and everyone has a story.
Category: Responsible business
are we inherently mean and selfish?
I don’t believe we are. Its an age old argument reflected in the views of Hobbes and Rousseau.
it goes something like this…
Left to our own devices:
A – humans will be in conflict, a sort of dog-eat-dog approach to life and fight for themselves or me and mine, OR;
B -they will care, show compassion and work cooperatively.
It’s simplified but bear with me … Which do you think is most accurate?
I’m reading humankind – a hopeful history, he challenges the theories that suggest we are individualistic when pushed into a corner and argues that we’re more likely to work together and help each other.
He debunks the dominant stories, the research, established theories and especially what we hear through the media, reinforced through word of mouth that we default to ‘I’. His view is that we default to ‘we.’ ie we care rather than fight.
We follow what we’re told and learned to accept, rather than think for ourselves.
Here’s one example:
William Golding wrote a fictitious story : “Lord of the Flies’ about young boys shipwrecked on a deserted island and how they behaved. What happened? As you might expect, they fought for themselves ganging up against each other. The result was mayhem leading to death.
This has profound implications.
By contrast, Bregman discovered a true story of shipwrecked boys. The result, was the opposite, as they co-operated and worked together to be able to survive.
Which story had you heard?
Most of my day to day experiences in life demonstrate people think about me and mine rather than showing care for another but it doesn’t have to be that way. Manjula (OK, I’m biased) was an exceptional example who throughout her life was faced with tricky uncaring people being selfish and antagonistic but she never let it stop her caring for and loving others. She was inherently kind.
I think much of our problems in society and the damage we do to each other and the planet is because of this mistaken belief and because our systems reinforce particular ways. These allow the powerful to dominate and keep their unfair share. So this way of thinking benefits some people more than others and that’s why it continues. It’s like ‘Lord of the Flies’ and this is maybe why we’re in the mess we’re in.
I believe it was Malcom X that raised the question: What’s the difference between Illness and Wellness?
It’s I and We.
Games people play.
Annoying things in India
I often explain on a cycle tour how much I love India, at something like eighty percent. I have after all chosen to adopt India as my home and married a beautiful Indian woman. However there is fifteen percent I can take or leave and maybe five percent that’s ugly that, I hate. That last bit includes the violence and aggression but also milder forms of behaviour. Examples of this might be Babu’s giving you the run-a-round or businesses not understanding customer care.
In my view this results from the extreme hierarchy and the deference expected of people. It’s reinforced in the home, at school or college and at work. Do what you’re told and don’t question things. Know your place and don’t challenge the way things are, seems to relate to caste.
Even in the simplest of situations it feels like your treated like a child.
Today was a case in point. It might seem a simple thing, and insignificant but I think its part of that overall problem. I’ve investigated this and now realise all the mobile phone companies are the same.
I’m at the Airtel shop, I’ve gone as my phone is not working, I’m told that the SIM card was faulty and needed replacing. For them to issue me with a replacement I need ID. I have a copy of my passport on the iPhone and after some kerfuffle get a print out. Sorry sir we need to see the original hard copy.
I’ve been a customer for maybe over 7 years. It was the number used by Manjula so is very significant and sentimental. I’ve provided my ID to set up my account, it’s on their system THEY KNOW WHO I AM but still they require an established customer to prove who they are but it MUST be the actual document. Just to get a replacement SIM card for the faulty one. This will be my fourth trip to the Airtel shop. Inconvenience sir, no problem.
I object to the employees but they treat us as children because that’s how they’re treated by their managers. Who can blame them? Employees are expected do as they’re told and not question things. Treat people like children, they’ll behave like children and not take responsibility.
For years I’ve delivered workshops in London and a roadshow for TATA that’s about empowering employees to make decisions to be able to innovate, be creative and focus on creating a quality customer experience.
That’s not valued here and is nigh on impossible to create in a system that prioritises deference, doing as you’re told and not in any way thinking for yourself.
My tolerance levels are diminished since Manjula died. She’d just laugh at me.
I went back to the Airtel shop with my ID card, fully annoyed but relatively calm. The new SIM was issued and installed by me later that day. Just don’t ask about the need to install it in a simple-smart phone before finally installing it in a smart-smart phone. BUT it still didn’t work so on my 5th trip back to the Airtel shop they’ve admitted that the SIM card and the rigmarole in visits 3 and 4 we’re unnecessary. I’m told it will be working by tonight. What lessons I can take from all this, I’ve no idea and I’ve lost the will to live.
Stairway to heaven
Stairway to heaven….
I think not!
But it is a new beginning.
We know there are many of our friends in India and around the world looking forward to hearing about our latest tussles with the bureaucracy.
So here it is….
