Sunday, January 25, 2009

Environment which stimulates learning.

Let's put aside teaching resources and just compare based on the immediate learning environment, between this:

And this...

As discovered by research, learning is accelerated, optimised and inspired by nuture as much as 'nature' which in this case, I'm referring to the immediate surrounding that envelopes a group of learners. Creativity in learning provides much more that regurgitating data and facts because it's a soft skill that will prove to be immensely useful in any situations which require problem solving in later life. And the 'environment' has everything to do with that.

Poverty will always be there in some unfortunate countries and no matter how much funding is pumped into these nations, there are 'unforseen' barricades which have always been (and will always be) a point of debate on how exactly the funds are used. The right thing to do (and perhaps I believe, a more effective one), is to cultivate change from within these poverty area by instilling a sense of inspiration in the young. Again and again, I need to remind myself that (as shown on the first photo), these Kenyan students might be poor but they are not miserable. That's a very commonly mistaken perception made by a lot of people. Hence, they provide the less effective solution to the actual problem. However, having said that, who wouldn't do better with more grain? More water? More money? But is that sustainable? How long can we 'help' them? Don't mind the cliche, but really, this is the one time where we need to teach them how to fish. What if 'environment' can really inspire these kids to question more, work harder, search for more by themselves? What if by merely redecorating the classrooms, it motivates kids to attend school and sets upon them a new benchmark of quality of life that will inspire them to better their own? What if we only need a few posters? Or new colours? What if environment could be the first step to this 'change'?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Talk about opportunity.

Ha ha ha, sorry, that was a very unprofessional burst from me. But I can't help it when I saw this from Cool Hunter and I thought it was brilliant of Veet!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In a time where everything moves. What is interactivity?

In today's digital age, honestly, what is interactivity? Rewind 10 years ago, interactivity was when users can 'communicate' with the medium. Then in the early growth of the internet era, interactivity was clicking a button and watch something move in the website. But today. Today when everything moves at the beckon of a button or a swish of a mouse, what truly constitutes interactivity? Consumers' expectation has grown leaps and bounds and everyone has an attention span of a peanut. How do we keep up with them?

According to Gavin Finn is president and CEO of Kaon Interactive, interactivity is part of experiential marketing which must:
• Provide sufficient information in a way that doesn’t overwhelm
• Deliver consistent product information across sales channels;
• Create a truly interactive experience; and
• Tap into those emotional qualities that drive the customer’s decision-making.

"These characteristics must be present throughout the entire customer experience, not just for the presentation. In a retail environment, this could include lighting, background music, window displays, paint color and much more."

So no. Clicking a button to watch an animation online is NOT interactive. Clicking another button to watch a video online is NOT interactive. Posting a comment in a forum is NOT interactive. Interactivity means the 'medium' needs to incorporate some form of intelligence, however artificial that is, which could respond to the user's action, subsequently providing a new value each time this 'connection' is made. If we're considering experience as part of interactivity, then we should first and foremost, place user experience on the top rung of the priority ladder. And use the 'virtual' product and/or message to provide that experience.

I think it's time we rethink about 'interactive'. It's another one of those overused words.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Kenyan son, Obama.

As a follow-up to my previous post; coincidentally during the last bout of my journey in Kenya, I managed to sit down with a couple of life veterans in a hole-in-a-wall pub in some faraway suburbs of Nairobi debating on the Obama issue. Them over their Tuskers and me over my cola. Listening to them, they were extremely proud of Obama. To the extent that one of them may even fly back to the States to witness Bamie's inauguration and this was what another one of them exclaimed.

"We're proud of Obama. It's not that we want money or help or anything. We're proud of him because we see him like our son. And our son has made it. In the annals of American history, no black has ever stepped foot in the White House. Even if he made it, the bullet will stop him. But not our Obama, He made it."

Wow. Those are some powerful words if you ask me. Please pardon my one way street perspective before then. I hope that provides a fresh perspective to the Obama debate.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The messianic Barack Obama.

I was kinda surprised to see Obama almost on worshipped status in Kenya. In bookstores, you can even find books about his childhood (did Obama grow up here? His dad surely did but his childhood?). At the road junctions, sellers tried to shove Obama souvenirs (what the!? in Kenya!?). So you have Obama t-shirts, hankies, you have Kenyan flags, American flags (WHAT!?). Then I read a very interesting post by someone called R. Corey Richardson and his take on this whole Obama she-bang. I can understand why Obama being the first of non-white to hold presidency presents so much hope to non-white people, to non-Americans. To the extent it overshadows their own country's leader. As for me, somehow, I thought it's a good sign for great change. To show the world that things can happen. But we ought to also remember that Obama is a man and he will fail. He cannot live up to everyone's expectations. As a leader he needs to prioritize and that means some will fall out of his plans. I think as much 'hope' as he embodies, we need to understand that he's nothing more that a representative fact that this world is changing and it's coloured. People are moving out of their borders and settling in other nations. People are marrying each other out of love not coloured skins nor status. People are getting international and travelling to find themselves amongst others. And Obama represents all that. And only all that. He's an American President. He's NOT God.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The all-new Honda City.

I totally forgot all about the our latest launch! I vaguely remember working for very long hours and then it was time to pack and leave. Was hardly able to catch my breath. But anyway, for those who missed the launch event, you can join the 2009 Honda City Facebook group to check out some photos. Or similarly, here's our new TVC which represents a New Dawn for compact sedans. Now on, all else is a downgrade.

Similarly, no need for introduction -

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Brilliant Earth - Luxury with a conscience.

