is delivered mainly by distance learning and includes two three-day residential retreats. The distance learning component of the CHLI consists of a series of Internet-linked seminars, referred to as webinars. In order to take part in the webinars, scholars arrange their schedules across the time zones and the sessions are facilitated by UWI and UNC faculty.

In December 2007, in preparation for the launch of the first learning cycle, three members of the new CHLI academic team attended the 10-day Leadership beyond boundaries program at CCL in Greensboro, North Carolina. The three: Peter Figueroa, Chief of Epidemiology and AIDS, Ministry of Health, Jamaica; Michelle Harris, Lecturer in Public Health at the Jamaica campus of UWI; and Jose Ortega, Professor of Public Health at the UWI Barbados campus. The exposure gained at CCL provided them with new ideas, approaches and materials as they prepared to lead and interact with the first CHLI scholars.

In April 2008, 23 persons from 12 countries, including the mainland nations of Belize, Guyana and Suriname, were welcomed into the first 10-month learning cycle. The group included leaders of governmental and non-governmental organizations at forefront of the response to HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, deans of two medical schools and senior health administrators.

The first residential retreat was held at the Rose Hall Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica in June. The guest speaker was Stephen Blount, Director, Coordinating Office for Global Health at CDC Headquarters. The UWI Vice-Chancellor and the new Director of the Caribbean CDC GAP, Dr. Shirley Lee Lecher were special dinner guests. Joining the Caribbean Faculty were Edward Baker and Stephen Orton from UNC and Karen Dyer from CCL. Former PAHO/WHO Country Representative, Veta Brown, a retired therapist, Mr. Peter Carr, a former PAHO/WHO representative, and Earl Wright, Director of Mental Health Services in the Jamaican Ministry of Health, were present as mentors.

Peter Figueroa gave the opening presentation. His memorable words were, “Life is a journey!” “Success is a journey & not a destination!” “Leadership is a journey and not a destination!” Stephen Blount spoke about the challenges of Health Leadership in a changing world. He highlighted changes in the Global Economy, in International Relations with new players and structures and the reality of climate change as a few of the environmental realities facing health professionals and Governments. He referred to the several Public Health Challenges in the Caribbean, including chronic non-communicable diseases, injuries, HIV/AIDS, mental health and substance abuse and food security.

The agenda allowed for periods of personal reflection and self-assessment using the Change Style Indicator® from the firm of Discovery Learning and the Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO-B®) questionnaire. Many of these experienced leaders were using these self-assessment tools for the first time and several expressed gratitude for the insights they gained from their use. Participants reflected on their learning styles and were introduced to the basics of Peter Senge’s systems thinking approach.

The group of 23 scholars was then divided into five smaller teams. Each team was assigned a mentor and was set a seven-month challenge to work on an Action Learning Project based on a current health issue in the Caribbean. The groups will report to each other at the second retreat, to be held at the Accra Beach Hotel in Barbados in early December.

CDC Headquarters has responded superlatively to the first year of CHLI. In their first feedback report, CDC’s reviewers’ commented that the program demonstrated “excellent project vision and goals and a continuation plan of action which is based upon the solid year 1 accomplishment.” They described it as a “contemporary blend of adult education approaches, technology and practices [that] will make for a powerful learning experience” and stated that it “seems to be rapidly building on the success of other proven leadership and management development programs.”

In February 2009, CHLI will enroll a second cohort of 35 scholars, with invitations being put to persons from 17 countries. The first cohort of scholars will be encouraged to form a Caribbean Health Leadership Alumni Network. The vision is to foster a culture of life-long learning among these leaders and to encourage an intergenerational relay of leadership skills and practice.

The CHLI faculty and staff are enthusiastic as they continue to develop CHLI. We wish to thank UNC and CCL for their partnership in this unique Caribbean initiative.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Learning Generosity and Leadership from the Poor

Blog Action Day 2008 focused on poverty. Nearly 13,000 blogs responded with an outpouring of posts on October 15. CCL's Leading Effectively blog featured two contributions:

In Reflections on Poverty,  Talula Cartwright traces her family’s history and recalls when hardship was deeply woven into the fabric of America:

"Some of my ancestors had been potato farmers from Ireland.  They lived in holes they dug out of the hills.  When the potato blight came, they starved.  The ones who were lucky came to America on ships.  A lot of them died.  Some of my other ancestors were Choctaw Indians.  When the U.S. Government computed the poverty index sometime back, they said it was anything below two-thousand-something for a family of four.  At that time, the average income for a Choctaw family was less than $700 a year.  And it was for way more than four people.  The Choctaws were very poor people.  But they were one of the five civilized tribes.  (That means they didn’t fight back.)  So back in the eighteen-hundreds, when the Irish were starving, the Choctaws sent them some money!  A hundred dollars or so.  An enormous amount of money at the time.  I have a painting on my wall that commemorates this.  The Irish hired a Choctaw to paint it, for their anniversary.  The poor, honoring the poor."

In Tragedy of the Commons, David Altman wrote about rethinking individual wellbeing in the wake of the global financial crisis:

"...we could travel down a path leading to a Tragedy of the Commons or we could take a seemingly more circuitous route down an alley called the Prosperity of the Commons. The tragedy path brings with it short-term feelings of happiness (perhaps like a cocaine-high). The prosperity route comes with much pain and sacrifice but will ultimately bring benefits that are nearly impossible to see in the short-term."

These posts speak to the value of interdependence and mutual concern in the face of hard times. They also bring to mind lessons from another recent crisis. 