We’ve taken the big friendly giant (BFG) step and now fully registered Mysore Bed and Breakfast with the Police, the City Corporation and the Karnataka State Government. It’s been an absolute ‘joy.’ Yes, really 😉
If you like to see ‘the big picture’ first check the one at the bottom.
Visit: The Police Commissioner, followed by the local Police Station, to get a letter saying Manjula is a cool chick. No no no…. to show there are no objections ie. she’s a great character, has no record and the Police and neighbours have no objections.
Please note we’re saving you the agony by missing out 90% of the actual experience of visiting and managing the differently organised police service.
ok, so you’ve got your ‘get out of jail free’ card, or your statement saying there’s no objection. Now collect up your documents: rental agreement, letter from owner agreeing to you using the house as a homestay, receipt for payment of tax.
Go to the office.
Then sort out the mistakes: redo rental agreement (letter not good enough) and pay extra tax. Spend two weeks trying to meet up with the officials, get letter typed up, and on and on and on… you just wouldn’t believe it…
is it incompetence, ‘we don’t care’ attitude or an intentional wind-up?
The registration with the Karnataka Government was relatively straight forward. Complete the online form, upload the documents provided by the Police and City Corporation and rental agreement. Pay the bill, electronically or face the ordeal of going to a state bank queuing up, paying in cash or bankers daft, getting a receipt, scanning it in, uploading it. Forget that option! paid-up…. We now await the visit of the inspectors.
Register on line with the Police to have foreigners come and stay and complete the online Form C within 24 hours of each foreigner who comes to stay. We’ll provide more details of this wonderful…. time consuming employment creation ordeal…. later to enable me (Stephen) to fully flaunt my Yorkshire sarcasm.
So we’ve done it. The team has arrived at the top step, we’ve had our highs and lows, we’ve learned to laugh and cry, we’ve met formidable obstacles, gone with the flow, we’ve sunk our flag in the hallowed ground. It’s taken time, almost a year, we’ve grown as a team and Manjula has made it happen. Phew!
She’s a star!
Next…. we’ll we do it all again next year.
The big picture
The A team includes:
Manjula, aka the boss, on point, who has traipsed around all the offices, made endless phone calls, been endlessly put off, turned up at the key offices to find the ‘houdini’ *official/policeman/Babu/patriarch (*delete as appropriate) has disappeared…. gone for lunch, on holiday, maybe hiding in the toilet, who knows? She gets a gold star for determination, fortitude, strength, with just a little innocence in the mix. madam has seriously been through it all!
Akram, auto driver extraordinaire, helping Manjula face the torture, mysticism and labyrinth workings of the Mysore City Corporation, and hiding outside when she faced the officials of the police commissioners office or the helpful smiley chaps at the local Police Station. To be fair he’s an auto rickshaw driver, rightly with an innate fear of coming into close contact with the constabulary.
Vidya and Tanu. Our knight-ettes in shining armour. Being Manjula’s counsellor, advocate, comforter, advisor and support in dealing with the Police.
Stephen, The clerk, computer operator, form filler, recorder and scribe. He lurks in the background. In the belief that to show his pale face will significantly add to the costs of said registration process.
Thank you for your invaluable help!
He’s talking about coal but makes fascinating points about contemporary society, political challenges we face, how we’ve created this mess and the actions we need to take
We are, today, at the end point of a millennia-long process of disconnection. Since we first built cities and started leaving the land we have been disconnecting from nature; losing sight of it, quite literally; losing our vocabulary of it, to the extent that blackberry is no longer a fruit to be plucked and eaten but a device to tie us to our desks when we’re on the toilet.
Nature was just the beginning. While this slow severing has been going on for thousands of years, the last few centuries – the reformation, the enlightenment, the industrial revolution, and capitalism – performed the amputation.
In capitalism, we have created the first social organising principle based on selfishness, the first system to make greed, competition, non-cooperation its credo. In Thatcherism, we have the declaration that there is no such thing as society. In neoliberalism, we have a system which alienates us from each other, from our labour, from democracy; a system which declares we have great choice while turning everything into a supermarket aisle full of different but identical toothpastes; a system which insists we have great freedoms while systematically removing more and more of our capacity to have any real control or influence over, or stake in anything real in our lives.
That’s why we can have politicians actively discussing doing something which not only makes no economic sense but will actually kill people, while most of the population turns away to binge-watch the next series on Netflix.
There is only one way through this – we have to reconnect. And it’s already happening. Around Australia and the world, people are seeking out reconnection in all sorts of ways. We are starting community groups, getting involved in community gardens and food co-ops, starting childcare and health co-ops, joining sharing groups instead of buying more stuff. Instead of always doing things on our own, as disconnected individuals, we are looking for innovative ways to work together, to eat together, to live together. And, excitingly, we’re banding together to create social and political forces to be reckoned with.
