Categories
Leadership Thought

On Perseverance and Little Big Things

Keep doing what you do, as long as it makes positive sense!

Over the last few weeks, I have been having conversations about  perseverance, failure and excellence. I heard humbling experiences of friends and colleagues as we all shared moments where we learned from failure and not-too-good moments. When some of these people talk about the successes of what they do, it seems they had never ‘down’ moments.


Tonight, Wisdom and I were checking my cabinet, when we came across the raw hand-written manuscript of a book I wrote in 2006. Ten years ago! Wisdom did some calculations and we both screamed ‘Wow!’. I laid on the bed and smiled as my 14-year old brother read and pointed out some mistakes in the manuscript. He was equally challenged.

Have you been bothered about the mistakes you’ve made (or are making), just breathe. Breathe and breathe. Take out time to review and learn from your actions and the experiences of others.

Lessons: Keep records of the little / big things you do. Take time to review and reexamine what you do. Learn good lessons. When though time comes, remember why you set out, seek relevant lessons from others and quit not.

It works; in business and life.

Damola
July 22, 2016. Ng.

Categories
Leadership Thought

Growing with Young African Leaders

If there is one thing i crave insatiably, it is growth.

Damola Morenikeji and Linda Thomas-Greenfield

Few weeks ago, I joined other young African leaders / professionals selected (out of over 14,000 applications) for the US President’s Young African Leaders Initiative RLC Fellowship. I grew. I am still growing – daily.

Our individual commitment to growth is paramount; it influences our leadership, actions and results. The daily actions by friends and partners (even you and others on this platform) to drive positive change around the world is equally commendable. I see you – like I had, before now.

Let’s keep growing, doing and being. We can #BeMore.

[Photo: Linda Thomas-Greenfield (US Assistant Secretary of States for Africa) and Damola Morenikeji at the US Ambassador’s Office in Ghana]

Other images, courtesy the US Embassy in Ghana are below.

Damola Morenikeji, US Ambassador to Ghana Robert Porter Jackson and Amewuda Getrude
Some of the Young African Leaders hosted by the US Ambassador to Ghana

 

Categories
Growth Thought

The ‘Iyalaya Anybody’ Lessons on Innovation and Development in Africa

Most times in the development space, we have to look beyond headlines and taglines and focus on lessons from pieces and lives. I read Prof. Pius Adesanmi’s keynote address titled “Iyalaya Anybody: Pencils, Nigerian Innovation, & Africa’s Path in the 21st Century” delivered last week in Lagos, Nigeria. Beyond the ostensibly ‘obscenity’ that may come with the title, he distinctively approached the theme of innovation and the development of the African continent with conscientious audacity, thought-provokingly.
The world is changing. Innovation, knowledge-based growth, vision and corresponding actions are important factors for national development – in this case, I prefer to say continental development. While I applaud futuristic initiatives as the United Nations Agenda 2030 and the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, we need to place all hands on deck to innovate, act, review our actions, evaluate progresses and further scale up development. Like I shared with a colleague some nights ago, these ‘Agendas’ are achievable, if like the United Arabs Emirate, we – among other things – build strong institutions, promote strong societal values embedded in a culture of excellence in leadership and responsibility, invest in education and human capital development. No nation ever moved up the development ladder by trivializing inclusive governance and human capital development.
We get to respect and appreciate the borderless possibilities that exist only when we try; when we try to live responsibly, knowing that the fate of the African continent depends largely – not only on the actions of her governments but also of her young people. For several days, I have been opportune to meet and interact with some of the brightest young minds in the continent. One thing they possess in common is an audacity to change the narrative. Whether through entrepreneurship, civil society leadership or public management, they can be dubbed as ‘innovators of the public’ – apologies to Ashoka, solving some of the various problems in their various spaces across the continent, with or without public institutional backing.
A visionary leadership in all countries in Africa positively encouraging youth innovation is unarguably an answer to the question of how we may live in the realities of the envisioned Africa come 2063. Some other questions are worth answering: do we have to wait till 2063? Can we get Agenda 2063 achieved years before the deadline? Can we learn from the successes and failures of the Millennium Development Goal/Agenda (MDG) and commit ourselves to the task at hand? Can we harness the innovative prowess of our young people, in an environment that promotes creativity, innovation, peace, mutual respect and dignity? Can we recheck the foundation laid in anticipation of development, and mend or re-lay weak ends for this and future generations? Can we be truthful to ourselves and review our preparedness for the journey? Can we consciously encourage home-grown youth-driven innovations?
The experiences of several other innovative young Africans sometimes make me imagine the level of progress we might have further made, if we had better climate that genuinely supports what we do. However, I resonate with Prof’s opinion that the absence of this climate can result in positive doggedness and a resilient positive attitude raised to a square of what is required in other societies.
Another important factor, we must learn not only to change the narrative by doing, but also by telling. We need to tell our own stories. We need to encourage ingenuity. Recalling the story of Dziffa Akua Ametam, the 23 year old founder of the Ghana-based e-commerce platform, Dziffa.com, whom I met at a Breakfast meeting recently, and the stories of several others, we are reminder that while changing the development narrative, we need to be proactive in telling our story; what my friend, Adenike means when she advises on blowing your trumpets. While rankings, fellowships et al may be helpful, we need to go beyond that and have a strong record system. It is in this light that I feel the toils of Jidenma’s Celebrating Progress Africa, Innovation Prize for Africa, Africa Rizing’s Watch2016 Rizers listing, African Youth Awards, YouthHub Africa, The Future Project and others within the continent and in diaspora. We need to be, and do much more.
We have a good journey ahead. We can go farther when we hold hands and hearts. In work. In Values. In results. For Africa.
DM
Categories
Leadership Thought