During Hurricane Katrina one of most generous demonstrations of caring came from the people of Ville Platte, Louisiana, one of America's poorest communities. The town rallied together to welcome and care for some 10,000 evacuees fleeing the storm  (more on this story). This act of collective kindness is an important statement in our age of affluence and inequity . It is often the poor who can teach us best about generosity, community, and collective leadership.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Viral (and Vital) Leadership Development

Preston Yarborough, Assistant Director of Leadership at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) attended the Leadership Essentials (LE) program with a group of colleagues. He wrote to us about the impact the program has had at the university.

"UNCG wants to develop more leaders and better leaders within its campus community. This development process occurs at two levels: the student level and the faculty/staff level. These two levels are intertwined. To best develop student leaders, we strive to also develop those faculty and staff who create a learning environment for our students.

This past summer, The Center for Creative Leadership played a strategic role in this process. Eighteen UNCG employees participated in the CCL’s Leadership Essentials program. Many of these participants were Student Affairs staffers who work directly with students, or they were director-level staffers who run student-oriented departments. The program has already delivered some exciting returns.

Since participating in LE, a participating staff member has trained 20 additional staff members on social identity and leadership. Furthermore, the Executive Board for the Student Government Association (SGA) received social identity training as well. Later in September, UNCG will host over 400 college students for its Triad Leadership Academy. Once again, elements of the Leadership Essentials program will be passed on to student leaders.

Leadership Essentials has been a success for many reasons, but one of the most significant ones is its portability. Modules can be delivered very easily and there is not a great need for extensive organizational resources. The models are clear and relevant. The assessments are easy to work with, and the program can be equally effective if delivered in segments or in its entirety.

By the end of this coming semester, UNCG will have presented Leadership Essentials content to approximately 700 students. This content has been incorporated into staff trainings and faculty/staff enrichment programs. UNCG is thankful for the opportunity to partner with CCL and looks forward to continuing our relationship."

We are pleased to see this viral transfer taking place and the sharing of learning. In a similar program held at another university in India, we heard that the simple and clear representation of core leadership concepts in the LE program made them easy to understand and share.

CCL is running another Leadership Essentials program at our Greensboro campus on November 24-25, 2008 (download PDF brochure). The program, which is meant to make leadership development more affordable and accessible, is open to nonprofit, educational, and community organizations.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

“The teacher and the student create the learning.”

by Joel Wright

How often does this really happen between a parent and a teenager?

I can only guess what you might be thinking? How is this possible? I’m sure we can all remember teenage moments when our parents or an older adult sat you down for a teachable moment. I squirm even at the thought of some of these moments while simultaneously wondering how they could be more comfortable, rewarding and co-developmental for both parent and child.

Contrary to my memory, and in quest of how to enhance early leadership opportunities, this past September I witnessed an inspiring and engaging exchange between many parents and their teenagers. These interactions occurred at the Greensboro YMCA during a Black & Hispanic Achievers program orientation/open house where CCL & YMCA staff designed activities where parents and teens could share with each other where and when they learned various life lessons about leadership.

The inspiration behind creating these interactions came from CCL’s recent initiatives with early leadership development (those from their early teen years to early thirties). What we continue to hear is that the most influential leaders that young people learn from are those who are around them day in and day out. It’s these people they see who are modeling leadership in action. In particular, it’s parents, family members, teachers, and coaches. While this is no surprise in some regard it does pivot the focus from exclusive youth development programs to considering designs that engage young and adult.

With the intent of increasing the connection and intention of leadership development between teens and parents we designed a few short, quick leadership activities. Two new activities we designed for this program were: “Leadership Family Tree” and “Leadership Life-Line”. Both proved profound and engaging.

One early leadership story we heard from a 13 year old was about being on a baseball team. He shared how “my baseball coach would take me out of the game and put someone in that wasn’t as good as me but I gave them tips on how to play that position like I did and at the baseball banquet I was given the award ‘team before self’. That was my leadership role.”

Countless other stories were surfaced by both young and old. In reflecting on and processing all these stories, we kept hearing a couple of key words coming to the surface. The first was responsibility. Young and old referenced early leadership lessons taking place when they were given or assumed responsibility to do something. Examples spanned from sports, to baby-sitting or house-sitting, to various formal and informal roles in school. A few of the other key words pointed to leadership skills, traits and/or lessons that were being enforced early on. They include: respect, listening, truth telling, “think of others before yourself,” or “help those who need it”. Such simple lessons but yet so significant for the stature of a leader. Amazingly, these short, simple activities proved to be immensely profound, comfortable and inspiring for all.

In three ways, many of us at CCL found this day and these activities extraordinary. First it allowed a comfortable shared learning exchange between parent and child. Second, the interactions allowed for a mutual appreciation and respect to occur between the two that added to the depth of the discussion. And third, the exchange often left both parent and child surprised about how much each could learn from the other.

When training, I often quote an Asian proverb, “the teacher and the student create the learning.” I do this as a quick reminder that the person in the front of the classroom, the “leader”, doesn’t always have all the answers. In fact, often the learning, growth, creativity and community are only enhanced when everyone contributes. Certainly, on this Saturday in September parents and teenagers created the learning and it was leadership in action.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

11,520 Minutes to Transformation

Janice Tan of Halogen Foundation in Singapore was one of the trainers who attended the Leadership Beyond Boundaries train-the-trainer program in Mumbai, India. She wrote to us of her experience. We are pleased to share her words with her permission.

