Change at the Grassroots – How to Attract Government Attention

Being heard and enacting social reform is not just a problem under authoritarian regimes. Even in democracies, where newspapers have been filled with headlines on people crying out for change, we see little development or legislative change.

The Occupy Movement saw thousands of people protest the international capitalist system, camping in sub-zero temperatures for months on end; while thousands of students in the UK took to the streets to protest against rising tuition fees and its effects on social mobility. From Syrian citizens to Sri Lanka’s Tamils, from American activists to China’s Tibetan monks, people in every corner of the world are crying out for change.

The only two examples (I can think of) where the grassroots managed was the Pirate movement against the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement, ACTA, that got voted down in the European Parliament, and the tragic desperation of Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi that led to the Arab Spring.

With little relative change, it begs the question, is anyone listening? What about us ‘little people’? Also, do we want it? Because while it is enticing with the image of David vs. Goliath, the fact is that some of the changes that happened through grassroot protests can be considered as revolutions through violence.

Here are a couple of points which will help you achieve attention of governments and help you lobby your case. In short, persistence and preparation are key.

Article originally published on Grassroot Diplomat:

How do you identify curious?

No, I don’t mean curious as in strange, but curious as in ever wanting to find out what’s behind the next stone. Curious as in interested to learn and to find out more.

And I am talking about curious employees. Employees t that are willing to learn new things, employees that are willing to learn new thinking, or at least doesn’t mind thinking that there might be other mindsets than the ones well-known.

As any change specialist will tell one key in change is to find one or few champions and instil in them the courage to change. And this probably something of the most difficult there is – to embrace change. Even though I am now living and working in my sixth country, I don’t know how open to change I actually am.

Currently involved in a change process there is one big new development that potentially will be an industry shake up, but it will take time and effort – and curiosity. It isn’t for everyone, there are many employees that are happy to go to work, do their job as well as they can, and then go home. And like in any context all types are needed. But for a company to survive, we also need the shakers, the curious that are willing to look behind the stone to learn a new mind-set and a new way of thinking.

So how do you identify these employees?

Networking yourself [to a new job]

I’m following this Coursera MOOC on “International Leadership and Organizational Behaviour”, #ILOB and I quite enjoy it. Although I don’t really know about the academic endeavour and value with these classes new learning is always positive.

Today’s lecture is about the Impact of Social Networks on Organizations and Groups, it speaks about different types of networks – strong vs. weak, closed vs. open etc. But I wonder, does it (= networking) work? And if you find yourself in a surrounding aka network and you’re the odd man out what good will a network be to you? In my own situation e.g. it is no secret that I’m looking for a new job and that I come with a good experience and competencies to execute in the jobs I apply for. Only I seem to exist in some Boy zone, that is Brussels public affairs in IT, and even if I turn over backwards I will never be male so I literally don’t fit in. This is not a criticism, it is stating facts of human nature, I believe that the correct academic term is Homophily, i.e. we bond easier with people whom are similar to ourselves. But with result is that unless we dare to go outside the famous box our network will look as ourselves. From a sheer business point of view that while a closed network like this will offer good ways to collaborate, higher trust etc., closed networks like these will also see lack of innovation, high redundancy in competencies and so on. Of course, I understand that there are two in any connection and I am entirely open to the fact that I’m the weak spot in any [future] relationship. Then the question is – what does that say about me? Maybe I haven’t invested enough in my network? Possibly. Like so much in our lives networks are earned, it could be that I haven’t earned my network. On the other hand none of “my” contacts have just landed in my lap.

I’ve always been a firm believer in “keeping shut and getting the work done” and that this will eventually pay off in more interesting jobs, tasks and better remuneration. Yes, I admit there are limits to my altruism and both the landlord and myself like the concept of paying the monthly bills in full, every month. An old-fashion concept I know, but one that I like because well, it works. But no, not so. Apparently I have to look at my wide network as a strategic asset. Dear me, these a people I’ve passed a good time with having coffee or so, but now they are suddenly an asset. I find it all a bit disconcerting, because while I don’t mind helping out as much as I can myself when someone asks for help I dislike the notion of being an asset. And if I dislike this it is easy to assume that so does my counterparts.

So while I understand that No Man is an Island I’m remain a bit uneasy of the concept of regarding my fellow human beings as assets. And to balance the giving and taking. Or am I maybe over thinking the art of networking?

The Thank You letter after an interview – how to formulate?

After each interview I send a Thank you letter thanking the interviewer for their time, re-connecting to some of our conversation and reiterate my interest in the role and the company. I usually also try to say that I’d do well in the role by some additional thinking e.g. a short strategy for communications, PR or Public Affairs or whatever the role is about. The question is should I do that or should I just keep the letter short and sweet?

