April 2011 Archives

Carnivors no more?

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During the first week of my Seminar Camp in 1996 (yes, I'm THAT old!) Jayme* from Canada had become the main chef and since he was a vegetarian, no meat was served for the first 10 days. Only after a significant uproar - people familiar with Seminar Camps know that these things can get dead serious - Rodrigo from Brazil finally cooked a nice Stroganov stew for everybody who wanted some.

When I lived in San Francisco 5 years later I had the idea to live as a vegetarian for a while. I only merely succeeded - couldn't say no to turkey at a Thankgiving invitation - but through delicious Asian food offered in my neighbourhood, I drastically reduced meat from my diet, at least temporaily.

Currently I'm reading "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer and even if the book is a bit of a disapointment - almost none of the notions are completely new to me** - It brought back all the good reasons why it's just unethical to consume meat the way the Western world does. Think methane and global warming, think antibiotics, think animal welfare, think personal health, think industrial meat production, think feed the world, etc...

I do think the topic is important enough to fill a day in every camp or even host a minicamp or mosaic activity on (check suggested theme.). But thinking one step further, and especially in the lines of our new environmental taskforce, maybe we should make it a policy that all CISV camps should be free of meat?

*the guy brought his banjo to camp and plays it professionally these days, apparently.

** If all the reasons mentioned here, not to eat meat are new to you, and you want to be an ethical person, then yes, the book is a must-read!

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Conflict barometer.

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In the CISV Year of Conflict and Resolution I'd like to point you to a tiny NGO located in Germany called Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK). Mainly run by (student) volunteers, one of their bigger tasks is to generate an annual conflict barometer* - a publication that gives an overview of where on earth violent conflicts take place:


Now, this map is interesting: With a few exceptions (i.e. Mexico, Colombia, Thailand), the conflicts a mostly where CISV is not.

* the 92 page PDF is a great read and source of inspiration, what theme to chose for your next country-based activity.

Open recruitment.

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How best to choose a new committee chair?

Some years ago I read an interesting article in The Economist on how companies plan their succession: Some of the most successful multinationals have people in the rear seats waiting for a specific date to take over a leadership position. However, sometimes unforseeable events lead to early retirement and replacements need to be found. Sometimes these replacements are outsiders who have earned their merits by leading another company to success. They bring in fresh and outside views and experiences how things are run elsewere. Unfortunately these outsiders may also have little understanding of their new company's culture and the very specific field it deals with. In the end, the article concluded, an internal succession plan should be preferred.

Let's look at CISV: In the committee I know best (the IPP committee), we've routinely chosen a successor among the existing members, and this has worked well for the last ten years. Sometimes, like in Lars/NOR's case (2005-2009) we've had him in position to take over two years in advance, same goes for Soren/DEN who took over after him. What struck me as odd, that the three of us (me, Lars and Soren) were all pretty similar in character, culture, CISV-politicial views and vision. Of course it's only natural that a person in a leadership position would support somebody who is most likely to continue the way of working he did. Also, this process leads to continuity and to a common understanding what the IPP committee is like. Nevertheless, it also made the committee very closed to people who are different in (working) culture and I'm not trying to say that we discouraged others from joining, but the IPP team was always a very homogenous bunch of people.

Now, when Soeren's job was open for replacement last year, the IEC suggested that the job is openly announced, just like it was done for the positions in the Educational and the Profile Raising Department recently. I know that members of the IPP committee found this odd, since it had been a tradition that the chair position would be filled by an existing member. And so the chose to do it the traditional way: Sarah, a long-time committee member, was very well qualified, and took over promptly.

Even though the Economist would surely support this way of filling the position, I think it is worth spending some time on the other option: Open recruitment (meaning publishing a formal job vacancy in i.e. the IO update and on the website) for the newly founded committees was probably born out of necessity. But also for existing committees this could be a chance of opening up leadership positions to people who haven't been around at AIMs for ages, and therefore being more inclusive. Beyond that, theres all the other advantages mentioned above of bringing in a new person
Personally I think, this would mostly not work well, because there just isn't an abundance of people who shout "me please" when such a position is available, and usually people have to be nudged towards such a role. So a formal "application process", as for a paid job just wouldn't result in tons of applications. And of course, the internal chemistry of a team is probably a high value, that may easily be disrupted by bringing in someone unknown to the group.

In the end, I think a good solution would be to make it public (and by this I mean more than an announcement in the MWM report) that a leadership position is open, and if there are "outsiders" interested, at least they get a formal chance of applying. How in the end, a selection process should happen if more than one person applies remains to be answered.

(Kudos to Sarah for the idea to this article)

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