"It is one of those rare moments in life when one is blessed with an amazing learning opportunity that transforms into a life-changing experience that just doesn’t allow you to remain who you were before. And to have that happen at the point in life most needed is just icing on the cake. That one such rare moment took place from 25 August 2008 to 1 September 2008, in bustling Mumbai for me.

In a place foreign to me, where race or age did not matter because learning and respect did; I began to fall in passionately in love with learning and the person within me. I had spent 11520 minutes of my life with 22 amazing human beings who journeyed, laughed and learnt with me. They were whom I regard as teachers of life, friends who affirmed and comrades who inspired. The "magic" in the environment was made up of support, respect for everyone and the passion to learn. What I have learnt these 11520 minutes is far greater than I’ve ever received from the formal education I had. This was where I discovered my educational eutopia.

Their lives inspired, speeches taught and affirmation nurtured a part of me which I was unaware existed. I began to articulate thoughts that I have always hesitated to express and that became a crucial learning for my personal thought process. Thoughts evoked during meaningful conversations became more than just mere food for thought, but sustenance essential for development. Leadership Beyond Boundaries truly reflected the essence of the experience, it transcended not only cultural and racial boundaries, but that of self-limiting precepts too. Now, moving forward to live out and honor the learning and people who have invested in me. I will commit to pay it forward by taking my learning to greater heights and enabling others with them. "

Janice works with hundreds of young people in Singapore and beyond. The people who spent time with her in India described her as "amazing." We are delighted that the Leadership Beyond Boundaries program will help her increase the tremendous impact she already has in helping so many young people unlock their potential.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Reflections from Leadership Beyond Boundaries in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

by Bancy Wanjiru, Program Administrator for ERMIS Africa in Nakuru, Kenya

I count it a privilege and an honor to have had the opportunity to participate in the leadership beyond boundaries program in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 14th – 23rd, July 2008. The program presented one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve had in my life to rediscover the person I am and rethink my vision and role as a leader. Having participated in a CCL’s workshop before and gone through various publications by CCL, I knew right from the start that the content of the program was going to have a big impact on me as an individual, my vision and those around me. It was an opportunity that opened me up to a whole new world, stretched my vision and mind to see and think beyond geographical boundaries and challenged me to develop my multicultural skills. It was an opportunity that ignited my passion for leadership development, built my confidence in delivering leadership sessions and challenged me to step out of the norm and pursue the noble task of liberating the leader that lies within individuals.

My expectations of the training’s content were high, but I was anxious about who I would meet in a foreign country where I have never been before. As the program started, my anxiety melted away at the introductory social identity session, perhaps there was no better way to start - it certainly helped break barriers within the team. For me, it was a very comprehensive way of introducing me to myself and to others. I got to know who is who in the classroom and within the first hour of the program, it felt like we had bonded and known each other for a long time. We were friends, sharing the same passion and with a common goal to learn and grow together; and so the classroom became a place where we put aside our credentials, age and positions to focus on our development as leaders.

My experience in the classroom was different from any other I have had before. Sharing with participants expanded my knowledge base and helped me generate more ideas and identify leadership gaps existing in my life and my society back home. I learnt from experiences the team shared as the discussions presented a platform for new perspectives, opportunities, insights and challenges in development that helped me contextualize the concepts of leadership to see how they fit in my personal, social and work life. The facilitation process opened me up to a simple yet impact way of delivering a leadership training, I learnt the need to open my mind to learn from the trainees and allow discussions flow around the concepts shared. The learning process challenged my thought process and brought new insights and perspectives that I find useful in leading myself and others as well as facilitating development and growth in others. I realized that whether one is a facilitator or a participant, opportunities to learn are unending.

I am passionate and keen to share these insights with friends, workmates and those that I lead in different social settings because leadership can be learnt, leadership is everybody’s business and leadership development is about self-development. I am grateful to the Center for Creative Leadership and ERMIS Africa for having invested in me through this program; it was a learning opportunity that impacted my life and changed it in a very special way.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Leadership Development for the Majority

Originally posted on Lamp Post Reports - August 17, 2008 - by John T. Vaughn

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), based in Greensboro, NC over the past forty years has established itself as one of the, if not the, premier leadership development institutes. CCL’s specialty, historically, has been providing leadership development to Fortune 500 & 5000 type companies, the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Special Forces among other top clients. CCL has written and researched extensively on the subject of creative leadership, defined as “the capacity to achieve more than imagined by thinking and acting beyond boundaries” (from HBS case study on CCL). Currently, they have satellite offices in Colorado Springs, Colorado; San Diego, California; Brussels, Belgium; and Singapore. Dissatisfied with reaching only the 20,000 or so clients who annually pass through CCL training programs, CCL launched the Global Voice of Leadership (GVOL) initiative roughly three years ago. The GVOL initiative was launched with the intention of providing forty years worth of knowledge capital in leadership development to the majority (some like to call it the base of the pyramid).

CCL has been working on this initiative in a number of ways, but the one I can speak most knowledgeably of is their effort here in Ethiopia. Back in February I attended CCL’s first ever Leadership Beyond Boundaries course, a two week course to provide leaders in the developing world with the necessary tools and training to take what they learn about self awareness, direction, alignment, commitment and giving feedback back to their staff (most located in the developing world). The first course was hosted at CCL’s headquarters in Greensboro, NC but leaders based in Nigeria, Lagos, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, India, the Caribbean, the US and other areas attended. Needless to say, it was quite the diverse group and I learned a tremendous amount.