Check the full article here
The best job ever?
Why is is the best job ever?
I’m sitting here, writing responses to our Trip Adviser reviews. I’m partly avoiding doing the accounts. Lucy is asleep at my feet. We’ve already been for our morning walk. I can hear Manjula in the background. Water is running, there’s swishing and swashing, the team are at it, Manjula gently instructs and actively gets involved. She’s so many good things rolled into one and that includes her tremendous managements skills.
Well it’s a great job because in many ways it’s not a job. It our life, sharing our home, meeting great people, hearing their stories, cracking jokes (which are sometimes understood) and getting the immense satisfaction that people enjoy time with us and have a wonderful time in Mysore.
Here’s just on of our over one hundred reviews and I’ve chosen it because I wasn’t here when the guests stayed.
because we enjoy what we’re doing and we get such positive feedback….
How scandalous, the Prince has an opinion!
I’m a fan of the UK Guardian newspaper. I understand they have recently been successful in gaining court approval for the release of the famous spider memos. These are hand written memos sent by the Prince of Wales (son of the Queen) to serving government ministers.
I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.
Yes I understand….. he’s supposed to be impartial in his constitutional role assuming he ever gets to be King. But eh what’s the big deal? To me there’s no problem. Ok I admit to a bias. I’ve met the Prince and indeed I have a copy of one of his memos. (It’s the very one that led to me organising Prince’s Seeing Is Believing visits of business executives to India.) I also probably agree with a fair amount of his published opinions.
It’s part of the rich mix, the joshing and jostling, the bishing and bashing of democracy and frankly we need all the help we can get to halt the extremism of the current government.
So I say good on him.
Seeing is Believing.
“yes Steve. But what have your brought us to a construction site? There are so many in London, why have we travelled all the way to Mumbai to visit a site?”
Nevertheless we continued our study tour, they were being tongue-in-cheek but there was a serious question behind this, you don’t waste Company Director’s time!!! The senior executives from a range of multinationals in the UK were led by Ian Smith, MD of the UK part of Oracle Corporation. They saw the wooden scaffolding, the women carrying building waste on their heads, the shanty living conditions of the ‘out-of-state’ itinerant workers. All very different from the safety conscious sites in London but still they didn’t get it.
Then we walked into a dilapidated building in the corner of the site….and the light bulbs began to switch on…
they began to get it.
They saw that the construction worker’s children were being cared for and educated in the safety of a nicely decorated, clean and comforting environment. The NGO Mobile Creches’ staff were doing wonders. They saw the tremendous service and heard from the workers. Of course, many if not most other construction sites did not have these sort of facilities. In those cases children would be often left to roam the site where their parents lived and worked. This was together with the inherent risks and likelihood they would become child labourers. That was the crux of the matter.
more light bulbs went on, it had worked like a charm.
The executives begin to realise why I’d organised for them to come here. They all had suppliers or subsidiaries or their own companies that had construction sites here in India. They, their colleagues and their customers back in the UK would not want to be associated with sites that put children in dangerous situations nor helped provide a safe supportive caring educational environment. So we’d highlighted a potential problem, a serious business risk and an area where they needed to check their current polices and practices. Here was an opportunity to be socially responsible that also served the business and of course we’d also given them a ready made solution, it was one of those win win situations, a no brainer.
That’s how the Prince’s Seeing is Believing works
The executives were on the first event organised outside Europe, in 2006 in Mumbai The Prince’s Seeing is Believing events had been tremendously successful in the UK for over 20 years
It was also featured in article in Ethical Corporation…..
After a series of similar visits helping bring corporately responsibility alive and to show its relevance to even the most disconnected business, the delegates were to join executives from around India for one of the first sustainability conferences held in India in partnership with the Bombay Chamber of Commerce at the Taj. The following week the team were to deliver a series of interactive workshops to show small business here in Mumbai how being a responsible business wasn’t just about community partnerships and that it also related to all aspects of business behaviour and the big clincher was, it would help the business survive, grow and thrive….
I’d organised the whole thing jointly with Malcolm Lane the Corporate Affairs Director from TCS in London,(an inspiring man and more of him later) with an amazing team from from TCS in India, Bombay Chamber of Commerce, colleagues from Business in the Community and Impact International in the UK and the series of NGOs we highlighted on the event.
