Interviews

#SABFCorner: Dalia Mogahed

Muslims are not only victimized by ISIS,

but at the same time blamed for ISIS.

Dalia Mogahed – TED.

 

In SABF 2016 Dalia Mogahed gave the participants and all the listeners a reading of the political, economic, social and cultural reality that acted as a trigger to provoke an introspective in-depth analysis of each one’s acting individual, but also in acting as a society against the events that occur in the world.

From an original point of view, she told in the first person her life experience, and how it was marked by certain events that also marked the future of the world.

More than a year after her participation in the SABF, from the Blog Team we considered it necessary to reconnect with her in order to understand what her reading of reality is. Dalia, answered a couple of questions that help us to analyse how the world changed in the last year. We focus on different topics to be able to touch a little the questions left by her participation and doubts that we all have when it comes to watching the news.

Who is Dalia Mogahed? Dalia is the Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) in Washington D.C. Also, she is President and CEO of an executive coaching and consulting firm Mogahed Consulting, specializing in the Middle East and Muslim societies. She was selected by President Barack Obama as an adviser on the White House, which made her the first Muslim American woman to hold that position. She chaired the Gallup Centre for Muslim Studies. She is a chemical engineer from the University of Wisconsin with an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh.

Without further introduction, I give you: Dalia Mogahed.


 

Jonatán Carné: Since your participation in SABF 2016, there have been important changes in the international context. What do you think are the main changes in international politics? What are the issues that are dominating international agenda and social interest this year?

Dalia Mogahed: The biggest difference is that Donald Trump went from being an embarrassing presidential candidate to my country’s commander in chief and President, an outcome many of us didn’t think was possible. This reality points to a rising tide of reactionary identity politics where traditionally privileged communities fear that their advantage is under threat. They look to politicians that promise to restore said privilege. This trend is sweeping Europe as we saw with Brexit, and the relatively strong performance of right-wing and even “Alt-right” parties. As Chris Rock said though, “if you’re losing, then who’s winning?”.

 

JC: What do you think is the role of the media as an instrument of international politics?

DM: Media forms perceptions, and public perceptions provide consent for government policies.  When the media provides one candidate more attention than all others combined, this will inevitably help that candidate win. If the media tells us every day to be fearful of a group of people, then many of us will be and we will act on that fear by supporting more surveillance of this group, restrictions on their rights and even military interventions in countries that we have been taught “hate us”.

 

JC: Media generates images and stereotypes. Do you think that media reproduces a wrong image of Muslims or of who is different? How does this affect society?

DM: One study by an ISPU (Institute for Social Policy and Understanding) scholar named Muniba Salem and her colleagues found that exposure to negative media about Muslims made people more likely to support tighter security for Muslim-looking people at airports, military invasion of Muslim majority countries and even taking away the voting rights of Americans who are Muslim. The media has an enormous responsibility to report objectively because what they say and do matters to the health of our democracy.

 

JC: The advent of the Islamic State (ISIS) comes to revive that anti-Islamic feeling that was seen after 9/11? What do you think is the cause of increased ISIS adherence around the world and how to avoid it?

DM: I am not a military expert but all my readings indicate that ISIS is in fact in retreat and is shrinking, not growing. ISIS’s primary victims are Muslims, more than 95% in fact.ISIS is a cancer and Muslims are at the forefront of fighting this gang of deviants. The sad part is that despite these clear facts, Muslims are not only victimized by ISIS, but at the same time blamed for ISIS.

When I’m asked if ISIS is “Islamic” since they have this word in their name. I ask two simple questions: 1) Would a group like ISIS, with the same tactics and brutality? 2) Exist in this region if all else was exactly the same in terms of geopolitics, failed state, foreign invasion, torture and genocide, but no Islam? The answer is yes, they would exist because a group like ISIS has emerged everywhere in the world when the same conditions existed but by different names and appealing to different ideologies. When the surrounding community is communist, the terrorists use language that appeals to communist sentiments (Tamil Tigers), when the community is Buddhist, they use this rhetoric, when the people look to Christian beliefs to guide their thinking, the terrorist talk in terms of the Bible, God and the Ten Commandments (Lord’s Resistance Army), and the list goes on.  So, blaming Islam for ISIS is confusing the context for the cause.