Since that time, CCL has been engaged in a more intimate, though informal, relationship with Cherokee Gives Back. Gives Back’s presence in Addis provided CCL a base from which to recruit attendees for a Leadership Beyond Boundaries program held in Addis Ababa in mid-July. The workshop turned out to be quite a success. During the last two days of the workshop, the primary attendees (eleven in all, from various countries in East Africa) were required to practice what they learned by delivering a Leadership Essentials workshop to nearly forty local leaders (again, with the hope that these leaders would then train their staff or colleagues). These forty local leaders were from various sectors including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector and university students. The feedback from the program was generally quite positive, but that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Since the completion of the Leadership Beyond Boundaries workshop, Steadman Harrison and Dou Fall of CCL have been meeting with various organizations throughout Addis Ababa. These meetings have included a range of organizations and institutions from faith based youth programs, to Midroc (the largest private corporation in Ethiopia), Addis Ababa University, various NGOs and other grass roots organizations.

Even CCL, it seems, has been a little surprised by the high demand and prior knowledge of their organization and expertise here in the Horn of Africa. Steadman and Dou have proposals that, if signed, will keep them busy in Addis for at least the next few months.

As well, discussions have been initiated with community leaders around the topic of bringing leadership development to the majority, or base of the pyramid. This is certainly a challenge, as nearly 80% of the population is located in rural areas (costly to reach), and a large portion also do not read or write. At our first brainstorming session, the idea of broadcasting a leadership development series over the radio was mentioned as a possible distribution channel. At first glance, this idea appears to have potential as it is very much an orally based society and many people have radios, or at least access to them. As well, start-up costs should be minimal, but legalities may prevent such a series from ever launching.

One thing is clear, the demand for CCL’s expertise in creative leadership development and creative solutions is very high among the private sector, academic community, NGO sector and at the grass root level. With any luck, the contracts signed over the past few weeks will allow CCL to continue its focus on leadership development in the Horn, with the ultimate goal of providing their expertise not just to those capable of paying traditional rates but also to the majority, the base of the pyramid.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

teaching children to lead and to follow

by Sarah Glover

We had a guest speaker at CCL recently, Martin Tan, who is co-founder and Executive Director of the Halogen Foundation in Singapore. His presentation and my conversation with him really got me thinking about how I can better connect my personal passions and volunteer work with CCL work. I’ve always wanted to work with “disadvantaged populations”. I feel a calling to do what I can toward leveling the playing field, so to speak. So in my first conversation with Martin, before his presentation, I was thinking about that kind of work and trying to mentally apply what he was saying to helping people who are disempowered -- people who are far from the typical CCL clientele.

We were talking about role models and images of “leaders” that children grow up with and how important it is to have a model that you can actually imagine yourself emulating. If our image of “a leader” and the role models we think of are powerful public figures like kings or presidents, or exceptional heroes like Mother Theresa or Mohandas Gandhi, not many of us will feel like we can meet that level of criteria to be “leaders”. However, if our image of a leader includes someone like a parent, coach, teacher, or neighbor, then many more of us will feel hopeful that we too can be leaders.

The degree to which children are encouraged to aspire to leadership varies quite a bit – across culture, class, and family (I need to find out if there is research on this). Some children are raised from birth to think of themselves as leaders or to aspire to be leaders, and good role models are pointed out to them and placed in their path. They are applauded when they exercise leadership behaviors and chastised when they are too passive. Other children are raised from birth to think of themselves as followers, and whenever they try to exercise leadership they are chastised for being too assertive and are encouraged to “step back in line”. They receive praise for compliance and good humor. For these children, the good leaders they encounter in their lives are nice to follow but irrelevant as role models.

Neither of these two extremes is necessarily better than the other. There are positive and negative consequences of raising children for leadership: one positive is building their self-confidence; one negative might be creating feelings of superiority which can lead to arrogance. Likewise, there are positive and negative consequences of raising children to follow: one positive is developing cooperative behavior; one negative could be creating feelings of powerlessness which can lead to apathy or resentment.

The world needs people to follow as much as it needs people to lead: we need young people to grow up feeling confident and cooperative, feeling neither “entitled” nor “victim”. What if, instead of categorizing ourselves as leaders or followers, we more mindfully encouraged every person to be both?

This insight is not completely new in the world, but it got me thinking in a new way about what I want to do. The Halogen Foundation are already operating from the belief that all humans can be leaders and that all leaders need to know how to (and be willing to) follow. They define leadership very simply for young people: it’s influence. You can influence people for good or ill, but either way you are leading. They tell young people, “All of you have this capability.”

One thing in particular that Martin said made an impression on me: that Halogen will refuse to do leadership development programs for any subset of students in a school – whether the elite or the disadvantaged. Doing either would undermine their message of equality, so they’ll only do programs for the whole school. Halogen’s work serves the elite and the disadvantaged at the same time and brings them closer together. So now I’m re-thinking my own focus on a subset of the population. Why would my message (whatever exactly it is!) not apply to everyone equally? Food for thought.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Be the Change

Thanks to James Perez and Marie van Vuuren for helping our
Global Voice of Leadership initiatives with the "Be the Change" video.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Learning How to Change Gears

I was descending a hill during my evening run at the park recently when I overheard a boy coming up the hill on a bike call back to his sister with a desperate question. "Am I going uphill or downhill?!" he cried as his hands worked frantically to adjust the gears on what looked to be new bike. "Uphill!" his teenage sister retorted obviously thinking her brother a bit daft. I chuckled at the tone of their exchange; I have four siblings myself and am intimately familiar with such sibling, er, conversations.

