One year ago, our lives changed forever. Fiona and I launched MAD. An idea about bringing mad people together, to Make A Difference today for tomorrow. To explore alternative realities, to manifest more prosperous emerging futures. Convinced that it is the people who are mad enough to think that they can change the world, who actually do.
Though we would describe the methodology of MAD as starting at mad and going beyond – nothing could have prepared us for our first 365 days together. This is a short overview, a teasing nugget, that will hopefully tickle your appetite for more madness. This article will be followed by many more MAD bites – taking you on big and small MAD journeys into alternative realities. But to better understand the root to all of this, let’s start by taking the time machine back, to an age before the birth of MAD
PARALLEL LIVES AND CROSSING PATHS
After having lived parallel lives on different continents, unknowing each other - Fiona and I crossed paths. We had both left our corporate career, to go "business backpacking" (quoting our friends), building and supporting social entrepreneurs from a grass root level across the world. Fiona jokes and says she focused on Africa, and I the rest of the world (any questions on my ability to focus? :) ). It’s not completely true, but also not that far off. And it scratches the surface of how much we would soon find out we complement each other. How we would become MAD partners in crime, and companions for the journey of life.
First, we were brought together by a mutual contact and New York Times bestseller writer. However, time wasn’t ready. We simply passed by each other. One more year had to pass, bringing us forward to the summer of 2017, before a remarkable female entrepreneur in Nigeria, whom we’ve both worked with and knew deeply – truly brought us together. That moment, we realized just how much we shared the same vision, and deep desire to Make A Difference. The value of going mad together all of a sudden seemed to outweigh everything. During that cup of coffee, we decided to give this all we had. The MAD journey was about to begin.
The MAD journeys venture into unchartered terrain. Inner and outer worlds. Across disciplines and continents. Photo: Living with a Maasai Warrior Community in Kenya. Learning about their history and exploring the challenging crossroads of societal decisions ahead.
A GLOBAL COMMUNITY, METHODOLOGY, AND PHILOSOPHY
Stepping back into the time machine, traveling forward, arriving into this moment: Today, MAD Entrepreneurs are operating in more than 30 countries, leading over 50 organisations and businesses across industries and sectors - collectively contributing to all of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. For this, some would describe MAD as a global community. Constituting of social justice activists and philosophers, provocative researchers and entrepreneurs, courageous migrants and company leaders, mind boggling artists and writers, creative engineers and lawyers, curious diplomats and backpackers.
Others would describe MAD as a Methodology of starting at mad and going beyond; A continuously evolving approach of self-disruptive models, where constant development is embedded in its very core and fabric, that unceasingly pushes the horizon of what we can imagine. Yet others would describe it as a Philosophy and paradigm of seeing the overlooked, turning things on their head. Transforming institutional voids into birthplaces for innovation. Areas dominated by conflict to pockets of peace. We’d simply say we are all of above. That MAD is a state of mind and call to actions that Make A Difference.
MAD Talks and Sessions are all about exploring, embracing and igniting that inner spark of MADness. Photo: One of the very first MAD workshops, taking place in Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Center. Working together with approx 200 entrepreneurs from South Asia.
TRAVELING FORWARD IN TIME
Saving the topic of the nature of reality(ies) for upcoming nuggets, and simply marveling over the seeming time plasticity required to have built MAD on evenings, nights and weekends up until this summer, we’ll finish this first article off by inviting you on two short trips in the time machine: One back to this spring, and one ahead for this fall. Taking a look at the two perspectives we’ve chosen to start explore alternative realities: A societal and human perspective.
A SOCIETAL PERSPECTIVE
One way of playing with alternative realities is to explore other ways of building institutional ecosystems. The infrastructure that builds the very fabric of what societies need to function; the provisioning of education, water, food, health care, sanitation, energy, and so on. Through the entry point of Clean Water and Sanitation – one of our time’s biggest societal challenges, and a 2,5 billion people problem, we embarked on a MAD journey. It started with Samuel Malinga, a MAD entrepreneur and UN’s global youth leader for SDG 6, (Clean Water and Sanitation), and his raising of the challenge. Unlike most others, he had solved the technical aspects, and realized this was rather a market demand problem; people who have never had a toilet before did not see the value in buying one. After a transdisciplinary Hackathon of PhD researchers and top students, the challenge was reframed to: “How do we create a resilient and cholera free community?” This was then brought forward to an Executive Think Tank of leaders cross industries, sectors and geographies, leading us to the framing of “How can human waste power the creation of resilient communities?” With that question, we travelled into Uganda, exploring the MADest approach to leap frog development. For this, we gathered local young leaders and social entrepreneurs to collectively catalyse what became known as the “model village”.
MAD Journeys bringing MAD people together to delve deep, exploring the MADest approaches to catalyse exponential development. Photo: In Uganda, together with local young leaders and social entrepreneurs to collectively leap frog what became known as the "model village".
A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE
To complement the societal view, we’ll travel forward in time, looking at the fall ahead, and the focus on a human perspective. The purpose is to explore and provoke the next leap in driving Equality and Diversity with Gender as the entry point. Today, the ideations are taking place between some of the MAD entrepreneurs and members that have dedicated their lives to this question, from different angles and parts of the world: Elsa who heat maps violence, to create safe mega cities in India and beyond, partnering with e.g. Google and Twitter. Majd who is re-building Gaze from within, turning demolished house gravels to bricks, with a team of female engineers. Ahmed, who worked for the Pakistani Youth Parliament, and now builds schools subsidising girl child education. Aleksey, a Russian activist for the LGBTQIA+ community, leading pride events across 17 countries and 40 cities. The Fatta! social movement who were a pivotal force behind the recent law on sexual consent in Sweden. The SHE Entrepreneurs, a large community of female entrepreneurs from Middle East and North Africa. Meeting with Dalai Lama himself sharing our view or Equality for true peace building efforts. Olutosin, the MAD woman who brought me and Fiona together, and who is supporting women of domestic violence in Nigeria, through therapy and social entrepreneurial training. With this line up of truly MAD people, we couldn’t be more excited to see what overlooked insights we uncover and how we can collectively turn things around, exploring MAD approaches to a challenge that touches every single human on earth.
MAD Advice and Events to provoke thoughts and catalyse action. Conversations that matter, unlock potential, and change the game. Photo: (right) Sharing our thoughts on MAD approaches to true peace building efforts with Dalai Lama. (center) MAD providing Strategic Advice in jury work in Brussels for the EU Social Challenges Innovation Platform - the brand-new European Commission initiative matching social challenges with the best innovative solutions coming from the entrepreneurial world. (left) Kicking off Fatta!'s (social activist and advocacy organisation) work of leveraging the new law to drive normative and behaviour change.
IT ALL SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE UNTIL ITS DONE
To summarise; As Nelson Mandela said; “It all seems impossible until its done”. We know it’s not. We are convinced that our biggest challenges are our biggest opportunities. That turning the societal challenges ahead of us on its head - is also what is going to unlock exponential leaps into a prosperous future. This conviction lies at the very heart of MAD. There are MAD Times ahead, join us!
It all seems impossible until it's done. These are two MAD Entrepreneurs that know it's not; Majd Ismail Mashharawi, and Elsa Dsilva. Both a part of the MAD Team that explores MAD approaches to provoke the next leap in Equality from a Human Perspective throughout this fall.
Photo: Majd's Green Cake's featured at BBC world hacks, and Elsa, here together with Hillary Clinton for Vital Voices, currently e.g. conducting round tables at Yale University to unpack overlooked insights on Gender Equality.