15 lecciones que aprendimos con Ingenieros Sin Fronteras Colombia

Esta entrada fue escrita en colaboración con Diana Duarte Gómez, fundadora de DistanciaCero.co  y profesora en la Universidad Sergio Arboleda. En nuestro tiempo trabajando con Ingenieros Sin Fronteras Colombia (ISFCOL) hemos aprendido lecciones que son críticas para el emprendimiento social pero que no están escritas. Las aprendimos de nuestras profesoras y compañeros en ISFCOL pero sobre todo, las aprendimos yendo a los lugares a donde queríamos trabajar. El propósito de esta entrada es compartir estas lecciones con emprendedores sociales o investigadores que quieran tener impacto pero que no estén seguros cómo trabajar con diferentes tipos de personas y en diferentes situaciones.

1- Respeto: ante todo, reconocer la importancia de cualquier persona sin importar los niveles socioeconómicos que existan.

2- Evitar temas de conversación políticos y religiosos. Muy probablemente todas las personas con las que estamos trabajando van a tener diferentes puntos de vista y al hablar de esos temas la situación se puede poner un poco incómoda y nuestro trabajo, al fin y al cabo, es por un bien común que va más allá de nuestras creencias.

3- La confianza es lo más precioso y lo qué más hay que proteger. El trabajo comunitario es de constuir lazos de confianza y eso se hace con constancia y demostrando interés genuino. Sin credibilidad, tal vez funcione en un primer momento, pero ya nunca más

4- Todos los proyectos que se inician se tienen que terminar. Por más desastrosos que sean los resultados del proyecto o por más desinterés que exista por parte de la comunidad hay que volver. Siempre hay que hacer un cierre formal del proyecto y una entrega de los productos logrados hasta la fecha final.

5- La planeación es esencial. El trabajo de impacto social y comunitario es de planeación: quiénes son responsables, cuáles son los objetivos y cuál es el cronograma.

6- Lo más satisfactorio del trabajo en proyectos sociales es la gente. Conocer a las personas y entender sus experiencias de vida, compartir, estar presente, escuchar y ser humano.

7- La retroalimentación es nuestra mejor amiga. La única forma de mejorar es fijándose en los errores, en sus posibles causas y tomando acción para hacer las cosas diferentes en la próxima ocasión.

8- La comunicación por definición debe ser clara, pero cuando se está trabajando con comunidades, no es redundante insistir en que se procure claridad para manejar expectativas. El primer acercamiento a una comunidad debe ser claro y concreto. El segundo también y de ahí para delante, lo mismo.

9- El tiempo es de la comunidad, no nuestro. Las lógicas del reloj no son las mismas para todos. Es probable que se organice un taller una reunión y las personas no lleguen o lleguen tarde. Lo primero, fueron fallas en la planeación, lo segundo, parte de comprender que existen otras lógicas de tiempos donde, llegar unos minutos más tarde, es el protocolo y solo queda aceptarlo.

10- El lenguaje: hay que aprender a hablar con las palabras locales. Se debe hablar de “sumercé”. Todos tenemos diferentes niveles de educación ‘formal’ e ‘informal’ y eso no tiene que ver con la cantidad de ideas valiosas para aportar.

11- Compromiso adquirido, compromiso cumplido. TODAS absolutamente todas las expectativas creadas, se deben responder. El no cumplimiento genera grietas en las relaciones y mina cualquier posibilidad de éxito de un proyecto.

12- Empatía: esto no funciona si todo lo que se planea no se hace poniéndose en los zapatos de la comunidad. Se cita a un taller, ¿cómo va a llegar cada persona si desde las fincas al punto de encuentro hay una hora de trayecto a pie y no hay plata para el taxi? Cada detalle cuenta, cada realidad y cada situación.

13- Nadie puede obligar a alguien a hacer algo y esperar que sea sostenible y duradero. El cambio viene de una epifanía que se tenga por dentro. Es algo autónomo. Las acciones que se implementan de forma permanente son acciones de cada persona.

14- No hablar no equivale a no tener nada que decir. Porque no haya participación, porque alguien no levante la mano, porque alguien no hable en voz alta o escriba en un papel algo, no quiere decir que no haya nada por decir. Puede ser una cuestión de timidez, de no querer exponerse, de sentirse intimidado por las otras personas que van a escuchar.