 

JC: Precisely, from the West it seeks to understand Islam with bounded information. What is the role of women in Islam? What is the answer to the criticisms of the Western feminist movements denouncing the role of women in the Muslim world?

DM: ¡Oh, wow, such a big question with so much to discuss! Where to begin? Let’s start by stating the obvious: Muslims are sexist. Women don’t have their full equal rights in the Muslim community in many parts of the world.  Why? Because Muslims are guilty of being human beings sadly. Everyone is sexist, and women don’t have their full rights anywhere. But it’s worse for women in the Muslim world, I hear someone scream! In some parts yes, but not because of Islam.

In a study Gallup did on women’s rights in the Middle East, researchers found that men’s perceptions of women’s rights mattered a lot to how women fared in their societies. But men’s support for women’s rights did not correlate with their piety, or religious devotion. Instead, it correlated to their level of education, their own well-being and their country’s score on the UN Human Development Index.

What does this mean? Women do better when societies are better for everyone. Women do better when men feel better about their own situation, not when they are less religious, which has no impact empirically. Muslim women, according to all the research I lead at Gallup and ISPU, expect and want equal rights. They also cherish their faith, in many cases even more than men, and see their faith not as an obstacle to liberation, but as part of the solution. So, if feminists really want to help Muslim women they can start by listening to Muslim women rather than lecturing them or degrading their religion. They should also be cautious to not be used as instruments of Islamophobia.

 

JC: Academically, it reads increasingly the view that the Middle East is losing territorial borders and begins to draw a sectarian map in which the countries areas of influence are conceived by religious alliances. What is the role of religion in politics in the region? What is the difference with other regions like Europe or the American continent?

DM: I’m so relieved that America and Europe know nothing about war or killing each other over territory or ideology and can comfortably lecture the world about how to be civilized! The difference is America and Europe are stable countries, not failed states. Failed states, due to foreign invasion, genocidal dictators, or revolutions, create the conditions where people have to turn to tribe for protection, like human beings have done from the beginning of time. This occurs everywhere these conditions exist. When the state cannot protect you as an individual, we coalesce around a tribal identity for survival. This is why gangs exist in the inner city. This is why ethnic warfare occurs in places with a weak central authority.

 

JC: You had the opportunity to participate as an advisor to the Barack Obama’s administration. What are the lessons that political experience left you and what advice would you give to young people who are interested in politics?

DM: The single most important lesson I gleaned from this experience is this: Access does not equal influence. Being “in the room” and “at the table” is a necessary but insufficient condition to bring about real change. You need to be at that table with resources to offer or take away. If you don’t have actual resources in the form of organized people and money, you are warming a chair. So, for young people, build from the ground up. The real power is with the people on the ground. Organize them. Empower them. Educate them. Then when you are invited to sit at the table of power, be there representing those people, not your resume. This is how you can make real change.

Youth 20 Dialogue in Berlin

Some minutes with Julia Amerikaner, one of the argentine delegates.

The Youth 20 Dialogue is the official G20 forum for young people.  As the SABF, it’s objective is to gather young professionals of different cultures to tackle the future of the international agenda. In this edition, Julia Amerikaner was the argentine delegate.

 

SABF: Tell us a bit about the activities during those days.

Julia Amerikaner (JA): The conference lasted a week and more than 70 young participants from different countries and organizations were gathered. This year, not only delegates of the G20 countries were there, but other guest countries as well (like Norway and Singapore) and multilateral organizations, like the World Trade Organization, World Labour Organization, United Nations and regional organizations like the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

The final product was a special editorial of 25 pages that resumed the 10 topics that youth considers a priority. Between those: global economy, gender equality, digitalization, sustainable development, terrorism, migration and refugees, within others.

During the first days of the conference, we got together in informal workshops to discuss these topics and set forth recommendations for the G20 governments. Afterwards, each one of us chose a topic and worked on it in teams.  In between, we had the opportunity to meet experts in each field and enhance our work.  After the first draft, each team had to present their topic to the reset of the conference and we went through each point altogether.

