Nick Moon

nick moon 1

 

It’s time to hop back across to Africa, this time to Kenya for the next in the One Wild Life +10 interview series. Next up is Nick Moon.

I first met Nick in Nairobi in 2006 when I interviewed him for the original book. He was one of the first interviews of my trip and I remember clearly his warmth, generosity and deep interest and expertise in development. We talked for hours. I liked his irreverence and humour too, underpinned by a willingness to tear up the imaginary rulebook combined with his approach to giving things a go and experimenting with new methods. This attitude has continued over the years.

Back in 2006, Nick, alongside his co-founder Martin Fisher was running kickstart.org, a social entreprise which was developing low cost farming equipment or ‘appropriate technologies’ to kickstart rural development. They had developed an oil press, a building block press and a manual water irrigation pump- marketed as ‘The Money Maker’! That organisation is still running, now focused solely on water pumps and has gone on to support 200,000 families to create successful farming businesses and help over a million people out of poverty. (More impressive stats and information can be found on their website here)

But five years ago, Nick felt it was time to move on, support others, share his expertise and expand the range of his projects. He became grandfather too, and a new father! Never one rest on laurels, I’ll let Nick tell you more …

2016 Skoll World Forum

How has your path shifted and evolved since I interviewed you for One Wild Life? Where are you now and what are you working on? 

Has it been 10 years? Blimey. Some 5 years ago I thought that it was time to do something new. I felt that Kickstart was well and truly on its way and didn’t really need me any more, and in any case  I was getting stale. Starting something from scratch and building it up is one thing; managing a large established organization is something else. So I reckoned it was time to make a move. KickStart was and is in very good hands under co-founder Martin Fisher.

In 2011 my eldest daughter Marion Atieno Moon, who had graduated with a business degree in 2006 and had been working for big corporates, had just decided to start a brand-new for-profit social enterprise, Wanda Organic, here in Kenya. Wanda finds and brings the latest breakthrough soil health and fertility solutions to smallholder farmers. We agreed that my experience with KickStart would be very helpful in developing this new organization, so that’s what triggered a new chapter.

I am now the executive chairman of Wanda, and heavily invested financially (I sold the house) and emotionally in its growth. I am currently busy helping her set up the local production of bio-organic fertilizers in Kenya and innovating distribution and marketing strategies to develop awareness and build and serve demand.

Working with my own daughter has its challenges of course, and she is the founder, the boss, so I have to be sensitive to that. Accordingly I don’t work full time at Wanda and keep busy in other ways.

I had accepted an invitation in 2010 to mentor a young visionary Kenyan, Eddy Gicheru Oketch, as he built up an organization he had started in 2008 – in the wake of the horrifying period of “Post Election Violence” in Kenya – which sought to help Kenyan youth understand and overcome the twin pressures of poverty and the cynical manipulations of self-serving politicians who were pitting them against each other by inciting violence across tribal/ethnic lines. My advice to Eddy was that it is near impossible to love thy neighbour if you are hungry and jobless, so there can be no lasting peace and reconciliation without a certain measure of prosperity. In 2012 he asked me to help in developing and restructuring his organization to assist youth to identify economic opportunities and set up group enterprises which create employment and social value. I did what I could. The organization is now known as Ongoza (means ‘to lead’ in Swahili) and doing pretty well. We recruited a great CEO and built the team, developed the program, and are expanding outreach. I am the Chairman of its Board.

I have always had an interest in social and cultural, as well as economic, development and so am also busy – again at Board level – with The Theatre Company of Kenya, which is all about promoting skills and professionalism in the Performing Arts. We train actors – loadsa raw creative talent here – and nurture the creation and production of local performance. One notable high point for us was when our troop performed a Swahili adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Merry Wives of Windsor” (Wanawake wa Heri wa Winsa) at the Globe Theatre in London.

greenhouse marion wanda 036
Nick’s daughter, Marion

What are some of your highlights of the past 10 years? 

See above – there is never a dull moment!