15- Hay que documentar, documentar y documentar hasta el cansancio. Documentando, observamos, y a través de la observación entendemos mejor los problemas.

Esta entrada fue escrita en colaboración con Diana Duarte Gómez, fundadora de DistanciaCero.co  y profesora en la Universidad Sergio Arboleda. Todas las fotografías incluidas en esta entrada fueron tomadas por Diana Duarte Gómez.

Lyss from Blyss – women who inspire

Much of my motivation comes from other women. I would like to start 2016 by sharing the story of a woman I met last November at Food Matters Live, a three day event that brings together academics, consumers and industry to debate.

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Alyssa Jade McDonald-Bärtl, the creator of Blyss chocolate and the Cacao Academy.

Her name is Alyssa Jade McDonald-Bärtl and she knows chocolate. Her presentation came at the end of a long day when my attention was barely enough to get the train back home. But her conviction, slides and evidence immediately energised me – an excellent public speaker. Alyssa is a social entrepreneur that fights for food sovereignty and agroecology by improving chocolate standards. She is the creator of Blyss chocolate and the Cacao Academy.

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Factors that affect chocolate taught at Alyssa’s Cacao Academy.

She argues that by creating connoisseurs, in her specific case, within the chocolate industry, standards can improve and we want standards to improve! Think about wine. For a full explanation on her strategy to raise and evolve food standards, watch her TEDx talk. I thought she was a kindred spirit so I decided to interview her after her presentation at Food Matters Live:

What is your name? Alyssa Jade McDonald-Bärtl

And you are the creator of? Blyss Chocolate and the Cacao Academy

How long have you been working on this project? 6 years

Your family has been farming cacao since? 1910

What is it that you do? I fight for food sovereignty and agroecology. I use cacao in my own company and evangelizing it in farmers and chocolatiers to do that.

Have you always been interested in this? I’m a woman, I was born with chocolate in my hands. Surely, you must understand!

What did you study at university? Journalism, then I went back and did commerce but I worked for a decade in large corporations. So my family are farmers, I thought that was boring and so I went and had a corporate career cause I thought that would be more sexy, but it turns out that’s not true.

Where can we buy your chocolate? It’s sold out! Even next year.

Why is it sold out? Because I use the farming techniques my father used that his father used. We’ve used them for the past 6 six years to the point of being super happy with the collaborations, the teams that we are working with. That tells the story of working with the people who are interested in buying our chocolate: North Asia, Middle East and Europe. Inshallah! You know, God willing! In every language and religion I will say gratitude and thanks. But there are definitely buyers who are very interested in pure source material and I thank them too. We have everything to show for it. Because it’s sold out in advance, the cacao academy exists. I can’t produce enough chocolate but I realise that the chocolate is only one example of what we are doing and empowering the rest of my industry to make lots of other little ‘Blysses’ in their own way is a better legacy than just producing the product. I think that’s the reason why.

What is your recommendation to build relationships with farmers and to build trust? Turn up. When there is a gun at your head, you keep going. When there is a flood, you keep going. When there is a tsunami, you fly in. That’s what you do.

Alyssa, thank you so much for your time – it was lovely to meet you! 

You can follow Alyssa through her Instagram @MyLyssLand or Twitter @LyssLand

IBM Best Student Recognition Event 2015 – Day 3

I am typing this from my train towards Exeter. The last day of the IBM Best Student Recognition Event 2015 was today and I feel glad I was part of it. Where should I start? Perhaps with the delicious stroopwafels next to the coffee.

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What would have our Best Student Recognition Event be without the infinite supply of coffee? Thank you Clara and the other organisers!

Preparing the pitch

If you needed a reconfirmation of how time constraints, a clear goal and stress can either break or make teams – look no further. Today’s session was a massive departure from the evening prior when my team and I had left feeling a bit saturated and with work left undone.

But never mind the past. Today’s goal: design our pitch in a 16-slide narrative, for a four-minute presentation and 100 minutes to make it happen. We would then be selected at random to present and convince the jury (Toine, Alessandro and Robert-Jean – read more on them on day 1) to invest in our idea. Challenge accepted because we were in this together and were most certainly going to see it through!

