Another year has gone by. Boom. How does that feel? Do you feel proud and bursting with energy? Or rather that unsettling feeling of constantly running without necessarily having fulfilled what you set out to or dreamt about? Or perhaps the feeling that you simply continued on the same trajectory as last year, without even really pausing to step off the treadmill, look up and ask yourself what your deepest and wildest dreams are?
We believe there is a spark of madness within each and everyone of us; the things that truly move us, the dreams we are not prepared to let go of yet. Dreams about Making A Difference, for ourselves and others. Aspirations of what lives we want to live and what we want to leave behind.
You can chose to see this as an article. Yet another piece of written text. Or, to see it as an opportunity to step into The MAD Time and Space Machine. A vehicle where you can explore what has been, what is, and what can be. Einstein is said to have argued that the most powerful tool we have sits right between our ears: Our imagination. The trick is to be able to tell vision from illusion. As we see it, vision is deeply anchored in both our values and ambitions - and aligns with us emotionally as well as intellectually. Based on merely either intellect or emotions the vision will lack validation, risk being distorted, and at best reach a fraction of its full potential. Neither mind nor body can operate without each other. That brings us to Illusion. Illusion is when we lose our anchoring; when we are no longer grounded in neither ourselves, nor the world around us - but instead caught in a delusion; something we desire to be true, often because we don't fully want to face what is truly holding us back. Thus, getting caught in the illusion is preventing us from seeing and manifesting the vision. Moreover, when it comes to crafting your Vision, we've found that the deeper you anchor in your inner world - the further you can reach and impact the outer world. This is the voyage of this article.
The itinerary: This space and time machine journey will make three stops; The 1st - Traveling back in time; This is where we share our reflections and learnings from the past year. The 2nd - Delving Deep into the Here and Now; tuning into some mad, real life stories of how you can be the change you want to see in the world. The 3rd - Traveling forward in time; Offering you 4 ways, ranging from 15 mins to 9 days, through which you can set New Year’s Intentions that truly Makes A Difference for yourself and the people around you. Enjoy all parts, or pick the one that resonates with you.
Dare to dream, with your eyes wide open. Enjoy the ride!
- TRAVELING BACK IN TIME -
Reflecting upon the last year, our MAD work and vision, we find a continuous exploration of how to make a difference; An ongoing quest to discover how we can best be of service. A journey that took us from a societal to a human perspective and into a completely MAD world.
It was this passion and curiosity to explore that led us to start MAD in the first place. As you might know, Fiona and I used to live parallel lives, where we both, unknowingly of each other left our corporate careers to go “business backpacking”. A voyage to see how our business backgrounds could contribute to more sustainable development, driven from a grassroot level up. Throughout the journeys we built our own social enterprises, and eventually realized we could be of better service if we took a step back - and supported local young leaders, to catalyze the change they were creating. As Fiona and my paths crossed, we recognized that what appeared like crazy life journeys had equipped us with a unique set of experiences and friends (just like your path has, however it looks).
Based on our backgrounds we had a systemic, societal perspective as we set out to together Make A Difference. This meant exploring solutions that could turn institutional voids into abundant birthplaces of social innovation (further described in this article). Throughout the last year, we recognized that though the ‘hard’ institutional and organisational building blocks are critical - absolutely essential for any sustainable solution - so is very much the human perspective as well. In order to build more prosperous futures, it’s not enough to stitch together the institutional fabric in smarter ways; the structures of education, energy, sanitation, agriculture, healthcare, and so on - To truly unlock more prosperous futures, we need to address the blockages that keeps us humans from interacting, living and leading in optimal ways within these structures.
What is it then that is causing the inner and outer conflicts that we see within and between people that creates and fuels the institutional voids, the inequalities? How do the assymetries of incentives emerge that incentivise us to act in ways that are not aligned with neither a greater good, nor our own values? Without addressing these questions and incorporating them into our exploration of approaches, we will never truly find sustainable solutions. We might craft a great business model for clean water access, but without addressing the human conflicts that caused the lack of water in the first place, we will never be able to leapfrog forward, setting ourselves up with not just the next generation societal solutions - but solutions that truly allows the next generation - our children - to prosper. After all, it was humans who created the systems, and only we can change them.