I suppose the big thing was taking the step out and away from KickStart  five years ago – although once a founder always a founder, and I remain on the Board there too, and ready to expound our Theory of Change to anyone who will listen! This has meant attendance as a delegate or speaker or moderator at different high level conferences addressing economic or agricultural development in Africa – World Economic Forum meetings, Skoll World Forums, Global Entrepreneurship Summits, African Green Revolution conferences. Trips to USA, UK, France, Switzerland, China, India, South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Rwanda, Uganda and other places. These have been interesting and useful (sometimes) in terms of high level policy formulation, but can also be described in some ways as “low lights” given that such a lot of time and money is spent on talking and intellectualizing, propounding and debating, passing lofty resolutions and the like. But a lot of this waffle does not get turned into practical action, or at least not as quickly or effectively as it should or could. Even so it has been a great privilege and pleasure to meet all manner of truly remarkable people at these events. One thing I have realized here is that a lot of truly good work is done by people who do not seek to aggrandize themselves, who steer clear of the limelight and just get on with stuff.

Talking of modest people getting on with stuff and not making a fuss, another highlight for me at a direct personal level has been to watch the development and growth of the 30 or so “OVC” (orphaned and vulnerable children) – almost all girls –  whom my wife supports and raises at her children’s home in Kakamega County, Western Kenya. These are girls who were once victims, and/or at serious risk, of sexual abuse, violence and other forms of exploitation. One (actually a boy – well, a young man now) will graduate in clinical medicine in December. Another has a degree in actuarial science. Another is studying economics and statistics at the University of Nairobi. It is wonderful to see them grow up and go out there into the big bad world, confident and capable, after starting off at such severe disadvanatage.  www.vumilia.org

What have been some of the challenges of the past 10 years?

Challenges? One is that there are so many things to do and so it can be tricky to decide what to focus on. Another big challenge in this part of the world is the high levels of corruption in government, although maybe this is just a perception based on the blatant almost unashamed nature of corruption, cronyism, nepotism, greed and so on here; I have a feeling that you will come across this everywhere, only in other parts of the world it is better disguised. Related to this, one also comes across negative people, negative attitudes rather too often – people who seem intent on why an idea or plan cannot work, rather than how it can be made to work. Overcoming or bypassing negativity takes time and energy which might otherwise be used more productively

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago? 

Don’t get yer knickers in such a twist. 

Kenzo Nov 16 (1)

(with Kenzo Shane)

What do you see as some of today’s global challenges and what opportunities do you see?

The grim and grumbly things include:

  • Climate Change denial and how the Fossil Fools are so resistant to renewables. Fracking about, horizontal drilling, tar sands and shale gas and so on, whereas there are proven preferable energy alternatives which can now be implemented at similar financial/economic cost and very much lower environmental and social costs. That’s a big one.
  • The pharisaical sanctimonious self-regard of the banking industry.
  • Industrial-chemical agriculture’s dominance in food supply and distribution. Bad for biodiversity and good food.
  • Global corporate capitalism’s unwillingness to really recognize or accept any other value beyond shareholder value, (mealy-mouthed lip service not enough)
  • The growing gap between rich and poor – among nations and people within nations
  • Religious extremism and everything that follows on from it
  • Mendacious rabble-rousing media
  • Governments serving the interests of big industries not people
  • A growing shortage of empathy and compassion among the comfortable and prosperous

Reasons not to give up in the face of all this?.

  • Science and technology continually advancing, with new solutions/innovations in energy, health, agriculture, industry and even finance, coming along thicker and faster than ever before
  • The growing understanding, especially among young people, that we can change things for  the better if we really want to, and work at it.
  • The nascent movement toward a post-capitalist era where values go beyond the simply material or monetary to include social and environmental values
  • Immigration and transmigration of people generally – stirs things up in a good way, prevents atrophy and stagnation
  • Communications technologies and social media enabling people to be informed and get organized better, faster.
  • Plenty of courageous changemakers and status-quo challengers emerging in all spheres of life and everywhere
  • Empathy and compassion alive and well and growing among so-called ordinary people
  • Human ingenuity, adaptability, resilience, creativity, innovativeness, invention alive and well despite threats and opposition from the dinosaurs.

