Making Arabs Employable

Is the education sector saturated? Yes — but only in some parts of the world.  Not a day goes by without a news (or an ad) of yet another education-based startup (including coding camps) making its debut.  While the education sector in the U.S. prides itself on its wide offering of resources (both proprietary and free) for learning online and offline, many other countries still struggle with trying to attract enough supply to meet their burgeoning need.

Below is an excerpt from a McKinsey publication I read today (emphasis added):

Elsewhere in the world, the private sector, both education providers and employers, has played a critical role in providing opportunities for young people. Given the right conditions, it can play the same part in the Arab world as well. The report therefore highlights these messages: demand is substantial for private-sector involvement but supply is limited; vocational education and training, private universities, and work-readiness programs are the major categories of private investment opportunities; and several critical enablers of private participation are missing, such as rigorous standards to ensure that students are taught the right skills. Surveyed private employers tell us that only one third of new graduate employees are ready for the workplace when hired.

Read in full here.

DOTW (Do One Thing Well)

Which is better? A toaster oven or a toaster?

Let’s try that again: which do you use more often? A toaster oven or a toaster?

For the vast majority of us normal people out there, the answer to the question above is short and clear: a toaster.

But, you might ask, don’t toaster ovens come with more functionalities in general?

Yes — and that is precisely why most people end up not using them nearly as often as they use toasters.

A toaster is designed to perform a single task.  It is easy (straightforward) to operate.  And in most cases, it comes with only one (or two, at most) nob for operation.  A toaster oven, on the other hand, tries to do too much.

Click here to read a fascinating post by Anthony Palicea.




The Dreaded “F Word”

Why is fundraising so difficult?

Why is it that I think that fundraising isn’t somehow “real work”?

Why is it that we feel uncomfortable sharing with others about what we feel is really the best thing in the world?

Maybe we don’t believe in the awesomeness of what we are trying to sell after all.

Seth Godin wrote an excellent piece years ago:

If your ideas and programs and people and vision are so great, shouldn’t people be willing to reach into their pockets and fund them?   If it’s worth spending your life doing this work, shouldn’t you or someone in your organization be able to convince someone else that the work is worth supporting?

In the for-profit world, nothing happens if you don’t have a compelling product with a compelling story that wins out in the marketplace of ideas and gets people to act.  People get so excited about Apple’s products that they blog about the next release, scour the Internet for registered patents, spread ideas and rumors about what is coming next, and convince the people around them that Apple = cool.  Do you think this would happen without Steve Jobs living and breathing the brand each and every day?

So how is it that in the nonprofit sector we create this illusion that growth and change and impact can happen absent this kind of energy and engagement? “



PD or Programmer

Here is a short story of a former journalist (program director, or PD) turned a programming instructor. She might not be voicing her ideas and findings to the thousands (or tens of thousands) as she may have originally desired to do as a PD, but she is now transforming the lives of 30 people every term through her classes. A change smaller in scale but definitely not as less worthy.

Read here.

The Power of Building

Living in an era of side gigs, we read, hear, and ponder about more ideas than ever before.  So many so-called “thought leaders” and yet still so few “do-ers” in comparison.  Why is this so?  Might it be that doing actually requires far more energy, discipline, and focus than thinking?

This advice applies to all creators. Once you start building and launching your projects, you won’t be able to stop. Building will become part of your identity. And even if your project fails, you’ll keep at it.

The steps you take today will compound over time. Look at great product makers like Drew Wilson, Pieter Levels, and Sebastian Dobrincu. They don’t wait for the right opportunity. They build and ship weekly.

H/T to Jonathan Z. White.  Read in full here.

Difficult and Interesting Problems

Just – how are we to find difficult and interesting problems to solve?

Being locked out of your car is not an interesting problem. Call five locksmiths, hire the cheap and fast one, you’ll be fine.

And getting a script written or a book cover designed isn’t that interesting either. There are thousands of trained professionals happy to do it for you.

On the other hand, if you need a script that will win awards, sell tickets and change lives, that’s difficult. And interesting. Or if you need a book cover that will leap off the shelf, define a segment, make a career—that’s hard as well.

See in full here from Seth’s blog.

Our “Sharing Economy” and Startups

Has the emergence of the sharing economy really made life more convenient for people?  Maybe, but to be quite frankly, probably not for most people.  While we don’t seem to ever have to worry about hailing a cab at airports or getting things shipped to us overnight from the other side of the world, we are constantly distracted and are becoming more and more incompetent at doing simple things ourselves without turning to our “smart” gadgets.  Then there is also the nationwide global “startup fever” whereby app development is consistently idolized as the most powerful engine to progressing our economy.

But what about the people?  Are we, as intellectual, thought-processing, and emotional beings, better off as a result of all that our sharing economy has so far delivered?

An interesting piece from Medium offers a fresh perspective:

These tech companies position themselves as heroes. They talk about “changing the world” constantly. Yet all they do is churn out technology for rich, white dudes in their 20s/30s who live in big cities and want apps to fill in the blanks for what mommy used to do.

Mommy used to pick me up from soccer practice. A: Uber.
Mommy used to do my laundry. A: Flycleaners.
Mommy used to clean my room. A: Handy.
Mommy used to buy me groceries. A: Blue Apron.
Mommy used to cook me food. A: Seamless.

And they even call it “mom-tech.” We’re letting our lives be dictated by brogrammers who want to breastfeed forever.

Read in full here.

Why We Donate

The short answer is because it’s easy.

Donation (i.e. giving to charities) is an easy way to help others without bothering much. Does that sound a bit too harsh on us who give regularly? Maybe. But there’s probably some truth to it. Many of us give because we want to do some good to the rest of the world and yet realize that we just don’t have what it takes to give just “too much.”

In this short Federalist article below, Huenink writes that donations are not what a poverty-ridden community needs in the long run. The modern humanity’s tendency to want a “quick fix” to everything makes the prospect of dropping off our no-longer-needed household items, clothes, and food to a donation box quite appealing. But in the long run, what a poor community needs is development, not charity:

If charity hurts the poor and increases poverty, why do we do it?

Because it’s easy to spend an hour at the grocery store buying food, or scrounging through the cupboards to find an old can of spinach to donate. There’s no planning. You don’t have to meet new people, or try to understand the complex web of relationships in a new place. You can even think you have all the answers to someone else’s problems.

It’s easy to push our duty to care for our neighbors onto the government, too. But bureaucrats can’t do development. They don’t have the flexibility to make decisions or the time to get to know the people they are helping. They can only plug someone into a program that distributes according a formula written in a legislative chamber or governor’s office far away. Relief is just easy.

Read in full here.

Learning from the Japanese

Japan is an interesting country. Some say the country has no future, and yet so many things about the country are so fascinating to so many of us that articles like this take us by surprise.

A small island nation that once used to lead the rest of the world by its top-notch technology, global companies, and, well, a plethora of cute stationery has long remained somewhat isolated from the rest of the world. Just think of how few Japanese students have been choosing to study abroad — maybe because of their high loyalty to their homeland or their lack of interest in international education. Regardless, the country recently received a NYTimes coverage when a traveling journalist noted highly of their culture of work.

This particular blurb cracks me up:

On another occasion, while waiting at a bus stop in the seaside city of Kobe, I found myself watching a group of five men who were drilling a hole. Or rather, one of them was; the other four were watching him. For the whole 30 minutes, that’s all they did. But they didn’t do it reluctantly, or while checking their smartphones, or gossiping, or anything. It was like a demonstration: ‘All other techniques for watching a guy dig a hole are incorrect. This is how you watch a guy digging a hole.’