More than a Million Pounds

Over one million thoughts engaged one another in my head, after seeing the premiere of ‘One Million Pounds’ along with some other Young African Leaders.
For us to sustain the ‘Africa Rising’ reality, Africans must place further value on values, honour and integrity instead of money and cheer materialism. We are worth more than these things. More. We need to build institutions, not only strong individuals.
Our commitment to excellence shouldn’t be second place; that’s one of the basic things that can make us lead our place well. Whatever we do, as Africans is our message to the rest of the world. Let’s make our message worthwhile.
Bring it on, no matter how much we may tend to fall, let’s keep rising.‪#‎AfricaRising‬.
Damola
Categories
Leadership Thought

Of Flipping Calendars, Leadership and Gratitude

What other way may one flip over the calendar than being in a state of happiness, humility and genuine gratitude, encouraged by the realization that one’s actions are still serving as blessings to several other young people and societies in Africa and across the world. It is indeed humbling and ‘graceful’.
The last three days – till now – have been filled with severely intensive growth and learning experiences as we engaged the fourth cohort of our annual youth leadership programme, Studership. Each day has been unique both for participants – numbering about a hundred from nine countries – and our faculty. Considering the quality of discuss and daily feedback from the young leaders participating in the ‪#‎Studership‬ 4.0 Leadership Programme, I remain optimistic that it is possible to enhance our world with young people being empowered and committed to consistently creating value by solving most of the biggest challenges we face, without comprising on integrity and other values.
Going forward, few hours ago, I got informed of my emergence as the Winner of the 2015 African Youth Awards for Excellence in Leadership. Another graceful experience. This honour is made possible because of people like you who believed in possibilities. People like you whom truly are passionate about making systems work and encouraging responsible and value-based leadership. People like you who showed love and responsibility, through your thoughts and actions. Thank you.
Today, as we plan towards the next eighteen-score and few days, I come forward, with a humble heart to celebrate you. Our team at AllforDevelopment celebrates you. Do not let us relent; let’s live through this year consistently valuing personal integrity and responsibility, principle of love and perseverance, practicing genuine humility, consistently learning and valuing people / relationships.
We can all make Nigeria, Africa and the world a better place. Accept my felicitations on your great endeavours this ‘new’ year, as you work towards it! I look forward to your ‘testimonies’ soon!
God bless you, indeed!
Damola Morenikeji
@DamolaMore
7E06F40E
01/01/2016
Categories
Growth Thought

A Toast to Growth

Dear friends,


I had been on leave for a while.

However, throughout my ‘partial-leave of absence’, I delight each time at news I receive about friends (including several readers of this blog and members of my online community), colleagues and members of our @All4Development tribe. I delight at moments when your seemingly ‘impossible’ ideas grow and transform lives; i delight at moments when you do things better, because you learnt from experience; I delight that through passion and dedication, we are contributing to solving some of problems faced by young people globally.