We knew we could manage and with the available, we were able to automatically synchronise, figure out what was needed and self-delegate responsibilities without ever talking about roles! I was so impressed – I still am. Seeing Wiktor jump to the board and start sketching the slides and brainstorm with Benoit. Paul and Martin proofreading the narrative and finding exactly the images we needed to tell our story. For those last 40 minutes I recall us working like a well-oiled, decentralised, self-learning machine. We were brilliant: dear Benoit, Wiktor, Paul and Martin, we know where we started on the final day of the event and we should be proud of what we accomplished. It was a pleasure to have met and worked together 🙂

The winning idea to tackle food waste with millennials

I’m really excited about this part of the post. I managed to get an interview with Jérémy Dubrulle, one of the members of the winning team. He was kind enough to answer a few questions on the winning idea: FoodPrint.

Could you please describe your winning solution?

Jérémy: “Our solution is called FoodPrint and it uses tomorrow’s technologies to empower people and food waste. FoodPrint is a platform that gathers data from your smart household appliances and using big data it analyses your daily habits and recommends how to reduce your ‘food print’ through a wearable on your wrist or via smartphone. FoodPrint is not just an application – it’s an entire ecosystem that aims to become the standard by defining metrics and labels that truly empower the user. For example, FoodPrint could use the data from a compatible smart fridge to send you a notification at your wrist when you do the food shop and scan an item you already have in your fridge. It may recommend an alternative to this item with a lower footprint on the environment or just convince you that you don’t really it.”

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What were the key concepts you had in mind when imagining FoodPrint?

Jérémy: Firstly, our premise was that telling people about an app to help reduce waste is not powerful enough to make their behaviour actually change. Unfortunately, food waste is not everyone’s first priority. Even if we are aware of the problem, we assumed people wouldn’t use our solution for the sake of it. We quickly understood that minimising food waste couldn’t be the aim so we had to imagine a system that would change people’s behaviour as a consequence of our solution, THAT was the real challenge. Secondly, in a few years, the Internet of Things will be a major part of our daily lives and every smart object in our homes will provide new types of data that can be harnessed by an intelligent solution. From those both concepts, we came up with FoodPrint.

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Robert-Jan announcing the winner

How did you translate those concepts into the design process for the solution?

Jérémy: We had some difficulties with deciding on the right level of abstraction for the concept. Towards the end we thought focusing on smart fridges and collecting data would be too narrow. That’s why we came up with a level of abstraction that would allow manufacturers to implement our FoodPrint metrics, enabling them to streamline their product with our platform. Assuming that FoodPrint sustains the long-term interest of the press and public, it would be in the manufacturers’ best interest to implement our solution as it would show customers that they care about food waste and would allow them to differentiate from the competition.

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Harry van Dorenmalen, Chairman – IBM Europe and General Manager – IBM Benelux

Could you also talk a bit about your team and the group dynamic?

Jérémy: Well, one of our strengths was the diversity of our team. We had brilliant people from diverse backgrounds specialised in the fields this project required.

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What did you get to take back home? – beyond this amazing experience and friends that will last a lifetime, of course!

Jérémy: Every member of our team received an Arduino Starter Kit which is an introduction to the basics of electronics and also a great kit to test prototypes for new products. We also received an IBM certificate which is really rewarding. I don’t like to speak about ‘winning teams’ because it implies that there are ‘losing teams’ and, for me, there was no loser. I sincerely think that every student at the event gave their best and deserved to win the challenge. Every team came up with great solutions to this complex food waste issue. Beyond that, I think the most important lesson came from working together in a team made up by different nationalities trying to make the world a better place, is there something more gratifying than that?

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Indeed Jérémy, true that. Multicultural teams working together to solve a global issue. The last selfie on the bus back to the airport.

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IBM Best Student Recognition Event 2015 – Day 2

So day 2 began at 8:00 when I ran into Suqi in the elevator as we left our rooms. We grabbed our breakfast and said good morning to everyone else who seemed well rested – at last! We walked to the bus as we were stepping on, we got a bracelet strapped on to our arms with, wait for it, a phone number written on it! Joked on the bus about feeling like little kids who would most likely get lost. Talk about generating expectation for the day ahead.

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Suqi (not Suki) featured in the middle.

Anyway, we arrived at an unassuming building next to the IBM offices we had visited the day before and as we went it, the entire atmosphere signalled that today would be radically different to the previous one. The much anticipated moment: the entire group was divided into 10 teams (groups of 6) and immediately assigned tables and not allowed to change groups. Mantra for the next 24 hours: we are in this together and we will see this through. 