Over the last 10 year the field of social entrepreneurship has evolved and got better known and supported. What would you say is the next stage of growth for the field and what are some of the main questions or challenges which it faces? 

As implied above Social Enterprise seeks to upset equilibria, complacency, stases. It has evolved over the last 20-30 years for sure and done a great job in developing new (or rediscovered?) perceptions of value, and an approach that demonstrates how social and environmental benefits can be offered by a commercial entity for whom monetary profit and economic gain are not ends in themselves, but rather the means by which the other values can be sustainably delivered.

Even so, while a growing number of people and markets are learning and adjusting to these new paradigms, no cigar yet. There is need and room for a lot more social enterprise. I would hope that the theory of a ‘million little pieces’ will prevail, the realization that loads and loads of relatively small, local community-facing, social enterprises can have an aggregate impact for the better. And move away from the obsession with growing monolithic, monopolistic enterprises of any kind. Or we will fall into the ‘Too Big To Fail’ mindset/trap again where sheer size is taken as an indicator of worth. Boo to that.

Why do you continue to do what you do? And how do you sustain yourself in the process? 

What else is there to do? And besides, its fun. How do I sustain myself? Largely by avoiding the question, and expecting that things will turn out OK. Avoid gloom and pessimism. Glass is ¾ empty? No mate, its ¼ full.

What advice would you share with others setting out on their own entrepreneurial path? 

Just get on and do it. Don’t worry about the risks and costs. “Nothing ventured  ..” and all that. Just as long as your prime motivation is not money, nor fame. They might come, or not.  But if you don’t enjoy it any more, stop it, and do something else.  And don’t get too full of yourself.

 

Thank you so much Nick. So brilliant to hear your updates. Thank you for your continued work and optimism. It spreads.  

Clare x 

……

STAY IN TOUCH. 

Sign up here for extra resources, news and happenings…

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..


One Wild Life + 10: Taddy Blecher

OWL +10 template 2

 

Ten years ago I set out on a journey across the globe to interview social entrepreneurs about their life stories. I travelled for 11 months, across 17 countries, interviewing nearly 200 people. I took hundreds of photos, travelled thousands of miles, laughed, cried and learned so much about the world, myself, and what it takes follow through on a dream- mine and theirs.

That journey became ‘One Wild Life’, a book published by The Collins Press in 2009, which in turn, has travelled the globe. The stories of these change makers have reached school children, policy makers, presidents, educators and fellow entrepreneurs, among others, as the book made it’s way to people who themselves have a deep longing to make a difference. I still get emails from readers across the world who have been moved or touched by the stories in the book. This has to be one of the best feelings in the world!

So ten years on, I am curious to revisit these stories– Where are these people now? What lessons have they learned? What has changed? And what advice or insights can they offer to us as we collectively embark on a new phase of history, challenge and opportunity.

And so, I am in the process of tracking down as many of the interviewees as possible. This time it’s a little different though. I’ve sent them some questions, to which they are offering replies. Over the coming months I’ll be sharing the interviews weekly and at the end will be looking for patterns, themes and trends.

Ten years seems like nothing and forever all in one. So much has happened, so much change, so much learning, and yet the lessons from that journey are still living in me, unfolding each day at a time. The past is never really past, just a work in progress.

And so I hope you’ll join me in this current iteration of the investigation! (#onewildlife10)

……

Dr. Taddy Blecher

Maharishi Institute, South Africa

 

Dr Taddy Blecher PhotoFirst up in the interview series is Dr. Taddy Blecher in South Africa.

It seems fitting that Taddy is first in this series, as it was reading about his work that was one of the sparks for the original journey. Back then Taddy was the CEO of CIDA City Campus, which was pioneering a new model of affordable, accessible third level business education in South Africa. Since then he has gone on to be one of the leading global voice on education reform.