But as I rounded the bend and ran along the short side of the lake situated in the center of this wooded park, I chuckled more at the familiarity of the boy's struggle. So focused was he on learning how to change gears on his new bike he seemed to have completely forgotten what "uphill" was versus "downhill."

How often don't we do this? When faced with the acquisition of new knowledge or a new skill, our energies get so channeled into incorporating and mastering it that we overlook old skills and knowledge. Or in the midst of a significant change, we temporarily neglect to tap into what we already have/know/do well to help propel us forward to a new normal.

I did this very thing at work last month. At the beginning of a new social media project with a tight deadline, I zoned in on acquiring the necessary technological knowledge. Burrowing into best practices online and reading articles and white papers and books and blogs and listening to podcasts quickly sucked me in. I was frantically trying to figure out the new tools when a friend and colleague I had confided my angst to reminded me that I have an extroverted preference and was overlooking the old "skill" of connecting with people. Reach out to people who already know the tool and talk with them about it? Why didn't I think of that?!

Because I was too focused on changing gears and couldn't recognize that I was going uphill.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Leadership Beyond Boundaries Maps New Terrain

CCL conducted a second GVOL Leadership Beyond Boundaries (LBB) train-the-trainer (ToT) program at its Greensboro campus in late June/early July, 2008.

Twelve teachers, trainers, and coaches from the US, India, and Caribbean attended the training to learn a new two-day program titled Leadership Essentials and absorb the CCL way of facilitating leadership development. The new trainers then delivered the two-day Essentials program to nearly 60 participants from the local community via 5 concurrent programs the following week.

The Leadership Essentials model is designed to be a leadership program that can be delivered at a low cost and with minimal amenities. It uses self-score instruments rather than 360-degree assessments and flipcharts in place of PowerPoint. The participants in the ToT program plan to use the Essentials model to provide leadership development to people in nonprofits, government, schools, churches, and prisons.

The LBB program is one of a number of CCL initiatives that are designed to make leadership development more affordable and accessible. The LBB program will be delivered by CCL in Ethiopia in July and in India in August.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Early Leadership Development in Sri Lanka – Preparing for What’s Possible

By Joel Wright

In March 2008 I returned to Sri Lanka where from 2004 – 2005 I worked with the National Council of YMCAs to design and deliver various leadership programs. During that first trip, the Indian Ocean tsunami rushed ashore and as a result, several of the young adults I was training were tapped into regional leadership positions to assist in the recovery and community rebuilding efforts. Part of the goal for the return trip in March was to explore and better understand the impact that early leadership training had in the face of responding to a crisis. The other focus of my trip was to continue CCL’s Global Voices of Leadership effort of developing and testing leadership content that could become curriculum for our early leadership development effort.

The first leadership program conducted was a one day program that translated some of CCL’s core content: Direction Alignment Commitment (DAC) and Assessment Challenge Support (ACS). Typically used with executives around the world, DAC & ACS was adapted to youth friendly scenarios and examples making it understandable and relevant to this younger audience. Additionally, this day program included CCL’s Active Listening guidebook which was converted into curriculum and used as a piece of the program. While the program went extremely well there were some good lessons learned about better ways to facilitate when content is being translated into another language. Overall, the program was a success and I must say I’m always amazed at how eager Sri Lankan youth are to learn and engage. To me it speaks to how much they are craving these types of developmental opportunities.

As is often the case when I’ve traveled as a leadership trainer, people often spring requests on me, could you run an impromptu program for a group of about twenty youth? It’s why we’re here, is usually my response because to deny these young people an opportunity to grow towards their potential just doesn’t feel right. As a result I found myself working with my wife and two of her fellow public health graduate students conducting a last second program that combined the YMCA’s motto of spirit, mind and body with leadership for life. The combination proved potent with one young Sri Lankan sharing, “I think it’s very useful to my future life so I think now I’m a perfect person.” Since sharing this statement around CCL one colleague said, “Perfecting people in 3 hours! Awesome.”

While every portion of this trip to Sri Lanka proved to be powerful perhaps the biggest surprise was in reconnecting with those young professionals whom I trained prior to the tsunami and hearing about the impact those early trainings had on them. As I listened and collected stories and experiences about the tsunami, it became increasingly clear that each of the four young professionals “tapped” into leadership positions, cited their early leadership training as important in helping them fill their role, connect and collaborate with everyone from local community members to the multiple different organizations, agencies and individuals who came in from all over the world. Such a unanimous response pointing to parts of their leadership training was indeed quite a surprise and nearly everyone interviewed discussed the importance of developing future leadership at the grassroots level.

In talking about the impact of leadership training with many different people in Sri Lanka, I often asked the question, what role would leadership training have on youth around the country? Many responded with similar answers such as “youth need this” or it would be the “best thing” in the midst of their situation.

It’s stories of impact and hope such as these that we at CCL continue to hear about around the world and that drive us to ask, what would the world look like if more or even all youth could have access to leadership opportunities? Perhaps we let one Sri Lankan youth answer this for us, “it would enable youth to work on improving all aspects of our society.”