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The space where I was about to spend the next day. Yes, please!

On the table there wasn’t much (post-its, markers, etc.) typical Startup Weekend kit. What wasn’t typical though, was the person who led us throughout the morning. Marcel Baron, what a cool dude. He’s the Senior Managing Consultant – IBM Interactive Experience and he’s all about human-centric everything: feelings, experiences, creativity and other elements not-so-top-of-mind for tech startup sessions. My favourite thing about the content of his segment was that it was ambitious and the concepts introduced were challenging, real and relevant, they didn’t feel easy nor dumbed down for purposes of the event. If I had to summarise the entire morning in a few words: a ton of right brain warm-up exercises followed by a crash course in consumer-centred solution design and marketing led by someone who knows about what he’s talking about. In retrospective, my favourite part of the day.

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Marcel Baron and his crash course which I very much enjoyed.

On teamwork

The team. Let’s go there. What is it really like to be assigned to work together with 5 strangers whom you share little with except being on the same mission for the next 24 hours. When you’re aiming to come up with creative solutions through brainstorming, feeling comfortable enough to propose the absurd is important. Sharing ideas takes courage because you’re putting yourself out-there. Now add to that, sharing those ideas with strangers whom you’ve just met. Over lunch we discussed the morning session – lots of mixed opinions. For some, the instructions felt too vague and kinda random, for others it all made perfect sense.

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This selfie includes not only my team but Demelza Farrer to the far right, Clara, Robert-Jan and Marcel in the back, respectively. The lady in the red blazer taking a picture (selfie/inception selfie of us?) was one of the IBMers who would drop by every so often to help each team when it go stuck.

The startup

The afternoon was probably the toughest bit of the day, at least for our team: putting our solution down on paper. Here’s where it got messy but I wouldn’t change anything because now as I type about today, the pace at which we developed those ideas was product of the stress. The session was led by Pierre de Wit, Lead for IBM Centre for Advanced Studies Benelux and IBM Extreme Blue Europe.

IMG_2995 We had an inconclusive afternoon and that is exactly why the next part of the day fell perfectly into place. Remember the bracelets?

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Don’t-get-lost-please bracelets.

The treasure hunt

We were split into different teams and given another mission but in comparison to the entire day, this task was a pretty relaxed game around Amsterdam to sightsee. We weren’t left entirely to our devices though, these two are Wing and Martin and they are the coolest cats in town.

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Thank you for saving us from the embarrassment of having to use the kiddie bracelets.

Here are a few pictures of our Amsterdam silliness including but no limited to: getting inside a very constricted space for a picture, singing the IBM song in Vondelpark and standing everywhere being clueless to look at our treasure hunt map – 🙂

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Romantic dinning

By 7 pm we were mentally and physically exhausted. When I was feeling like I would almost collapse, what a sweet surprise IBM! Thank you for taking me out on a date. We wined and dined and joked around for a few hours in a lovely restaurant with a view.

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These are Martins. Martin from Czech Republic and Martin from Slovakia. Such good sense of humour, thank you for being great company.

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Tomorrow is the most important day. I’m really excited about learning about everyone else’s cool ideas. I hope my team and I get some enough hours of sleep. We need to come together and deliver.

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IBM Best Student Recognition Event 2015 – Day 1

Today was day 1 of the IBM Best Student Recognition Event 2015. I’ve decided to document the entire event since I quite enjoy collecting visual data and reframing it with a narrative. IBM does too and that is our challenge for the next two days – in a nutshell!

My journey began early. I took the train from Exeter to London Gatwick where I connected to Amsterdam.

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Thanks to Uzair for taking this picture despite the rain.

When we arrived at IBM, we were welcomed with a delicious lunch and got to greet and meet the other attendees. I had the opportunity to engage with students from Finland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Brazil, Ireland, Germany, France, Netherlands, Poland, Italy, Sweden, Pakistan and Kazakhstan. Everyone was extremely friendly, such good vibes.

Selfie desayuno

After lunch we got right to it. Saskia Bomas, Director of Finance of IBM Benelux, opened the day by stating the short and long-term expectations for us ‘best students’ attending the event and most importantly, she reminded us to “challenge, ask questions and think.”