Consensus was key: there were easily 5 drafts before getting to the final document (and a lot of nights up until 4 am!).  We discussed about which ideas to include (or even which entire paragraph should be deleted); the nature of the recommendations and the capacity of the governments to set them forth.

After closing the document, each group chose a speaker to present the theme to Merkel.  The speaker had two minutes to pitch their idea and, later on, accepted questions from Merkel.

 

SABF: How were the different topics developed? Which one interested you the most?

JA: At the beginning the topics were worked by everyone, it was an exchange of ideas, opinions and points of view.  Later, each participant had to focus on one topic in groups of 4 or 10 persons.  In my case, I was passionate about three:  anti-corruption, digitalization and gender equality.

Finally, I chose to work in the digitalization committee. To understand my decision, you should know that I work as an adviser in the Ministry of Culture of the Nation.  When I began, almost a year ago, everything was done on paper. Today I’m leading a project to implement a digital platform to organize the work at the Ministry; from the planifications of their activities to the budget execution.  I felt that I had a lot to contribute to the group and also had the chance to deepen my own knowledge and apply what was learnt in my country. I really feel that the modernization of the State is important to progress and to improve the quality of the services offered to the citizens.

 

SABF: As you worked on the digitalization topic, did you come across any uneasiness?

JA: I’ll make an observation (It could be considered as “uneasiness”) and I will say something very obvious:  Our context, the place where we grew up and the things that surround us, really define the way of seeing the world. I say this because I was surprised that the in the gender equality committee (composed entirely by europeans and none from Latin America) did not include gender violence in their first draft. The argentine delegation, together with the mexican, requested that it should be included in a paragraph in the official document about the gender violence and domestic violence.

This anecdote serves to emphasise that diversity, especially in a working group, is important.  I believe that if Argentina and Mexico would not have been part of the discussion, then gender violence would not have been included in a debate about equality; a terrible mistake, in my opinion.

 

SABF: At the time of promoting the objectives of the G20, what do you think is the role of Argentina and what do you think is the most urgent aspect to strengthen?

JA: I think Argentina has the unique opportunity next year as we are assuming the presidency of the G20.  There are only three latin american countries in the group (Mexico, Argentina and Brazil).  So I think Argentina can emphasize certain topics in a unique way: the poverty and migration as one of the most relevant.  I would also like the country to take a long term perspective and emphasis on sustainable development and politics on renewable energy, as well as gender equality and digitalization.

 

SABF: What did you want to pass over of Argentina to the rest of the countries?

JA: I became a very close friend of the delegations of Korea, Indonesia and Singapore. All of them said that I was the first argentine they met. That tells you everything.  As a delegate, you want to share the best of your country: the sympathy of Argentina, the friendship, but also the cleverness of argentines to solve problems.  I wanted to transmit that we were an open country, friendly and, above all, leave a good impression.

 

SABF: You had some training on public speaking, anything you would want to share about that?

JA: Thess conferences show the importance of public speaking. For the ones that don’t have much experience in this, I believe the most important part is to lose the fear and to try it: start speaking in public, by small steps, without embarrassment and with conviction.  At the moment of preparing a speech, the best thing is to write down what you want to transmit and generate something coherent.  Where one idea follows another one naturally.  Above all, be clear and concise, give examples.

 

SABF: One of the topics for Y20 was the lack of economic opportunities for young people and the lack of representation of youth in the global economy. According to statistics 25 per cent of youth in middle-income nations and 15 per cent in high income nations are NEETs: not in education, employment or training (OECD, 2017). What’s your perspective?

JA: This was one of the main topics: young employment.  It’s something that generates a lot of concern; from Latin America to Europe, Africa and Asia.  Above all, I believe that participation of youth in politics and social civil organizations is key.

 

SABF: How was it to share some moments with Angela Merkel?

JA: It was amazing.  I think that the presence of a Head of State — and someone as influential in the international scenery as Merkel– was a positive message to us and an important signal for youth.  It means “we care about what you are saying”, given that they generated the institutional space to give us a voice.  Also, Merkel had a lot of questions and she seemed interested.  It was not a “passive listening” on her behalf but she made us stand up for our points and develop others.  For the digitization team, she inquired about artificial intelligence and future challenges.