I’m just asking because once a recruiter gave me some coaching before an interview and I mentioned that I planned to bring a presentation with me. The interviewer cautioned against it because since we didn’t know what the turns the interview would take and if I then left behind something that had nothing to do with the actual discussion I would be remembered by that rather than what I wanted to be remembered by.

With the Thank you letter I of course have a better situation since I know what we discussed so that part is easily managed. But there is still a lingering doubt that I’m wearing a bit off the best route. Why could it be a bad thing to show that I can do the job? Because what I show might not be exactly what the hiring company is looking for and then this will be what I leave behind and my efforts to further display my competencies will then simply be the stumbling block that takes me out of the race.

What say the recruiters in my network? What’s the best way to pen a Tank you letter?

“It’s nothing personal” – “Please don’t take it as a reflection of your competencies” ‑ so they say

When applying for jobs one must grow rhinoceros hide and learn to accept rejection after rejection. Of course I get disappointed when I get a no, I mean I applied for the job. At the same time, it goes without saying that in a hiring process the company should identify and hire the person they feel can do the job. Identifying the right candidate is after all the goal with any hiring exercise, no question about it. And in a hiring situation there are more concerns to take into account than I can being to understand.

However, the thing I find hardest to handle are the comments that comes with the rejections, the ones going along the line of “It’s nothing personal and please don’t take it as a reflection of your competencies.”

You know what? With the risk of sounding like Donna Corleone, this IS personal. We are talking about my competencies, my experiences. It is me, myself and I that is weighed and found too light. I am the one rejected, not the competition. Of course I accept the message. There is after all not much else to do.

Is flat lining our languages the way forward to better understanding?

I used to love to read magazines like the Economist and Vanity Fair. I loved their elegant language, these fantastic four syllable words that read like poetry had I ever been a poetry reader. The writers and writing had personality. Every time I put down these (and other) magazines I had learned a new word and gained new insights. But lately, meaning the past couple of years, when I read these and other articles, I find the language flat, lacking identity or just plain uninteresting only based on their writing and use of language.

Of course, with better knowledge of English the level of understanding is higher and better that’s a wonderful part of life, we can master what we set out to learn. But maybe sometimes ignorance is bliss? English is a wonderfully forgiving language and it accepts us linguistic mongrels with grace and good will. But when I speak with my English mother tongue friends they all bear witness to having simplified their spoken English to suit people like myself, i.e. someone that has studied English in school as a foreign language. While I appreciate their efforts getting their message across, and that they make an attempt to include e.g. me in their conversation, I at the same time find it sad. Because lower standards rarely complies with moving ahead and for me, one way I learn is to be around someone more skilled than me. And I don’t think I’m unique in this way.

I am not talking about a manual or cooking recipe here, because manuals and cookery books should be basic and straight forward. I am talking about [written]mass media that I do think have a responsibility towards “their” language, their readers “at home” and the “foreigners.”

Am I naïve? Am I looking for elegance where elegance can’t be found? And is this flattening maybe something good that will bring about better understanding?

“The wrong people shared it” a tale of a Social Media campaign gone awry

One of the downsides with having a mother tongue spoken by 10 million people is exactly that. But I wanted to give this a try anyway because it is such a good example of Social Media and an organisation that maybe has a wee bit left to go…

It started on November 11 with a letter from the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, it’s the largest Swedish Union and very powerful Union at that and solidly leftist. No surprises there. And let it be know that I have no problems with Unions, on the contrary I have almost always been a card-carrying member. Not so much maybe in a left-wing Union, but in a Union representing me. I feel that as an employee we sometimes are the underdogs and we may need support. It’s akin to having a home insurance, you don’t need it on a daily basis but once something happens its good to have.

The Swedish Trade Union Confederation in west Sweden is vying for more members. Nothing strange with that, all organisations wants to grow. They are using their Facebook page, nothing strange there either. It’s more the way they are doing it and how they address their future members. It is an accusing text in the form of a letter saying that “Your back will never hurt. You’ve been riding on others’ all your life” after which it goes on to list the Union successes e.g. 8 hour working day, holiday etc…

However, when the letter took a national viral spin it was taken down from the Facebook page. Admittedly it was shared for the “wrong” reasons, no one agreed with the accusing approach in the text something that seemed to surprise the local Union and it was taken down because “It was shared by the Tory side” i.e. by the wrong people having the wrong political views.

And this is the crux with Social Media, we can’t control the response, what we can do is our best to use the channels we are comfortable with but we don’t know if the “wrong side” will pick it up and share it. What we also can do is to do our homework first and see to that we have all the answers for come what may. It’s called a communication strategy and it’s not sexy but it’s what makes campaigns work.

So the next time before you publish something, ask yourself “What if” your life as [Social Media] communicator will be so much easier.

You’ll find the link to the text here: