Category Archives: Uncategorized

Agriculture 4.0 at the EU-Africa Summit in Vienna

I grew up in the countryside – really deep down in the sticks.

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It was quiet and dark at night. Cockerels and sheep and church bells were the accompaniment to my youthful memories. And tractors, driven by underage school friends – helping out at their parents’ farms. Some of those friends went on to take over the family farm. Most, though, were drawn away from our rural idyll. The agricultural life of offer to young farmers didn’t seem to satisfy their job expectations. European small farmers – and rural areas – are losing more and more young people, who make their way to the asphalt and noise of the cities. And the picture in many African countries is similar: despite high youth unemployment, a life in farming is simply not attractive for young people.

What would help draw talented people to farming? This is a question we’ll be broaching tomorrow at the Roundtable discussion on “Agriculture 4.0” that I’m moderating for the Austrian EU Presidency at their High Level Forum Africa Europe  https://www.eu2018.at/calendar-events/political-events.html.

Another key prerequisite in modernising agriculture and making it a key lever in sustainable development is to align political mandates across ministries and commissions. It’s therefore great that my panel will be made up of Africa and European experts and that our discussion will be kicked off by both the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogen, as well as EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica. This is crucial: we need to put an end to policy approaches that get lost in inter-sectoral squabbling.

I’m also going to be talking to entrepreneurs, researchers and civil society leaders on how they see digitisation and automation in agriculture really contributing to both social and ecological development as well as creating strong and competitive business models.

I hope, one day, to be seeing agricultural innovation made in Africa supporting the sustainable development of rural areas in Africa and Europe.

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Mannheim’s international students are given a warm welcome

And what a pleasure it was to host the evening – Mannheim has a great deal to offer people from all over the world. It’s open and friendly, has great businesses and entrepreneurs ready to meet young talent and is well connected to the other important European regions surrounding it.

Thanks to the wonderful Mumuvitch Disko Orkestar: http://mumudisko.de/ for getting everyone into the swing!

Ostbelgiens Bürgeragenda liegt vor!

This blog post is entitled in German, because it refers to my work in the German Speaking Community of Belgium, where a randomly selected group of citizens have spent their free time working on a “Citizens’ Agenda” for the future of childcare in the region. The “Bürgeragenda” was presented on Saturday to the region’s politicians and welcomed as a call to action! Many recommendations and thoughts will be implemented or find a place in the region’s masterplan on childcare. Politicians and citizens alike praised the process and described it as a success. Media was involved in the process from the beginning. Here’s the latest report:

https://brf.be/regional/1122198/

 

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Albania hosts Regional Labour Market Monitoring Conference

IMG_3303The famous clock tower in Tirana ticks away on our conference on the relevance of regional labour market monitoring for more effective policy-making. The conference is drawing not only on the important research results of the European Network on Regional Labour Market Monitoring (EN RLMM), but also on GIZ’s work in developing and emerging countries. The aim is to create a platform for both groups to explore how research findings can be transferred to countries outside of the EU. Albania is an excellent choice to host – the results of migratory brain-drain, combined with strong economic growth, mean that national employment policy urgently needs to obtain and act on strong labour market information: where are which skills required and how can national and regional policy-makers support skills development and effective matching of supply and demand.

This is an amazing space for participants from EU, South East Europe, Central Asia and Northern Africa to understand their different situations and explore how experiences can be built on and used in different contexts.

Kick off citizens’ dialogue in the Parlament of the German speaking community of Belgium.

24 citizens, randomly selected by a university, will start their dialogue in Eupen today to develop policy recommendations on childcare. Their discussions will take 3 Saturdays and end  with a dialogue with the Parlament in which they present and discuss future possibilities. Next time they meet, they will confront a selection of experts that they will choose themselves today. Instead of being “force fed” by expertise, the process creates a pull from the questions and gaps identified by the citizens themselves. Over 30 potential experts have already been asked to block the date, but whether they are asked to attend or not depends on the citizens.