 

SABF: What are your expectations for the coming G20 in Argentina?

JA: I may be repeating myself a little… But my expectation is that this is a great opportunity for Argentina to itself before the world.  I would like to see us leading the regional agenda in topics such as digitization, gender equality and sustainable development.

 

SABF: Do you have an anecdote to share?

JA: Uf, thousands.  But I would like to tell one about how I met the delegate of Arabia Saudita. We both participated in a workshop about gender equality and as I talked (or she), a sense of complicity developed.  We had a lot in common, all of those who shared ideas were in sintony. She said something and I was thinking “yeah, that’s right”.  I said something and she would look at me like saying “I agree completely”.  When the workshop ended, she came to me and said “We haven’t met yet, right?” And I said “No, but we should”.  After that, and together with the delegate from Singapore, we spent hours talking about different topics, always feeling we had a special connection.  That’s something amazing that this kind of international conferences give: the chance to connect instantly with a person from a completely different environment, that you met two days ago.

 

SABF: From the global challenges that were set forward, which was your favourite?

JA: My favorite is Assuming Responsibility. Already it’s title expresses a key idea: what happens is our responsibility.  It’s time to assume that responsibility and be proactive at the moment of solving problems that unsettle the world for hundreds of years: wars, forced migration, sickness, injustice.  In a world evermore connected, I think it’s irresponsible to look the other way and say “this is not my problem”.  Someone else will not fix this and this will affect you too.  We all have the potential to be agents of change.

Alexis Caporale: “I left some life on each entrepreneurial milestone”

Alexis is 25 years old. Together with his sister, he founded Bixti in 2010, the first trading platform of handicrafts for the Spanish-speaking market, which was sold to Elo in 2012. In 2013 he co-founded Trimaker, company that develops 3D printers. Besides, he is a teacher at EmprendING (Faculty of Engineering), and wrote a book about the Future of Energy.

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Crisis? What Crisis?

After the first SABF lunch, it was time to listen to Juan Carlos de Pablo, who is Director at Contexto. He was interviewed by Enrique Diaz Leimbacher, Associate Professor at ITBA. The interview was developed in very dynamic way by both the interviewee and the interviewer.

The first issue discussed was what is happening in the Argentinian economy. Juan Carlos de Pablo commented that, in order to understand Argentinian crisis, you must talk about the objective problems and those created by a government that nobody believes in. He also added that when policies are temporary, the effect obtained is not the desired one.

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On Motivation, Opportunity Cost and Ideas

This article is part of a series about going from “I’d like to start a business” to having a small start-up running, and beyond. If you haven’t read the previous articles, I recommend you do so by going to the first one, which includes a small table of contents.

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Guatemala wants to take part in the SABF 2012!

Every year, the South American Business Forum (SABF) becomes more important in America and all around the world, and during 2012 Guatemala does not want to be the exception. That is why on Tuesday, February 28 the SABF Delegate in Guatemala, Luisa María Fajardo, gave a lecture which was heard by more than 35 university students who were interested in learning and knowing what the SABF is. Gathered in the auditorium I-100 of the “Universidad del Valle de Guatemala” from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., young people did not need much to be interested and to want to participate in an international conference for current and future leaders. Apart from having the presence of students from the “Universidad del Valle de Guatemala” we also had the opportunity to be with representatives from the “Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala”, “Universidad Rafael Landívar” and “Universidad del ISTMO”.

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FAES: Latin America goes social.

In this opportunity, we introduce you FAES, Fundación Argentina de las Empresas Sociales (Argentinean Foundation of Social Enterprises), whose objective is to promote and to develop social entreprises in Argentina and Latinamerica. This organisation came up from the concern of Daniela Kreimer, a young Business Manager who, looking for her thesis topic, found the chance to work in microfinance and closely to th father of this discipline, Professor Muhammad Yunus, in Bangladesh.

Through this experience, and her next work in Colombia based on the founding principles of Grameen Bank, Daniela came back to Argentina and decided to found FAES, after pointing out the lack of Argentinean institutions related to social business.