Soon after meeting Taddy he went on to launch a new educational institution, the Maharishi Institute, which has the aim of educating 100,000 leaders for the future of South Africa. Significantly the institute considers personal develop and work experience as central to its educational tenets. It’s “Pay it Forward” philosophy helps to ensure that thousands of young people who would ordinarily not have access to third level opportunities are now getting a chance through an ingenious peer to peer support model, which in turn is pioneer new ways in which third level education is funded and sustained.

Taddy is also co-founder of the Branson School of Entrepreneurship and is the recipient of numerous awards and honours including the Skoll Entrepreneur Award and the Global Leader of Tomorrow Award from the World Economic Forum.

Reading Taddy’s update is a huge reminder to me in the power of a big vision and big numbers, and how that vision is accelerated when embodied and conscious-raising practices such as meditation are integrated into the root of education. It was a pleasure meeting Taddy in Johannesburg back in 2006, and it is an equal pleasure to hear of his amazing progress and commitment ten years on…

And so, without further ado and with deep appreciate for his work and that of his team, over to Taddy.

How has your path shifted and evolved since I interviewed you for One Wild Life? Where are you now and what are you working on?

It is the same path but more evolved.

Ten years ago, I was in the planning stages for the Maharishi Institute (MI) – in June 2017, MI will be 10 years old and what a journey of learning and growth it has been. MI was donated a huge building in downtown Joburg, which we have been renovating over the years, and it currently is home to over 650 young people who are completing their studies via distance education with the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, USA.

As CEO, I have moved from day-to-day operational management, to working on the long-term sustainability of the institute, with the goal of making it the first self-sustaining educational institution in the world.

Since we first started in year 2000, across all our programmes we have started, we have assisted 15,250 unemployed youth to access education and jobs. They earn close to R1 billion combined salaries per annum and we estimate they will earn R23 billion conservatively over their working careers.

Our target is to educate and train 100,000 leaders for the future of Africa, who will ultimately earn one trillion Rand over their working careers. Funds that will transform the lives of poor communities and bring them into the middle class.

20160613-IMG_2955

 

What are some of your highlights of the past 10 years?

We have held three graduation ceremonies and shortly the fourth for the Maharishi Institute, and each one is an amazingly happy celebration of achievement, success despite the odds and incredibly proud moments when parents embrace the first graduate in their family. This makes all the hard work worthwhile.

Over the past 10 years we have partnered with some incredible companies and people, and the relationships that have developed have been phenomenal. So many people truly believe in what we are doing and are willing to partner with us on the journey that it makes the trip very exciting.

A recent highlight is we have passed the ‘tipping point’ threshold from a quantum physics point of view to make Johannesburg ‘Invincible’. This is a theoretical basis which requires a group of advanced TM (transcendental meditation) practitioners. So for the population of 4.5 million people in Johannesburg, we have seen it going from the ‘murder capital’ of the world 10-years ago, to not in the top ‘50 murder cities’ in the world.

Also in development:

  • We have an MOU with the Department of Basic Education to provide technical support to the initiative of introducing a project-based entrepreneurship curriculum into all schools in the country.
  • The target over the next 15-years is to ultimately reach 12 million children per annum across 27,000 different schools. This has emerged from work I was asked to under the auspices of the former Deputy President to Chair a National Government Task Team in the Human Resources Development Council (HRDC) on Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship.
20160613-IMG_2961

What have been some of the challenges of the past 10 years? What would you have done differently?

Overall its been a total joy! Every challenge has turned out to be a blessing!

There is ALWAYS a solution.

Funding is always a challenge and is becoming less of a day to day concern as we approach and manage to achieve sustainability. Aiming towards becoming self-sustainable is incredibly hard-work but I know that it will be worth it when we achieve it.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?

Just keep going! You are so on the right track! ☺

Graduation - Class of 2015

What do you see as some of today’s global challenges and what opportunities do you see?