After a comment posted by Danielle from Brilliant Earth, I did a little investigation on my own. These days, with all those web crawlers of PR 2.0, it's hard to say what is computer-generated when they auto-detect a related blog post and what is a human reponse following a genuine concern. So, I went to the website and read about their business and claimed efforts done in helping Africa.

First of all, I must say that they have sterling reviews from yelp (a social network of reviews by real people). And they've also got consistent media mentions from CNN to Tyra to InStyle Weddings. According to their website also, they give back to the society by dedicating back 5% of their profit to support gemology training, land restoration, medical aid and other local projects which they believe in.

Speaking of which I think their PR/communication company is doing a great job in ensuring the viral element is continuously supported by strategic efforts. No need for advertising, just look at the amount of coverage happening online. Brilliant PR. Check out their blog.

*The only report that I'm unable to locate is the annual report which probably states in black and white, the management of the 5% profit. Well, otherwise I'm pretty convinced that diamonds and ladies can co-exist in harmony.

And one for the ladies:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Diamonds are a murdering rebel's best friend.

Originally published here.

Fighting diamond smuggling in Africa
Liberia lifts its six-year-old moratorium on the mining, sale, and export of diamonds on Monday.
from the July 30, 2007 edition

Koidu, Sierra Leone; and London - The diamond pits of Sierra Leone haven't changed much since the war ended five years ago.

Spread across the muddy, cratered moonscapes, hundreds of hunched men still break their backs day after day sifting through wet gravel with crude shovels and sieves.

Last winter the Oscar-nominated movie 'Blood Diamond' cast Hollywood's bright lights on the brutality of a war that was funded by diamonds dug by hand out of these mud pits then exchanged for weapons and exported to Europe where they were cut, polished, packaged, and sold to consumers seeking a symbol of enduring love.

Since the diamond-fueled wars in Sierra Leone and neighboring Liberia have ended, the amount of diamonds coming from conflict zones has dropped from 15 percent during the mid-1990s to only 0.2 percent today. With the help of international organizations and donor nations, Sierra Leone has made great strides in regulating its diamond industry, and Liberia just announced that it will lift its six-year-old moratorium on the mining, sale, and export of diamonds on Monday.
But, despite the gains, shortcomings remain.

"Smuggling is still happening across West Africa and as a consumer you still can't be sure of what you're getting," says Annie Dunnebacke, a campaigner at the London-based advocacy group Global Witness.

In 2005, experts estimated that up to 20 percent of the country's diamond production was being smuggled.

Some dispute this figure but none deny that smuggling persists. "Smuggling is there but it is not organized like during the war," says Jonathan Shaka, a government mines official.

Last year, official exports of rough diamonds were worth $136 million, but as the war raged in 1999 the figure was a paltry $1.2 million, leading experts to estimate that rebels in control of the mines during the war were smuggling up to $125 million of diamonds a year.

Advances in regulating the trade
The biggest advance for regulating the diamond trade came in 2003 with the launch of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which was set up to ensure that the gems are not associated with conflict through a system of self-regulation and certificates by which the origin of any rough diamond can be proved.

The Kimberley Process was established specifically to prevent the trade in blood diamonds used to fund rebel groups, but Ms. Dunnebacke argues that smuggling any diamonds undermines that process by allowing the trading networks to persist.

Leon Boksenbojm, a diamond expert and consultant to Sierra Leone's government, acknowledges that smuggling goes on. "The problem of smuggling is not specific to West Africa but it is more acute because the borders are porous," he says. In a recent documentary released as part of the two-disc Blood Diamond DVD, Sierra Leonean filmmaker Sorious Samura showed just how easy it is to walk across the border with a pocketful of diamonds and trade them to dealers without any certificates to guarantee that the diamonds are conflict-free.

Sierra Leone leads the way
To combat smuggling, the Sierra Leonean government last month launched the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which calls on companies to publish what they pay and governments to publish what they receive, bringing transparency and accountability to a notoriously secretive industry.

Mr. Bokensbojm says the answer is to harmonize legislation and tax codes in the region thereby removing the incentive to smuggle. Implementing EITI across West Africa is an important step toward this, he says, pointing out that other countries lag behind Sierra Leone.
Are your diamonds 'conflict-free'?

Among the designer clothes stores on London's Bond Street are a number of retailers, including De Beers and Graff, who sell some of the estimated $62 billion worth of diamond jewelery bought worldwide each year.

Paying lip-service to the Kimberley Process, one Bond Street jeweler confidently asserted that all his new diamonds were conflict-free. He claimed to have certificates proving this but could not produce them. A survey by Global Witness and Amnesty International in May found that most British retailers were not doing enough to ensure that the diamonds they sell are conflict-free.
Whether or not a particular retailer's stones are conflict-free, the disparity between the consumer and producer ends in the diamond chain remains stark.

A half-carat diamond engagement ring selling for close to $6,000 on Bond Street may have begun its journey in a wooden sieve wielded by a man such as Kelly Koroma, who earns $1.50 a day standing thigh-deep in muddy water in one of the pits that ring Koidu.

"Life is difficult here," he mumbles between shovelfuls of gravel. "I am just surviving."

--- end of original article ---

And learn more here or watch this. Wherever there is value put into a 'product', there will be those who will fuel horific incidents in the expense of someone else's blood. The world has three layers of people. The top most layer consists of the Rich who will only become richer, snowballing their already infinite value (and greed) through unscrupulous means. Then, there is the bottom layer whose only means of survival is to do the bidding of others whether by force or through the instilling of unspeakable fear, just so they can live to see the dawn of another day. And then there is 'us', the middle layer who is mostly ignorant about world issues, going on in our usual pace of daily life. Hinting and purchasing a substantial carat size as proof of eternal love. All in whose expense?

Now that you know the price that you are truly paying, then you decide what is the true value of a diamond.