I delight that we, like eagles, rejuvenate after pain-staking actions. The world need you now, than ever. I delight at (y)our progresses, impacts and daily actions aimed at learning and creating value. Beyond delights, I celebrate you.

To you, I make this toast. 

Referencing the narrative by Steve Jobs, here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

A caveat: every of those words used above are defined positively.

Damola Morenikeji celebrates you
Let’s keep growing and creating value. I look forward to reading from you.

Damola Morenikeji

t: @DamolaMore

BBM: 7E06F40E

Categories
Growth Leadership Thought

What leadership is (and isn’t)

Leadership is everything. Leadership is open-ended. I love conversations that deal with talking and walking ‘leadership’ because it is the nucleus of development in every society – it is the central and seemingly most important of human development. It can be defined in contextual and general terms; regardless, it always conveys the message of responsibility with a result that beats the status quo. I may decide put a spotlight on a definition by John Agno which states that ‘leadership is applicable to all facets of life: a competency that you can learn to expand your perspective, set the context of a goal, understand the dynamics of human behaviour and take the initiative to get to where you want to be’ – emphasis on the italicized words are purely mine. Leadership involves leaders – individuals like you and I – bringing people together around a shared purpose and empowering them to step up and lead authentically in order to create change and value for all.

Before I proceed, I’ll love to stress a caveat; my understanding of leadership may seem ‘off-the-wall’ compared to what is practiced in several societies – I seek an indulgence. However, I uphold the strong belief that a deviation from the ideal is not enough reason for the status quo to thrive; we must embrace personal responsibility and play the part of enlightening ourselves on what can be and take actions into making it work. Ideal leadership, based on value-based principles of integrity, ‘servanthood’ and love is possible. If well practiced, it guarantees the development of any nation and the prosperity of her greatest resource – her people.

Foremost, leadership is about leading. With all modesty, I meant what you have just read – leadership is about leading; so is following. One topical myth of leadership I have encountered is one that attaches leadership only to official titles and positions. That myth encourages only those answering titles to their name or those ‘serving’ on one exalted position to be seen or referred to as leaders. I bliss in my heretic deference; leadership is not position, it is responsibility!

Leadership involves the art of leading oneself effectively while allowing others to do the same with our gazes focused on the collective destination. It involves not only the art but the act of personal responsibility and growth; making growth the center of our being and creating the right environment to enable others to become more. It involves leading others, through love – as one leads oneself. Maybe it wouldn’t be out of place for us to consider asking ourselves how we lead ourselves. Do we invest enough in resources that aid our growth? Are we committed to upholding our values even in the face of the worse turmoil ever imagined? Beyond equipping ourselves and others for excellence – or exploits – do we commit ourselves to ‘walking the talk’ or do we talk and walk in divergent lanes?

While some definition of leadership stresses that leaders have, maintain, or increase the number of their followers, I rather see the importance of leaders building several others to be leaders. One of the greatest perks of true leadership is when your mentees are helping other younger leaders grow. That is what I call leading – that is one of my aspirations. 

Leadership is about everything, but more about people. Economic development, through political leadership decision, is possible when leaders concentrate not on things (material and mineral resources) but on the greatest resource of each nation – man. A concentration on the development of the people, guided by the principles of vision and values, will translate into further development of the nation. I subscribe to the school of thought that no nation can grow beyond the capacity of its people. Look at several countries from across the world; have you observed a proportional relationship between her human capital development and the country’s economic development? Singapore’s success in the nineties under its Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew emits lessons that go beyond economics and politics, it teaches a height of possibilities that could occur when the overriding factor in development is the people first. No nation can rise beyond the vision and capacities of its leaders and people. There are enormous lessons we can learn as a nation from this and several other nations, about leadership.