Based on disclosure, training and research and development, FAES works with every social actor that wants to have a positive impact in his society: from high school students to business and social entrepreneurs.

Then, we present you a brief interview we had with Daniela Kreimer, in which we talk about FAES and its current work:

SABF BLOG: Which are the pros/cons of bringing the Social Business model to our country?

Daniela Kreimer: There many challenges. Today, it is all about proving that this model works and that can be successful in the fight against poverty and inequality. The pros of applying this model in Argentina are: the extensive third sector, which makes it easier as it has been worked before; the entrepreneurial spirit of Argentinean and Latin American people, and human and natural resources avalable. On the other hand, th cons that I find are the lack of commitment of the private sector in the social environment (besides the growing importance of SRE), political welfarism, which I think that it destroys the work culture that was essential for our country during the last century, and the lack of legislation related to the topic.

SABF BLOG: Which is the direct impact of your project in our society?

DK: Each volunteer of FAES can become an agent of change because the project looks for a different way to introduce a new model of economy in our country and region, a new approach that represents the combination between the business world and the social sector. Volunteers can, for example, multipliers of ideas, developers of social businesses or researchers on social topics that could be involved in the creation of social businesses. Students can inspire social business when writing their thesis. I believe that the social business model presents an opportunity to commune among all actors involved: from the ones that need it the most, to those who work on it, or even the ones that invest, as social investors. It creates an environment in which all human beings become more human.

We thank Daniela and FAES team for their time and willingness to contribute, and we invite you all to get involved in FAES. You can ask for more information via email at gosocialargentina@gmail.com.

Streema: Undertaking after being part of SABF organizing team

Martin Siniawski and Juan Trouilh were two SABF organizers in 2006/7/8 y 2005/6 respectively.

After working for the forum, they decided to undertake something together with Richard Monte (jury member for SABF since 2006). The company name is Streema, a social network for radio listeners. In this interview, they tell us the whole experience…

1)  What is Streema and how was it born?

J: Streema is a social network for radio listeners where anyone can listen, share and discover new radios from all around the world. It came up as a necessity that one of the partners had, who was looking for listening to his favorite radios in just one place and in a simple and fast way.

M: The really big problem we first dreamed to tackle down was to gather all radios in one place, without having to go to every single radio website to listen to them, and so to experience listening to the radio in a much more interactive way.

2)  Which were the difficulties that you had from the very first moment?

J: A lot… to begin with, we had to learn “how” internet works. It’s a whole different thing to be a user of a product than to be a developer and, at the same time, generate a business. In the specific case of this industry, it is a particular one, because there are no written rules and, if they do exist, the ones that rule today are bound to stop existing tomorrow.

Second, to learn to build a company starting from zero, which means that you have to solve everything by your own: product, business plans, capital investment… there are a lot of specialties that normally correspond to one per person.

Third and most important, to develop personal qualities like: tolerance, patience, perseverance. Those are some of the must-have characteristics that one could have, but in a venture, you experience them 100%.

M: I agree. More deeply, in particular moments we suffered something like a change of paradigm related to the way we should face the whole project. Firstly, we were completely focused on the product; we were truly believers of “build it and they will come”, until we realized that is not always true.

We started to focus more in distribution, and at that point we figured out that finally we did it perfectly! This remain the same for a period of time until the simple fact of people using our product does not mean that it is a sustainable business, that’s why we began to focus on monetizing the product also. Today, we firmly believe that these three products are somehow like the three fundamental pillars in a company creation of a company that aspires to be successful.

3) What did your experience in SABF bring to the project and your personal lives?

J: A lot! We both think that it was the most responsible job that we had in our life before Streema so, it was fundamental to learn how to work in a team, be a Project leader and be completely auto responsible.

M: At personal level, as a participant and organizer, it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. It really gave me so many things that if I start mentioning them in this interview it will not end. Regarding something so hard and risky like undertaking I think that puts you on a most favorable situation to do it, from what Juan just mentioned to the people you meet, the ideas you are exposed to and the change of mind that happens inside of you.