Based on this idea, we chose to spend the last three months of 2018 delving deeper into exploring what drives inequalities. Across the MAD community the importance of Gender Equality was raised - both as a critical societal challenge in itself, as well as a key factor for e.g. Economic growth, Conflict resolution and Peacebuilding efforts. Eager to not just explore and understand the challenge topic better in itself - but also explore how we as MAD can be of service (that is, catalyze impact in the most efficient way), we set out to try a different approach; Instead of departing from a single MAD entrepreneur and her/his key challenges, we decided to bring together some of the MAD entrepreneurs who were addressing Gender Equality from completely different markets, business models and life trajectories, and see how we could drive development; Supporting them in tailored 1:1 sessions, as well as unleashing synergies through connecting them and their businesses. During these conversations, least common denominators and patterns emerged that, amongst other things, turned into our MAD World Model. In short, it shows how inner and outer worlds interact. How Societal and Human perspectives meet. And how, in this intersection, those inner sparks of madness are ignited through an external catalyst. This is not a static model, but rather organic. Leaving the illusion of a linear trajectory, embracing playing for a continuous exploration that spirals through those inner and outer worlds. For each phase, it encourages you to explore alternative realities; to go places you’ve previously overlooked within and around. For each cycle, anchoring deeper and reaching further. It is based on this model of worlds colliding; of human and societal perspectives fusing, that we have laid the foundation for 2019. Find out how you can be a part of it in Part 3 of this journey.
Figure: Overview of the MAD World Model; showing how inner and outer worlds interact. It encourages you to explore alternative realities; to go places you’ve previously overlooked within and around. For each cycle, anchoring deeper and reaching further.
- RIGHT NOW -
The MAD Cases: Real life stories of Making A Difference
Changing your life trajectory might feel overwhelming; Where do I start? And is it even possible to actually change the course? And if I do so, won’t all the investments I’ve made in my life until this point be for nothing?
Let’s take a look at the different life trajectories of the MAD Entrepreneurs that constitutes the Equality Team, touched upon above. Real life stories of how you can turn hardship to prosperity, leveraging your past as a springboard into a new chapter, or simply using your current structures to scale the difference you want to create.
Olutosin Adebowale, Nigeria:
Turning hardship into a more prosperous future for herself and those around.
Being a victim of domestic abuse herself, Olutosin Adebowale decided to be the change she wants to see in this world and started working to support women through therapy and entrepreneur skill training. Today, she has trained more than 2 000 women across and beyond Nigeria, build centers for rehabilitation and education, and created a global network of sisterhood. She is crafting pockets of peace that address violence on all levels; direct abuse, structural oppression and cultural stigmas and norms. Tosin brought Fiona and I together, and thus enabled the very birth of MAD itself. She has also served as the one and only inaugurate annual MAD Entrepreneur board member. For that, and everything she is and does, we are forever grateful.
Aleksey Fedorov, Russia:
Using the corporate structures to drive change on mass scale.
Aleksey grew up during the 90s in Russia, experiencing the liberating forces and then the winds turning. He’s done both startups and corporate journeys, and is today Brand Strategy Lead, and World Wide Pride Co-Chair at Microsoft. Moving through the social, professional and political challenges and opportunities of coming out as queer in Russia and re-igniting it in the US, he is now leveraging the big corporate structures to Make A Difference on scale; amongst other things leading the Pride Parade in over 40 cities across the world.
Majd Masharawi, Palestine:
Seeing the overlooked, Turning scarcity to abundance
Growing up in Gaza, through the intifadas and the everyday turmoil and violence, Majd Masharawi refused to accept the status quo. Throughout her life, she turned scarcity to abundance through the madest solutions and interventions. Today, at 25, she’s been featured at BBC, CNN, Fast Company, Al jazeera, TED Women and many more - and rumours has it she might just be a coming Nobel Peace Prize Winner. We wouldn’t be surprised. Through one of her current endeavors, she is turning the rubbles of demolished houses into solid bricks. In a time where Gaza tends to be featured as a hopeless case in the mainstream media - Majd shows that the impossible is indeed possible.
Elin Vestberg, Sweden:
Driving change on institutional levels as a hobby.
On her spare time, Elin was one of the first to join Fatta after it was founded - the social activism and non-profit civil society organisation that is fighting sexual violence and working towards consent in practice as well as legislation. “Fatta” means “Get it” in Swedish and work with culture and politics as tools to make clear demands and propose concrete solutions. They were a pivotal force behind the new sexual assault legislation in Sweden, based on consent, implemented since the first of July.
Ahmed Ali Babar, Pakistan;
Be a male role model to drive women empowerment.
Growing up in Pakistan, Ahmed Ali Babar saw and experienced the violence and oppression against women playing out around him. With a deep desire to Make A Difference, he entered the Pakistan Youth Parliament. From within the political structures, it became clear to Ahmed that the lack of progress and development across sectors within the country could be linked to the lack of women in power, as a consequence of lack of education for girls. Refusing to accept the status quo he embarked on a journey as a truly mad social entrepreneur to not only seek innovative solutions, but to be the change he wanted to see in the world. Through his journey, he’s faced religious intolerance, patriarchal societal structures, and found a route to overcome social stigmas, often putting his own safety at risk.