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Walking New Roads

Debra Millar of CHF is profiled in an article in CCL's 2008 annual report. Debra reflects on her
22 years of working in the area of public health and HIV/AIDS prevention in Kenya and other African countries and on the importance of leadership development:

"It ’s very clear to me that the most impactful wave of assistance needs to be in the form of leadership development. These young, dedicated leaders can change the face of their countries," says Debra, while acknowledging that the stakes are high."If sound ethical leadership doesn ’t develop in a typical for-profit organization, it doesn ’t make as much money, or it goes out of business. But if we fail to develop ethical leadership in troubled regions,the consequences are far, far greater."

CHF International, a global non-governmental organization (NGO) that is currenly collaborating with CCL to build leadership to reduce ethnic conflict and address HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

CCL Takes Leadership Essentials to Emerging Countries

The Center for Creative Leadership's Leading Effectively newsletter features a piece on the GVOL effort that is the focus of this blog.

It states:

"The Center for Creative Leadership works with some 20,000 people each year. But what would it take to bring leadership development to 2 million or 20 million people? And what if CCL expanded beyond developing senior-level executives and sought to develop young people? And what could CCL do to reach out to develop leaders in emerging economies such as Africa, India and China?"

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Train-the-Trainer Programs Scheduled for Grassroots Leadership Development

CCL will be hosting additional runs of the Leadership Beyond Boundaries train-the-trainer program in the US, Ethiopia, and India. The program is to provide NGO, not -for-profit institutions and community leadership trainers with essential knowledge and skills to facilitate a leadership development program for underserved populations.

The 8-day program encompasses three major components:
  • Experience leadership development: Exposure to Leadership Essentials -- a leadership development model developed for NGOs, not -for profit and educational institutions.
  • Learn how to facilitate leadership development: Training in the Center for Creative Leadership’s model of leadership development grounded in the Center’s four decades of leadership development experience. Covers content knowledge and facilitations skills development using a methodology used to train CCL faculty known as The CCL Way.
  • Practice delivery of a leadership development program: The program is capped by a training session in which the trainer delivers Leadership Essentials to a live audience with active CCL support and feedback
The scheduled dates are:
  • USA – June 23 – July 2, 2008
  • Ethiopia – July 14 – 23, 2008 *
  • India – August 25 - Sept. 3, 2008 *
Inquiries can be directed to Dou Fall (

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Train-the-Trainer Workshop for NGOs

CCL hosted our first Leadership Beyond Boundaries Train-the-Trainer Program on February 11-22, 2008 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Participants from Cherokee Gives Back, CHF, IntraHealth, LEAP Africa, TISS, UWI, and World Vision traveled from Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, the Caribbean, India, and North America to attend the program.

The program was prompted by NGO client requests for facilitation training to be provided along with leadership development content and tools. For the program we used an approach known as the CCL Way, a methodology used to prepare new CCL trainers in facilitation techniques and the core concepts that form CCL's approach to leadership development. In addition, the training included orientation to assessments and coaching, and modules and exercises related to change, conflict, decision-style, and influence.

The two week pilot program provided valuable learning for both CCL and the participants. The Center plans to offer future workshops in Africa and India.

Coaching and Social Change: An Experience with Ashoka in Egypt

David Dorn and Mike Rosenthal, two coaches from the Center, conducted a coaching session for a group of Ashoka Fellows and staff in Cairo. Ashoka is an organization designed to advance social entrepreneurship. Ashoka Fellows work in some 60 countries to address a wide spectrum of human need and social challenges.

The coaching session was intended to share our coaching approach and gather input on coaching skills development for grassroots leaders. The CCL coaching approach of asking questions rather than offering solutions resonated deeply with the Ashoka participants. They indicated that solutions to be successful must emerge from the people and can't be imposed from up or the outside.

This is a key idea. In India and elsewhere we've noted that the NGOs that are able to achieve scale are the ones that espouse inclusion within their organizations and in their engagements with the community. The leaders of these organizations understand that gifted individuals can be catalysts but change takes collective action. Change agents may be more effective when they act as coaches and facilitators rather than consultants and experts.

The experience with Ashoka was a powerful and an inspiring experience for the two CCL coaches. They were moved by nature of the diffcult challenges Ashoka Fellows take on in Egypt as well as their unique spirit and creative orientation to social problems. Insights from the Ashoka experience have helped inform our efforts with regard to NGO and community leadership development.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Liberia Women’s Empowerment Colloquium

Karen Dyer, Shera Johnson-Clark, and Dou Fall of CCL conducted leadership workshops in Liberia as part of the Women’s Empowerment Colloquium. The objective of this initiative, envisioned by Republic of Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, is to empower women at various levels to become effective leaders and make a difference qualitatively on issues at national and international levels.

Approximate thirty-five (35) women and three (3) men attended the CCL workshop. Represented in this group were community/NGO leaders, governmental leaders, colloquium steering committee members, and leadership consultants.

CCL has been involved in constructing the leadership dimensions of this global initiative. We are excited about working to develop new and transformative models for developing the leadership capacity of women leaders in Liberia and beyond.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Boundary Spanning Leadership

by Christopher Ernst

In his recent Newsweek article What People Will Die For, the influential columnist Fareed Zakaria wrote about a growing global phenomenon – the persistence and intensification of the boundaries between subnational groups. With the waning influence of the battle of ideology (liberalism, communism, socialism), humans’ oldest identities have moved to the core of intergroup relations. In Pakistan, the societal rift that most deeply envelopes the life and loss of Benazir Bhutto is the divide between the country’s various regions. In Kenya, the tragic events associated with the recent election stem from a break-down along tribal lines. In Iraq, intractable divisions of religion continue to stall efforts toward a more peaceful future.