The executives would go back and report on what they’d seen and how they as a company were planning to act to demonstrate their own credentials as a responsible business to HRH the Prince of Wale, all very neat, when it works…
Ok so back to the Prince and Vandana (sorry Vandana, I feel we’re first name terms as you’ve had so much influence on my life.) My first visit ten years ago to India, I fell in love with the place and on my return to the Uk was on the look out for anyway to get me back ….. I’d go out for an annual holiday each winter but there was something more….Vanadana’s article and the Prince’s memo to my CEO led to me organising these events in India
me, I subsequently went on to help organize more of these events here in india and then an innovation to help design leadership programs that provided valuable experiential learning experiences through short collaborations with community based NGOs here in India.
thank you to the team Malcolm, Peter, Jo, Simon, Vandana (from BCC and now HSBC), Prema (from BCC then to Vodafone) ( the business executives who came, particularly Ian and of course the others… HRH the Prince of Wales and Vandana Shiva for helping me get so connected to India
Sand – The Great Escape
Sand Karma, from cradle to grave to be born again. The long tentacles of the mafia imprisons the sand by dredging the lakes and rivers, looting the embankments, stealing sand wherever it can, and bribing where it needs to… Dotted around our countryside we see in our rivers, small round boats like metal coracles or Bella (Jaggery) cauldrons or gangs attacking the river banks. These are the starting point for the convoys of bullock carts filled with the precious cargo.
After a sometimes long and arduous journey from river bed or bank, to cart, to truck, to city distribution point (to become official) and then on again (its a wonder there’s no sand travel sickness or maybe there is) to be dumped, unceremoniously outside the mushrooming building sites, found throughout the city. Only then to be reincarnated, as a grey mix, for the greater good of the ‘development’ (some might say ruin) of our great heritage city.
But this isn’t a sad tail of the demise of sand, the loss of its identity or of its sacrifice to the greater good…..no way.
One or two of our sand grain friends, reunited with water (their very own vehicle) from the previous nights torrential rainfall, seize the opportunity and escape form the constructors piles and become part of a great escape.
This morning the roads are covered with a layer of sand, in time, some might be scraped into little piles and recaptured but some will have managed to reach the storm drains, and on to a new life..
So next when you notice sand on the road and maybe you feel a bit irritated by the sand on your shoe. Spare a thought for the hard life of sand. Remember the triumphs and tribulations of the grain of sand and its great escape in its long march to the sea.
I owe it all to HRH Prince of Wales and Vandana Shiva
Well that’s not strictly true, but without them really knowing, they were a significant help in my move to India and all that we have here now.
The Prince of Wales, whilst he’s next in line to the throne in the UK, is amazingly ‘in touch’ with key issues facing our societies.. Whether it’s architecture, environmental impact, young people or as in this case, what it means to be a responsible business, he has many ways to keep his ‘ear to the ground’, for example, through an impressive network of contacts. Vandana Shiva, is one of them. Vandana is an academic and activist based here in India that really takes action and brings theory into practice to make a real and lasting difference.
Ten years ago after my first visit to India I returned at the end of a short sabbatical back to my employer who was Business in the Community (BITC). For twenty years BITC had worked to promote responsible business practice (or CSR) amongst UK based corporates. (some might say, its a world leader in the field) My role was to advise, guide and support various corporates in their attempts to be more responsible businesses. While I’d been away in India, Vandana had written to the Prince, highlighting a whole series of issues about business behaviour. Let’s just say their behavior wasn’t consistent with their stated values particularly in an international context. No surprise there then!
So to cut the proverbial long story short….. The Prince suggested that Business in the Community, of which he’s President, should begin to work more internationally. As a first step we decided to pilot his highly successful Prince’s Seeing is Believing events (executive study tours) in India. Wow! Just what I was looking for. An excuse to get back to India and return on a regular basis. I’d fallen in love with it’s people and places. Of course I over-excitedly volunteered. I therefore set up ( in addition to my normal job of course) a series of round table discussions in the UK for businesses who were also operating in India, organised three pilot Prince’s Seeing is Believing Tours, a sustainability conference with the Bombay Chamber and identified partner organisations throughout India.
So through the Prince’s Seeing is Believing events, I’d organised, I became a guide for executives visiting India where we tried to get them to see beyond the AC bubble of their hotels, offices or cars. To take them into communities and help them to begin to think what it meant to be a responsible business, in the Indian context.
Above all. I’d got back to the India I loved, with the promise of repeated visits and had a fab excuse to get to know the people and the country on a completely different level. I met and got to know some of the incredible people setting up invaluable projects to reach out to some of the poorest people in greatest need. In my own small way I’d help engage corporates in partnerships with Indian communities and their organisations.
Now of course, I live here. I’m still a guide. Whether it’s for tourists on my cycle tours here in Mysore or corporate participants in the workshops I deliver in London for the CR academy. So I thank Business in the Community, and indirectly HRH Prince of Wales and Vandana Shiva for that first opportunity to fulfil my India destiny.