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Saskia Bomas

Then came a presentation on IBM’s history and strategy by Haydee Sheombar, Executive for Smarter Government and Business Development. My favourite part of her talk was on the potential of smart cities. I also very much agree with her remark on what a great opportunity it is to be in the same room with all these brilliant minds because of the potential to collectively generate ideas. Somewhat like cities where ideas multiply with each other.

The following session was by Gerard Smit, CTO – IBM Benelux on IBM innovation and research. Learned about IBM’s very cool project Watson and, of course, as a MSc Food Security student IBM Chef Watson caught my attention because of its potential to create recipes that add social value.

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Betty Spiele on the far right 🙂

The last segment of this IBM session was by Betty Spiele, Lead HR Partner – IBM GBS Benelux. She gave a concise explanation of the IBM Consulting by Degrees program, complemented by a Q&A session with a person who has actually done it. We had some much needed coffee breaks in between since, as you can imagine, I wasn’t the only one who had had an early start.

Coffee

After being introduced to IBM from different angles, we began to learn about the elements of the challenge we’re being called upon to solve. Robert-Jan Sips, Research lead at IBM Centre for Advanced Studies Benelux, who had also talked a bit earlier and listened to our dire need for COFFEE throughout the day, stated the prime restrictions: increasing population, dietary preferences, climate change and environmental pressures. I suggest you read this post where I talk about these points.

He presented the Poseidon or πoseidon project. In short, this initiative was built from realising that water reserves are being depleted by agriculture and how by understanding the causes: excessive or unnecessary irrigation, a minimum viable product can be designed and tested for adoption by its end-users. Learn more about this project here.

This was all framed with Robert-Jan’s travels towards the east of Netherlands where he visited countries like Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Russia, seeking for simple yet effective solutions to solve this water usage challenge. Later in the day, I discussed his talk with other attendees and what most struck us were the people and stories that Robert introduced as being affected to different degrees by this progressive water depletion.

Here came the presentation I was looking forward to the most: Food waste: context, sources and solutions by Toine Timmermans from Wageningen University & Research centre. The challenge is clear, 50% of food waste in the UK comes from households and the solution may lie in modifying behaviour, however, data are lacking. That! is our challenge for the next couple of days. Not necessarily for the UK only and with an element of visualisation that can engage millennials in cities, like, let’s say, Amsterdam.

The final talk of the day was given was Alessandro Bozon from TU Delft on Big and Social Data in Societal Problems and a City Context. This, hands down, was my favourite talk of the day! Such unique approaches to data collection like creating maps based on smell.

The day ended in this delicious barbecue. Special thanks to Clara, Eva, Demelza, Rozemarijn and the rest of the organising team for such a great day. Very much looking forward to day two. Off to bed!

BBQ

I would really like to know what was your favourite talk of the day and what are your thoughts on the challenge – let me know in the comments below or through Twitter @farmingafuture

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The challenge is clear, 50% of food waste in the UK comes from households and the solution may lie in modifying behaviour, however, data are lacking. That! is our challenge for the next couple of days. Not necessarily for the UK only and with an element of visualisation that can engage millennials in cities, like, let’s say, Amsterdam.

IBM Best Student Recognition Event 2015 – Amsterdam

 

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Woot woot!

Last week I received a very, very, exciting e-mail. I have been nominated to attend the IBM Best Student Recognition Event 2015:

“80 hand-picked business and technical students from all over Europe, the Middle East and Africa will come together in Amsterdam to get a deep understanding of IBM, network with peers and IBMers and build up ideas for a Smarter Planet.”

Host: IBM Netherlands

Place: Center for Advanced Studies (CAS) Benelux

Date: 8th-10th July, 2015

As a MSc Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture student at the University of Exeter, I’ve had several lectures on food waste. It’s definitely a priority for food security and solutions can come in all forms.

I’m looking forward to meeting all the other students and IBMers to engage in smart conversations on smart food. Finally, I want to thank the four University of Exeter professors who nominated me (Mark van Der Giezen, Sarah Gurr, Michael Winter and Tim Lenton), Jess Hurrell (Corporate Partnerships Manager at the University of Exeter), Demelza Farrer (UK University Programs Manager for IBM) and Clara Coepijn (IBM Netherlands).

I’ll be blogging here and tweeting during the event at @angeladelcast.

See you next week!

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