Leadership is not a rare skill. While genuinely great leaders may be rare, leadership – in itself – is not a rare skill. It can be learned and earned. It starts from the realization that leadership has been entrusted on us; we have a responsibility to lead ourselves – each of us leading himself/herself – through a sense of purpose built on the right foundations. It involves growing, thinking, living, and building ourselves through creativity. Describing creativity, Ken Rowat once opined that “creative activity, agonizing though it may be at times, is essentially life-enhancing, often joyful, and this can be judged not from the fixed smiles worn by models advertising power tools but by the extent to which the individual is seriously engrossed in his activity. Outside making love, men and women never feel better than when they are totally engaged in exploration or construction, especially when the motivation is simply: ‘I wonder what will happen if I do this?’” In a similar way, I not only wonder what will happen if we dedicate ourselves to growing, helping others grow and achieve purpose in creative ways, I also wonder what will happen if we stop wandering in the wilderness of vague thoughts, start taking responsibility and leading positive change.

Leadership is not ambition. I want to stress this because I have come across several acclaimed leaders that communicate ambition rather than communicating a vision. While I am not worthy of judging others, I have to state that there is a huge difference between vision and ambition. Vision is the essence of leadership; it has to be clear enough for the leader to articulate it with radiance. Little wonder it has been said that there is nothing more demoralizing than a leader who cannot tell us why we are doing what we are doing. Instead of differentiating, I’ll note what vision is not; vision is not a conception of your private view of the future, it is not personal, private, or selfish ambition. This may sound controversial – remember my earlier caveat – vision is not a goal, but it produces goals, it is not a complicated list of programs but it produces programs. It is not mere physical sight, but the perception of the unseen future. True vision is not for self-promotion, but it promotes others; it never destroys humanity but builds and preserves human value and dignity. True vision may never be fulfilled in a lifetime, but it extends to generations. True vision, like leadership, is not ambition, but it inspires self-service.

Leadership is not assumption, it is feedback. One of the greatest challenges in leadership is that of communication. Often times, failure to communicate effectively pose danger both to the process and the result. I have observed several worthwhile initiatives fail due to basic assumptions laid on erroneous foundations. Let’s not assume, rather let us ask questions. I remember a conversation I had sometimes ago with my friend and partner, Joshua Peter where we laughed about and stressed the need to ‘kill’ assumptions and ask questions. If you do not understand something about someone, don’t assume you do, ask questions. If you feel offended by someone else’ response or reaction, don’t assume the person knows (or wants to injure you intentionally), rather be courageous enough to seek clarifications.

One way to overcome assumptions, and develop our curiosity is to begin to ask more questions courageously, both when we are talking with others and when we are talking in our minds to ourselves. Questioning, or feedback, when carefully done, helps us distinguish between what is known and what is unknown. It further helps us in understanding the context at which we are understood. It enables us to further understand the cultural context at which our messages are decoded, as we strengthen the medium used in communication. One thing is unchangeable; the qualities of questions we ask mostly determine the quality of answers or solutions we get. Stop assuming, start asking, courageously.

Leadership isn’t only about equipping. Imagine this: A group of turkeys attended a two-day training program to learn how to fly. They learned the principles of aerodynamics, and they practiced morning, afternoon, and evening. They learned how to fly using the wind as thrust and how to fly against the wind; together and individually, they learned how to navigate mountains and valleys. It seems great! At the end of the training, they all walked home. This is often what I see in our society; several people intentionally want to grow, learn principles but fail to practice those principles. Growth through equipping is best achieved when principles ‘consumed’ are well ingested, digested – sometimes regurgitated – and displayed in further actions. A secret of growth and personal accomplishment is repetition. Beyond training, repeat and review your values and human relations prowess among other skills.

Leadership is not fenceless: The highest form of leadership is ‘self-leadership’. This is one of the parts of leadership I cherish; the part where we talk about the self-imposed fences put in place by individuals, for them to achieve their visions. These fences are put in place to strike warning signals when we are about climbing over them. If you wish, you may call the fence limits, barriers, but I prefer to call it ‘discipline’. Discipline is the fence that beautifies our personal gardens – it prevents us from pursuing personal indulgence and provides a runway for fulfilling our purposes. It provides a barricade to nurture our character, focusing on our values and taking actions, not only based on convenience but based on necessity. Self-discipline – when fully embraced by individuals – helps in making ‘pleasing results’ a preference over ‘pleasing methods’. My younger brothers and I have been used to reminding ourselves of a mantra, especially when any of us derail from what we ought to do. This mantra is ‘do what you have to do, in order to do what you want to do’. 