With the increase in digital access, there are a lot of opportunities opening to impact people. At the same time, digital access can lose the high-touch human approach, which is one of the factors that makes MI work better than a public university.

We need a more enlightened approach to education that facilitates human Evolution at a great speed, alongside the technological revolution taking place.

Over the last 10 year the field of social entrepreneurship has evolved and got better known and supported. What would you say is the next stage of growth for the field and what are some of the main questions or challenges which it faces?

It is true, and its largely thanks to the work of the Skoll Foundation and other great organisations like Ashoka, Echoing Green, Aspen and others also playing a great role.

The next phase is for Social Entrepreneurs to support each other more, and I am a co-founder and on the global board of an initiative called Tendrel  a global organisation for Social Entrepreneurs to support each other using YPO Forum methodology. Its one year old and we are in 9 cities in the world already with over 100 members. It will grow to thousands in over 50-cities.

Also, the next phase is system change on two levels: 1) working with and transforming government policy and implementation practice; 2) Creating a tipping point in cities, states, countries, continents and globally in collective consciousness

Some research I’m interested in is how social entrepreneurs can actually be the best partners and supporters of each others’ work. SE’s can also work together enrolling key eco-system players to bring greater levels of systems change.

Another trend is the big push towards ‘merged models’ which are more financially sustainable.

Maharishi Institute building

Why do you continue to do what you do? And how do you sustain yourself in the process?

As an organisation we have a vision to create 100,000 future leaders for Southern Africa, so while we have reached more than 15,000 to date, we have a long way to go. Knowing that the future of these young people and their families are changed forever through employment, studies, and personal mastery, is a very strong motivating factor.

What advice would you share with others setting out on their own entrepreneurial path?

When you know what you really want to do with your life, then ‘jump off a cliff’. You have to just do it. Anything less is not worthy of who you are and what you were born to do.

20160613-IMG_2861

Anything else you’d like to add?

A bit more info about Maharishi Institute- to give you a better understanding

We offer University access opportunities to unemployed young people who either couldn’t afford university, or 70% of whom don’t have the school-leaving results to be allowed into University
We provide: education, books and study materials, a daily meal, work experience, counselling, job placement on graduation
The Institute offers Consciousness-Based Education, a loving, holistic student-centred approach to learning that starts with developing the inner Consciousness of every student twice daily with Transcendental Meditation and the advanced TM Sidhis programme. Our cost of this Education package is one-quarter currently of public institutions
“Learn and Earn” ensures that students work while studying to earn a stipend, and pay ‘it forward’ on their fees account; it also ensures that on graduation students have work experience making them highly marketable
“Pay it forward” is an agreement between all students and MII whereby all students commit to funding another student once they have started working to ensure that someone else (the student can nominate a family member or anyone else) is able to have the same opportunity they did.  In this way the funds are not lost and always keep re-cycling, so if you sponsor one student, in time that becomes two, then three, and so on.
We are working to become the first self-funding University programmes in the world for historically disadvantaged youth, where the institution can sustain itself without any funding from government or from the students’ tuition fees which is the traditional two income sources for a University

MI choir
BEE

** All photos courtesy of The Maharishi Institute. Photographer credit unknown.

Thank you so much Taddy- it is so brilliant to learn more about you work, impact, ideas and vision.
And yes, there is always a solution, and yes to more enlightened approaches to education, as that feeds into all growth, change and development. Onwards.

Clare xx

STAY IN TOUCH

Want to stay in touch? Sign up over here for access to tools, practices and resources for leading your own one wild life with regular updates, more interviews and news of exciting happenings!

 

 

Tune in next week for another interview in the One Wild Life + 10 series.


Learning to do Business and Life as Unusual

Thrive School main banner
As you know, starting your own project or business is not easy. It brings up a whole host of questions and challenges. It brings up internal fears, vulnerabilities and doubts. There are logistic challenges, timing issues, design issues. There are lots of ‘what’s, how’s and why’s’.