While the pull of old identities is currently most visible in developing nations, Zakaria notes that this trend is alive and well in the developed world. While Belgium went six months without a government because of the harsh divisions between Flemish and French speaking populations, Scotland elected a party whose central platform pivots on independence, seeking to unhinge the 1707 Acts of Union that established the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Scotland, and Wales.

Leadership research and practice has traditionally focused on the need for leaders to manage and protect group boundaries. As the events Zakaria describe make clear, the opposite response is increasingly called for – the ability for leaders to reach across, span, bridge, and bring groups together across boundaries.

Through the Leadership Across Differences project, (, CCL is currently seeking to understand the increasingly important and necessary role that boundary spanning leaders play in bridging divides between groups in service of a larger vision, mission, or goal.

Critical challenges in Pakistan, Kenya, or Iraq will not be solved by leaders working only within a single identity group. Likewise, this holds true for any of the most pressing issues of today including poverty, education, human rights, healthcare, and the environment. The implication for leadership is this – as ancient identities work to pull groups apart, the role of leadership will increasingly be to create the context and space for these groups to come together. When group boundaries are successfully bridged, pent-up breakthroughs and innovations are unleashed. This is both the challenge and the opportunity for boundary spanning leadership.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Organizational Leadership Development in Ethiopia Among NGOs

Update from Steadman Harrison

The CCL Leadership Essentials Workshop content begins with an individual leader focus and moves quickly to broaden an organizational leadership development lens. In prototype workshops conducted in East Africa from November 2006 through January 2008, experiential exercises were used to draw out the lessons and best practices regarding working with others. Trust Walks, Move the Mindset/Money, and Visual/Metaphor Explorer are a few of the tools we thread together in the Assessment/Challenge/Support (ACS) framework to address organizational leadership development. Participants are asked to think beyond their own personality and learning styles to consider the organizational culture and community context where they work.

In a recent workshop with nearly 100 participants from Ethiopian NGOs, CBOs, and FBOs a group of 10 volunteers took on the role of managers, 10 blind-folded participants took on the role of employees, 25 observers shared the perspective of the rest of the organization, 25 observers shared the perspective of the local community in need, and 25 observers played the role of the local, province and regional government ministries. As the managers and employees worked through a simple task to move a physical object representing NGO funding out from a fixed point to a nearby circle representing the community in need, the observers noted in the debrief how easy it was for those focused on the task to lose sight of their purpose and to literally forget about the community they were serving. Managers missed opportunities to engage with the rest of the organization available for support and complained about the challenge of working with government representatives when new rules and regulations were being communicated. During the debrief of experiential exercises and appreciative inquiry tools participants routinely draw the parallels to their everyday work and see the analogies and metaphors of these simulations come to life. Participants report that their understanding of their impact on others, their appreciation for the complex cultural context within which they work, and the importance of building clear direction, alignment, and commitment through their leadership influence increases throughout the course of their workshop experience.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Leadership for the BoP and the Bottom Line

By Philomena Rego and Lyndon Rego

On our trip to India in December 2007, we met with several corporations, educational institutions, trainers and young professionals. Most inspiring was our meeting with KC Kurien, who heads the people diversity initiatives at Pantaloon. Pantaloon Retail (India) Limited, is India’s leading retailer with more than 500 stores in 51 cities across India and over 25,000 people. What’s especially noteworthy is that the majority of employees come from lower economic groups. Organized retail is emerging as an important source of jobs in India, and is expected to add 2.5 million jobs by 2010. We found Pantaloon’s training approach to be remarkable on a number of levels:

  1. While the war for talent in India is aimed at attracting the best educated, Pantaloon’s employees are typically young people from slums who might not have a degree, but have aspirations like everyone else.
  2. Their innovative approach centers around helping these individuals be successful and providing opportunities and resources for developing their self-esteem and aspirations for their life and work. They ask recruits “what is your dream?”
  3. The training approach is holistic and extends beyond building skills needed to fulfill job requirements to encompass the overall well being of the employee. They provide parenting classes, continuing education, and even have a happiness index to gauge overall employee satisfaction.

We asked KC, who came to Pantaloon after heading the design school Shristi, how he developed this unique orientation. He said he gained insights from watching beggars at a traffic intersection and reflecting on why some beggars were more successful than others. He found that it had to do with self-confidence. KC’s stint with design enables him to look at developing people with fresh eyes and to try new approaches.

Pantaloon’s parent organization is the Future Group, led by the visionary Kishore Biyani. The organization’s manifesto speaks of “rewriting rules” and “creating the future” and identifies among its core values: leadership, building relationships, humility, introspection, openness, and adaptability.

The link that Pantaloon has traced between individual self-awareness / empowerment and organizational success is at the heart of the Center’s vision to make leadership development more accessible and available in our world. Pantaloon -- and the aptly named Future Group --provides an inspirational example of how we can create a brighter future for those at the bottom of the pyramid through leadership development.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Learning to Lead

By Philomena Rego

As a social worker educated in India, I had been through a graduate program where field placement was a requirement. At the time, only a few institutions were doing internships and fieldwork but now these approaches are commonplace in colleges as a way of providing students with practical experience.

Looking back, I gained work exposure and the application of theory to practice from the fieldwork, but the experience produced little insight about myself and my ability to work with others. It was ultimately of little long-term value.