Self-discipline helps in recognizing and differentiating between what is important and urgent, what is urgent but not important, what is important but not urgent, and what is neither important nor urgent. The fence guiding our leadership garden – self-discipline – is doing the right thing rightly, simply because it is the right thing to be done. It involves resolving to behave in such a manner as if your every act were to become universal law for all people under similar circumstances. Self-discipline involves waiting patiently, when needed, refusing to rush the process in the search for a shortcut. It involves delaying gratification, shunning mediocrity, and managing time and other resources well.

Leadership is not fenceless; it has the beautiful and strong fence of self-discipline. The strength and height of your fence depend on how often you build your fence – it depends on the depth of the foundations of values you embrace. It depends on how often you decide not to compromise on your values in exchange for fame or riches. It further depends on the quality of decisions you make and how persistent you are to follow through with those decisions. If you are to measure your fence, how tall or strong will it be? Start now, be consistently consistent.

Leadership is not playing the game: I have witnessed the game being played. It is – if a statistic is available to back it up – one of the most played games in the world. Though it does not follow the rules of sports, it is mostly enjoyed by individual players often without support from fans. It is a game called the blame game. Almost everyone blames someone for something no one did or did not do. We grew up playing the blame game without been taught the rules; we blame our parents for birthing us in a particular environment, blame nature for our waking from sleep late. We blame the traffic for our lateness; blame the government for the dirty waste bins. I see several cases where we just pass the ‘ball’ to someone else, failing to face the truth and take responsibility. Let’s face it. Though blame-trading may have a soothing feeling, however, it is distorting your reality. It is high time we woke up and started taking responsibility. It is your life, live it responsibly. If some things have occurred because of the nonchalance of others, forgive them for it, and move on. Forgive them, not only because that is what leadership requires, forgive them because you deserve better. Leadership involves taking responsibility, beyond playing the blame game. 

Leadership is not just having values, it is living it. Values are important in leadership and human relations. Either individual or cultural, it influences what each of us – or our community – defines as being right or wrong. Our values influence our behaviours and understanding of various concepts. Depending on the cultural balance each of us falls into globally, our individual values are intrinsic and essential part of our makeup as humans and leaders. Values are not just sets of principles or standards we chant, rather they are principles that are so important that we cannot afford to live outside them. They shape our decisions, thoughts, priorities, and character.

A Global Leadership and Organisational Behaviour Effectiveness (GLOBE) study on values or attributes that characterize an outstanding leader, based on a 7-point scale and the “world mean” of each scale (i.e., the average of 61 country means) revealed that irrespective of cultural differences witnessed in several countries, the most desirable traits are Integrity (6.07), Inspirational (6.07), Visionary (6.02), Performance-oriented (6.02), Team-integrator (5.88), Decisive (5.80), Administratively competent (5.76), Diplomatic (5.49), Collaborative team orientation (5.46), Self-sacrificial (5.0), Modesty (4.98). Value-based leadership stresses each of us identifying our core values and living out high standards, decisiveness, and innovation. Value-based leadership seeks to inspire people around a vision, creates a passion among them to perform and does so by holding firmly unto core values.

Leadership is not overstaying. It involves knowing when to leave. This is a key lesson that needs to be re-echoed, especially in our political, academic, and religious communities. Persons in leadership positions often protect their turfs and prevent a replacement from occurring – especially when it involves them. I have learnt over time that one of the true measures of leadership is the ability to leave. It is the ability to make oneself less necessary, through quality mentorship. I had once been instilled with the notion that as a leader you should be irreplaceably important – without you, nothing moves. However, I have fortunately grown beyond this. I have come to understand the essence of the measure of growth, interdependence, and independence that should thrive in teams and communities. I now believe that it is a sign of effective leadership if your team can survive without you – because you have created an enabling environment for each of your teammates to grow and become independent. 

One typical example of this quality of leadership was displayed by respected African leader – Nelson Mandela, who stepped down from the most exalted office in his country after serving his first term of four years as President of South Africa. Nelson Mandela had every opportunity to continue his stay in office – including the mandate of the people, but he decided to tow the honourable path of leaving for others to emerge. Learn from Madiba; never miss an opportunity to make others grow; never miss an opportunity to shut up and listen. Never miss the right opportunity to leave.