It has been 7 months since I launched Thrive School and in that time it has been evolving, and I have been evolving too. One of my benchmarks for learning is when new questions show up. If I’ve no new questions then I’m not entering new territories of growth and development. At the moment, I have a ton of new questions!

Thrive School emerged from a vision to create networks of dreamers and do’ers; people who have a passion and drive to make a difference through their lives and work, and naturally have lots of questions too. I know that the questions can be overwhelming when we don’t have support, community and a framework for asking them. So in many ways Thrive School is evolving into that- a place to ask questions, learn through them and in doing so expand what is possible for each of us. It’s a place to evolve our dreams, ideas and ultimately ourselves too.

And so Thrive School a much about how we learn as what we learn. The how is so important as is will impact on our future how- how we bring the learning from the programme into our projects and lives. Here’s a few principles behind the Thrive School ‘how’, and why we think they matter….

 

Values based development

Think of your values like the keel of a ship. Our values help to keep us upright, especially in choppy waters. They give us weight, and support, and around them we can build our ship and sail it. Gaining a understanding of your personal values and how they impact and influence the business or project you are designing is critical to your own personal sanity and the project’s sustainability. Our values help to keep us grounded and on track. They help us to value our time, ourselves, our products and our pricing. They are the foundation stone and so we start there.

Life and Learning happens in cycles

Transformational learning is not a linear process. We learn in cycles and spirals. Sometimes we need to make the same mistake a few times before we really learn how to navigate the challenge in a fundamentally different way. Learning is accelerated when we take a cyclical approach: conscious action, then review, then adaption before we take action again. This way our learning is taken out of a linear process and into a spiral. This is the learning not just of growth but of adaptability and flexibility- two key skills necessary for any business or venture to thrive.

Structures Create Flow and Freedom

So many of us strive for freedom- freedom from 9-5, freedom from debt, freedom from certain external demands. Think of a bird- for it to fly a bird needs to instinctively know and respect the structure which the dynamics of wind currents, gravity and physics impose. It’s by embracing these that flight is championed. Our ultimate freedom comes when we understand and embrace the structures which work best for us. What boundaries do we need to have around our time, for instance; or what perameters do we need have around our spending and savings to give rise to financial flow. It’s the boundaries that give rise to the freedoms that we choose.

Energy management, not time management

Life happens in seasons and cycles. There are weeks when we have more energy and weeks when we have less. There is a season to launch something, and a season for letting go. Gaining a deeper appreciation of our own energy cycles helps us to move our days in relationship with what we are creating.

Peer to Peer and non ‘expert’ driven discussion and feedback loops

We are our own experts. The age of the guru is dead. At Thrive School we celebrate and honour expertise, know we each have something to offer. No one person has the ‘right’ answer for you- only you do, but we can listen to each other, learn from each other, and each strive for our own version of excellence.

Prototype, iteration, experimentation and play

We grow our ventures through cycles of experimentation, iteration and prototyping- each one building upon the next, which gives rise to the next. We encourage early prototyping, trying something small out, then making adjustments. We dream big but understand that it will take iterations to get there.

Time is precious

Our time is one of the most precious things we have. Time for ourselves, our families, our friends, our communities, our hobbies. There is a lot to pack in. At Thrive School we look at how we can best  value our time by developing business services, products and offering which respect our expertise and reflect back to us the value which we bring to the world.

Elegant next steps

Our big vision is powerful but we get there one step at a time. What is your elegant next step?… we ask this over and over of each other. And yes, we believe the process can be beautiful and elegant too.

 

These are just some of the core principles. As the school evolves, so too will they. This is learning in action, one elegant next step at a time.

… 

 

 The next 5 month Thrive School programme is about to happen in  DUBLIN.

Applications are open until noon on Tuesday 1st November.

 Apply online here now. 

Not in Ireland and interested in Thrive School? Stay in touch… I’m looking at ways to bring the material to a wider audience- it’s in evolution too. And if you’d like to offer me your input or ideas please do share with me via email: clare (at) claremulvany.ie – thank you!

Clare. xx