President Mieser hopes to install a New Democratic dialogue here in East Belgium. The parliament is committed to learning from the process and plans to hold similar dialogues with citizens on other hot topics in the future.

I am proud to be designing and supporting the process and meeting the citizens in just under an hour!

International Germany Forum – Huge interest in the changing stigmatisation surrounding mental health

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Bildnachweis: Foto: Bundesregierung/ Sandra Steins

These are the notes I took during the forum on Mental Health at the 2017 International Germany Forum (IDF) and hopefully show how exciting the near future could be for society’s understanding and treatment of mental disease:

  • Mental health stigma affects all of society:
    • people living with/suffering from mental health illnesses, thus making it more unlikely that they seek help early.
    • Families, friends, colleagues and public life as a whole, thus making mental health a “non-issue” and stopping people understanding what they have and how (effectively) it can be treated.
    • Healthcare and medical institutions – lack of understanding of the implications of mental health on physical health and vice-versa. Prejudice and maltreatment of people with mental illnesses when they need physical help.
  • What’s behind the stigma? What has caused it and is contributing to keeping it upheld? (Mirai Chatterjee: “People just don’t know how to approach mental health”)
    • Guilt – e.g. Mentally ill people and/or their parents and family: “what have I done wrong to have caused this to happen”
    • Fear of treatment – e.g. Exorcism, painful and/or humiliating experience
    • Lack of knowledge or the “normality” of mental illnesses: is it an illness? Are you dangerous? Is it contagious? Is there a treatment? Am I a lost cause? Will I waste my doctor’s time by seeking treatment?
    • Fear of exclusion and loss of legal rights after “coming out”: will I ever be able to drop the label? No understanding of the continuum of the diagnosis and the fact that it can end!
    • Lack of access to a group: I’m on my own.
  • We need to differentiate in our approach to mental health and mental illness:
    • Different mental disorders (from schizophrenia to depression, etc.)
    • Mental disorders (treatment) and mental health (prevention)
  • We need to learn from others on how to destigmatise mental health. E.g. HIV/AIDS, homosexuality
  • Main levers for destigmatisation: 1) Talk, talk, talk (famous people and normal people – multichannel – use social media to generate broad groups of people!), 2) showcase successful treatment! The more people are seen to be successfully treated and “well”, the less taboo, 3) involve people living with mental disorders in issues (relevant for them)
  • Main action for experts and specialists: connect the dots (there’s already a wealth of things going on, but no roof, so that the effect is reduced)
  • What should we be doing NOW?
    • International action: Germany is called on to take on a leading role in merging the agendas (Agenda 2030, G20, etc.). Create a movement – bottom up and top-down. Mental health is one of the prerequisites for all people to be productive citizens and combat the tasks on the agenda 2030.
    • National action: e.g. Germany needs a National Mental Health Action Plan to connect the dots, increase access, develop technology and treatment and destigmatise.

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Further step to go really global: social enterprise’s international leader summit

How to be more than the sum of the individual parts and create “additionality”? This is a relevant question for many of my clients operating at decentral offices, often globally, with a mother base. And it was the question that emerged during this year’s international leader summit for a leading social enterprise that I was happy to moderate (pro bono) this week. The decentral leaders and organisations in the company (running as a franchise) will be able to look forward as from today to more standardised processes to support them set up a sustainable financial model in their local context. There will be a stronger global brand with global marketing and staffing (recruitment and rotation) offers for the local business owners to take on board. The goal is to retain flexibility and remain sensitive to local markets, but use the global knowledge and data structure to understand much better how markets work and refrain from reinventing the wheel.

An important discussion showed the importance of sustainable finances for every social business, regardless of their for-profit or not-for-profit status: without the cash to pay the monthly costs to operate, there’s no operation and no social impact. Even though the goal of the organisation is not to generate profits, if it’s not making enough money, it won’t be able to grow its impact. There is a strong business case for having a strong business case as a social enterprise!

It’s always fascinating to see how similar the challenges and issues are facing social and conventional businesses. But it’s really rewarding to work with people who are investing everything to change the world for the better!