Leadership is not duplicating you. I earlier talked about the need for leaders to help others grow and become more effective leaders. Yes, leadership involves preparing others to become leaders and take forward a vision, but more importantly, it involves – in a simple but complex sense – proper mentorship. Mentorship is not the process of building others to be like you, rather it is building others – through hard work, consistently conscientious partnership, and diligence – to be more than you. It is not duplicating you. The world already has you. The world needs your help in the growth of someone else to be better than you are. That’s one of the essences of leadership; even the greatest leader ever also displayed it. This is one of the enormous tasks associated with leadership; true mentorship requires patience from the mentor. It requires the mentor to provide opportunities for growth, allowing the mentee to make mistakes/error and learn from them. It requires the mentor not to feel threatened by the successes of the mentee. Mentorship is one of the reasons for leadership.

Finally, while I have the conviction that we have been placed here to tend this modern Eden, with the utmost conditional divine assurance of our status of ‘headship’, I want us to note with every diligence that leadership is not a divine right. It is earned or attained by a dedication to clear vision, a sense of purpose, honorably exemplary character, credible track records, patriotism, and commitment to values among other commonly agreed parameters.

This little insight into what leadership is and isn’t portrays the dire need for us to encourage exemplary civil leadership education from within the family. As I had documented elsewhere, “there is an adept need for individuals to be growth-driven, goal-driven, vision-directed and committed to personal and leadership development of young people” and other members of our global community.

We owe it to ourselves to guard our hearts, lead, and live in the true sense of leadership.

We were born for that – leading and living positively, for exploits.

This piece was sent for publication on April 7, 2015. Syndicating it on this page for future reference.


Categories
Education Innovation Thought

Blue Ocean Innovation

A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak at the seminar jointly organized by the Students Affairs Division and the Nigerian Universities Engineering Students’ Association at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. The association was led by Ifeanyi Okpala in whose company I am fascinated. I drafted this note – which is more of a manifesto to my colleagues – and sent it to him after the seminar.


Yesterday, March 25, 2015, I had the opportunity of a heart-to-heart conversation with some colleagues – all of whom are students from various colleges in the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta – gathered at the College of Engineering Auditorium, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. The occasion was a capacity-building seminar put together through the combined efforts of the Students Affairs division, FUNAAB, Office of the Dean, College of Engineering, and the Nigerian University Engineering Students Association in the university. I titled my presentation ‘The Blue Ocean Innovation’. 

The conversation became inherent having realized that to have an education and a life that is, apologies to Jim Rohn, built to last, we must, as young people, take responsibility and go beyond conventional actions. We must go beyond the red oceans – boundaries defined and accepted, the general marketplace, the common approaches – and engage untapped innovation, unrealized spheres through value creation. 

As I shared yesterday, I look forward to a FUNAAB community where students go beyond academic excellence and create value by putting solutions to social problems witnessed within the community. I look forward to students of the university birthing new ideas and following them through, engaging humans and technology, and giving courage to other young people across the world to do the same. As young people, we have the resources, but we must be resourceful. 

There are resources we can always tap into – either within or outside the invisible walls of our university. There are innovation-focused programmes and open courses (MOOCs), information banks, toolkits, and other resources available for only those who seek them. I shared with some friends what I learned from a 4-week course on Adaptive Leadership – a practical leadership framework developed by Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky at the Harvard Kennedy School, and offered to us by the Cambridge Leadership Associates (CLA) – which I recently concluded. Though I am studying Plant Physiology and Crop Production, it hasn’t debarred me from learning about the fundamentals involved in Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation; neither did it stop me from enrolling and learning about International Leadership and Organisational Behaviour in Bocconi University, Italy. 

From what our team at AllforDevelopment discovered when planning to create our social innovation lab that can empower young people with skills to create solutions through social entrepreneurship, sometimes what holds us back from making great decisions is just one factor – us. Our major limitations are the ones we accept. We need to stop ourselves from entertaining fear and start taking action. Our time at the university should be invested into learning, flying the flag of excellence, and creating value per time. 