4)  What do you recommend to those who are starting their first own venture?

J: The truth is that it’s not easy at all, we won’t say that it is when it’s not, but when one is young you have the opportunity to take that risk because in general terms, there’s no other moment in your life where you are going to have such a great independence. We all think that is not true, then you have a lot of restrictions that you’ve never imagined that existed and if there’s a characteristic to do undertake, is that you need plenty of time, all you’ve got.

M: I have always defend the idea of undertake as soon as possible, if there’s a moment to do it, it’s now, because of the reasons Juan has just mentioned. There’s another reason that is related to something I’ve Heard once in a conference and that we use to tell the people who join for the first time the SABF organizing team.

At the moment of closing a conference, a speaker was giving the congratulations to the organizing team (also students, like in SABF) y made us meditate about something like: “When you finish university and look backwards, what are you going to remember? The way you present yourselves at exams on time and quietly or the fact of having built something like this?” I think that in the case of undertaking a company like Streema it’s the same but extended to reality, not only university life. What kind of memories do we want to have? A reflection like this, I think, it’s the best recommendation we can share to them.

STS Rosario Project

For over a year, Nurit Weitz and Rámiro Picó, two ex-participants from SABF founded the STS Rosario Project, in order to contribute to the sustainable development of their native city. We invite you to know more about this project in this interview.

Why STS Rosario?

Nurit: STS Rosario is a NGO (ongoing legal proceedings) which objective is to contribute to the sustainable development of Rosario and the region through the development and implementation of Sustainable Technological Solutions, with the participation of professionals and students from a wide array of academicals formations.

Rámiro: We started in June 2009, in a group of 11 students and graduates from different engineering careers, gathered by the will of returning the society the education received in the public university.Logo STS Rosario

Nurit: We proposed ourselves to detect issues and to realize projects in the city that end in an improvement of the life quality of the people who live here, providing a professional outlook, innovative solutions and encouraging the use of new technologies.

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Interview to Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber

The SABF had the honour of having Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber answer some questions regarding schellnhuber_okt2007_dbu_portraitclimate change. Professor Schellnhuber is the Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and is a reknown specialist in his field. On behalf of the SABF team, we thank Professor Schellnhuber for taking his time to adress our inquiries.

SABF: How do you rebut those who claim that Climate Change is an issue which is exaggerated many a time, and that global warming is at times another form of Yellow Journalism?

HJS: Simply because climate change has become a popular issue on the political agenda, I consider it totally wrong to write it off as just another form of
Yellow Press. Climate change is an extremely serious matter which increasingly concerns me and which needs to be taken very seriously around the globe. Latest scientific findings show that business as usual could cause a 5 degree warming by the end of the century, with sea-level rise of more than one meter in the same period and of tens-of-meters in the long run. You can imagine that the world would look totally different then. Looking back on the development of the climate debate, I rather think that we have underestimated the issue.

SABF: Developing countries are the most vulnerable to climate changes, and of course, to the phenomena associated with global warming. Which are the measures that such countries could take to minimize their risks to the greatest
extent possible? What about cost-effective measures that such countries can indeed afford?

HJS: That is indeed a difficult question. The impacts of climate change do have different effects on different countries. Some might be affected by floods, others by the shortage of drinking water, others again by the increasing
frequency of hurricanes. Hence the various forms of adaptation such as disaster control, malaria prevention or sustained management of the water resources have to be different according to the different forms of impact. Seen
globally the impacts of climate change are unfortunately distributed very unfairly. Industrialized countries, which cause most of the worldwide emissions, are able to protect themselves more effectively than developing countries. But we have to keep the following in mind: the most cost-effective measures against all risks of global warming are substantial steps to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

SABF: How can youth the world over get involved in understanding this complex issue, because it is of utmost criticality that the young leaders learn about climate change, its effects and start spreading the awareness on a local level and global level?

HJS: The younger generation must develop an awareness of not only being able to influence its own future but the future of our planet as well. The key to understanding lies in generating and disseminating profound knowledge about
climate change. Education is a crucial instrument on the local as well as on the global level. If you, the young people, do not care about the future, who else will?