Elsa D’Silva, India:
Leveraging your corporate background to lay the foundation for a new endeavor to make a difference.
The horrific gang rape of Jyoti Singh on a public bus, awoke Elsa’s inner madness and made her change course from a successful corporate career, and using those experiences to found Safecity and Red Dot Foundation. Safecity is a platform, crowdsourcing personal experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces - being the largest crowd map on the issue in India, Kenya, Cameroon and Nepal. Amongst many other accomplishments, Elsa is currently a Yale World Fellow, and an alumni of the Stanford Draper Hills Summer School, the US State Department’s Fortune Mentoring Program, and Oxford Chevening Gurukul. She is listed as one of BBC Hindi’s 100 Women and won numerous awards, such as the Global Leadership Award by Vital Voices in the presence of Secretary Hillary Clinton. Her work has been recognised by the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations through the Intercultural Innovation Award and the UN Foundation. She has penned articles that have appeared in CNN, Huffington Post, WIP amongst others. She has spoken at TEDx, UN Women and State Department, the list goes on. Today, she is a thought leader, speaking up on the importance of Gender Equality in itself, as well as a key factor for economic growth, conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts. Through her work, she enables a new type of activism; given the oppressed a voice through anonymous reporting. Using the data she can showcase the overlooked, discover trends and patterns to more targetly drive advocacy and accountability towards governments and across sectors. Last but not least, we are very happy to welcome her as MAD’s new board member - taking the annual MAD entrepreneur seat.
As You explore in what ways you want to change your life and make a difference, play with the intersection of these:
- LOOKING FORWARD -
As you look to set your New Year’s intentions, here are 4 MAD ways of doing so. Play with all of them, or pick what fits right here and now.
# 15 min - 2 MAD Questions:
These two questions might look deceivingly easy, but if you truly sit with them, you’ll discover actions you are taking and not taking - on an everyday basis - that prevents you from showing up for yourself. Micro moments of self abandonment, instead of self empowerment.
- Name five things you know weaken you, but you keep on doing.
- Name five things that strengthen you, that you don’t do.
As you’ve written them down, recognize you are fully equipped to shift this around today. From self sabotage, to self celebration.
# 2 hours - 1 day: 10 MAD Questions:
Here are 10 questions we use in our work together with the MAD Entrepreneurs and those who join our sessions and journeys. Sit in a nice, quiet place, and move through the questions slowly. Preferably a couple of days before you are actually setting your new year’s intentions, so that your answers has some time to truly sink in.
1. What are the happiest moments of my life? (alt. this week, month, year), and What are the five biggest achievements in my life until now? What are the values, and qualities that became expressions at that moment? What is the essence that these moments represent?
2. If I keep on living my routine life like it is today, what will I regret at the end of my life that I didn’t do, try, learn or achieve?
3. What excites me most about my job? My personal life?
4. What do I do the best? In what things do I excel?
5. What do people love about me?
6. If I had unlimited money, to whom or what would I contribute?
7. If I could chose, what would I not do ever again?
8. What is the most important thing in the world for me?
9. Which quality or talent would my family, friends, colleagues and the whole world miss out on if I didn’t fulfill my full potential?
10. Which dreams am I not willing to let go of yet?
# 45 min bi-weekly: The MAD Podcast
Tune in to the MAD podcast, journeys into Alternative Realities, with the MAD Time and Space machine. Conversations with people who are MAD to Make A Difference and crazy enough to think they can. Together, we explore how the seemingly impossible is possible. Tune in to the remarkable human stories behind courageous and innovative interventions that tackle the biggest societal challenges of our time. Mad and real conversations about inner and outer journeys. Have a look.
# 4 - 9 days: Join a part of, or the full MAD Journey:
Re discover your WHY and Explore your HOW; Join us for a MAD Journey that Makes A Difference. Work with Social Innovation and Urban Youth in Quito, situated in the Andes and exchange Leadership experiences with Amazonian Communities. Seize this unique opportunity in Ecuador - March 2019. Find out more and apply.
It all seems impossible until it’s done. We know it's not. Based on the experience from award winning leaders across the global MAD Community, fused with remarkable local leaders, spiced with interdisciplinary research, anchored within you - Explore your personal vision and how it can be turned into reality. Together with a carefully selected group of leaders and MAD voyagers, you will deepen the understanding of yourself, the world, and what Your place in it can truly be. The need to ground deeper and envision bolder has never been greater. For you and the world.
Wishing you a truly MAD 2019!
/Emelie & Fiona