In returning to India with an eye for ways to make leadership development possible for young people, it occurs to me that these field experiences are a fertile ground for building self-awareness and team skills. For this, we can couple these programs with assessment, reflection, coaching, and feedback. This would impart students with not only practical experience in their field of study, but the critical leadership skills that they can use for a lifetime.

Employers in India have complained that fresh hires arrive with a deficit of soft skills. The value of this particular approach is that with the added leadership emphasis, we could transform a common practice into a potentially powerful and valuable action learning platform.

We’ve begun discussions with a couple of Indian colleges to work to prototype an action learning approach for students. If successful they may be a model that can be scaled across the educational landscape to help turn a new generation of learners into leaders.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

What's at Stake in Schools

One of the organizations we’ve encountered in our effort to make leadership development more accessible in our world is the African Leadership Academy (ALA). The Academy is a new educational institution that will prepare talented 16-19 year olds from all 54 African nations to take on roles of leadership. We recently received a note from Chris Bradford of ALA spotlighting some of the incoming students. Here’s an essay from Belinda, a 16 year-old Zimbabwean girl:

“In June last year (2006), I noticed a certain family in our neighborhood constantly came to my house to literally beg for food. I was greatly disturbed and concerned at this behaviour. I investigated further into the issue and was saddened to discover that this family was child headed by Anna (13 years old). Anna, who was looking after her sisters (10 and 8 years), told me that her parents had died of AIDS in January (2006) and because all the money had been used up, she had resorted to asking for food in order to survive.

I was moved by her story and with the intention of helping, I asked my mother to lend me some money. With it I purchased 30 chickens at point of lay. I had calculated that if each chicken laid an egg everyday, I would have a crate to sell after school. I would sell the eggs to my neighbours and on Sundays I would take the eggs to church. With money constantly available I began to meet the orphans’ daily needs.”

ALA notes that Belinda has continued to empower Anna by teaching her how to grow vegetables in a garden. With the money from raised from the sales of the eggs and vegetables, Anna was able to support her daily needs and pay her siblings’ and her school fees.

Belinda’s approach evokes that of social entrepreneurship and speaks to the potential of young people. In his article, Everybody a Changemaker, Ashoka founder Bill Drayton, voiced the need to focus on developing young people so that they gain “applied empathy, teamwork, and leadership” skills. It was important he said that we include those who have traditionally been subject to the kind of education that leaves out inspiration and empowerment.

“The children of elite families grow up at home and usually in school being expected to take initiative and being rewarded for doing so. This confident ability to master new situations and initiate whatever changes or actions are needed is in essence what defines the elite. Entering adult life with confidence and mastery of empathy/teamwork/leadership skills is what ultimately has given this small group control of the initiative and therefore of power and resources for millennia.

However, the other 97 percent grow up getting very little such experience with taking initiative. Adults control the classroom, work setting, and even sports and extra-curricular activities. And this situation, coupled with society’s attitudes, drums home the message to this majority: “You’re not competent or perhaps even responsible. Please don’t try to start things; we can do it far better.”

Clearly young people like Belinda rise far above their circumstances, and ALA intends to enable them to hone their skills as agents of change. There is desperate need for many more institutions like ALA, however.

The gulf is great between their potential and the present state of education in places like rural India, spotlighted in a feature in the New York Times, where teachers seldom show up at decrepit schools and children learn little.

“Sixty years after independence, with 40 percent of its population under 18, India is now confronting the perils of its failure to educate its citizens, notably the poor. More Indian children are in school than ever before, but the quality of public schools like this one has sunk to spectacularly low levels, as government schools have become reserves of children at the very bottom of India’s social ladder.

Among children in fifth grade, 4 out of 10 could not read text at the second grade level, and 7 out of 10 could not subtract. The results reflected a slight improvement in reading from 2006 and a slight decline in arithmetic; together they underscored one of the most worrying gaps in India’s prospects for continued growth.

“When they get older, they’ll curse their teachers,” said Arnab Ghosh, 26, a social worker trying to help the government improve its schools, as he stared at clusters of children sitting on the grass outside. “They’ll say, ‘We came every day and we learned nothing.’ ”

In India, CCL is exploring the development of a leadership program for school principals. Helping school administrators to think creatively about their challenges is key but only a small part of what must happen. Ultimately, we need millions of schools to embark on the path that ALA has taken. It will take a lot of us working together at the global and local level to bring about this critical transformation.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Overcoming Want and Waste

In the last couple of months, two long awaited BOP innovations were unveiled: the One Laptop Per Child ($100) computer and the Tata Nano ($2,500) car. Both these innovations aimed at providing access to those who previously could not afford a laptop or a car.

While much of the innovation in our world is focused on pushing the forward edge in terms of features and functionality, the OLPC and the Tata Nano focused on cost cutting as the frontier for innovation. Crossing this frontier offers access to millions new consumers. The OLPC and Nano price targets were widely labeled as unrealistic at the outset but as they drew close to launch, they resulted in a bevy of copycat offerings from mainstream producers in the computer and automobile fields. What the OLPC and Nano proved is that the true barrier to be crossed is not technical viability but that of vision and will.

As more products cross the price-innovation threshold, a worry is about the significant environmental problems that can be expected to ensue with greater consumption. Finding a way to produce green (yet affordable) products is a frontier that we must begin to tackle. Here too the great, big barrier is not about feasibility but that of vision and will. Will we see creative leaders like Negroponte and Tata embark on these challenges soon? There’s not a moment to waste.