It is high time we conscientiously consistently started creating value. Value is created when we concentrate not only on our personal growth but also on creating solutions to the problems faced by others. We embrace and make use of several innovations because they speak to our needs. The time is now to start thinking outside the box and generate simple but golden solutions. This is more than a call, it is a challenge. It is a challenge for us to be more than we currently are; a challenge for us not to allow what is in preventing what can be. I have over the years met several intelligent and smart FUNAABites, some have concluded a part of their studies, while others are still in school. Let us connect, engage one another, and make our ‘short’ stay within the University count positively. 

There is a blue ocean out there – and in here. We need to acknowledge it, dream solutions, and engage resources to create positive value. I am interested in reading about your exploits; several lives are in earnest expectation of your action. 

Make your family and the university proud! 

Your friend, 
Damola

Categories
Leadership Thought

Beyond the Idea; making entrepreneurship work

Some thirteen weeks ago, I led a team of young innovative entrepreneurs – all undergraduates – to the a national contest for ideas; it was the National Idea’s contest organised by the Nigerian Universities Commission for all Nigerian universities, as part of the Annual National Entrepreneurship Week, in commemoration of the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Our 6-human team shared an innovative idea, which if thoroughly implemented will reduce hidden hunger, while building human capacity / productivity, strengthening mental prowess/energy, increasing academic and managerial excellence, reducing maternal and infant mortality, indirectly reducing crime/violence and at the long run, increasing the average life expectancy. The effect of the idea cuts across health, education and human development sectors. The project was a result of a deep ‘ideation’ process – facilitated by our protem social innovation lab –, well thought-out research and deeply informed consultations, across board.
Image courtesy: FUNAAB

The competition was huge; but alas! We emerged finalists, and was rated one of the best teams – along with a sister team, in the country. Better put – everyone won :). Ideas always win, regardless of human ratings. Several weeks after that experience, I was reviewing – again – one of the lessons I re-learnt during and after the entrepreneurship week.
All ideas are important, but the people are more important. I imagine what might have become of us, if at the ‘ideate’ stage, we had focused more on carving out and refining our idea BY OURSELVES, without bringing a right set of people in – the beneficiaries. When we were brainstorming and getting clarity on what we want to achieve through the project, we had to involve representatives of clusters of affected communities; this made and still makes human-centered innovation efficient, the decisions inclusive and gives ownership across board.
Transforming ideas into reality requires clarity; it requires thinking from our goals, not only of it. It requires building a network, community or team of committed minds, who though divergent in thought are convergent in the collective mission. A team bonded in trust and other values, prepared to give their honest quota in realizing the shared vision. Beyond the ideas, we need to understand the system that influences our sphere of work. Understanding the system helps heretics like you and I to modify / create a better pattern within the system.
As we step out of our ideation corners, with lofty ideas on our hearts, head and palms, let us create time to build relationships that can drive the change we seek. Relationships help me learn, take risks and grow. Take precious moments to build trust-based relationship with your team and innovative community. That idea you cherish will generate solutions to at least a problem. Some people will immensely benefit from that idea. Have you thought about them? Have you brought them in?
Your idea counts, so do they!
Let’s connect and continue our conversation on LinkedInTwitter or Facebook.
Categories
Growth Thought

Of Harvard, Life and Mathematics

Previous years had availed me opportunities that were invested in meeting, learning (with) and growing with several people – young and old, great and greater. Apart from people, a conscious commitment to personal growth and knowledge have witnessed my learning from erudite scholars and institutions from across the world. One of such is my participation in the inaugural offering of JusticeX from Harvard University in April 2013. The course, led by Prof. Michael Sandel, enhanced my view of critical decision making as we explored through critical thinking what is right, and sought moral and political decisions.

Prior and after the encounter with Michael Sandel, I continue to make critical and simple decisions everyday – just like you. These decisions had, and will often dictate the quality of results we record. As we progress with life, you and I will continually have to make decisions – ranging from what we say, whom we hang out with, which problem we create/solve, to what type of life we decide to live. Funny enough, indecision is also a decision.

Sometime last year, I got the book ‘Better than Harvard’ by Steve Araba. I had met Steve on a number of occasions, gradually learnt from him and entrusted our time with each other.

My first meeting with Steve was at a Future Leaders Summit organized in one of the leading federal universities in the South Western part of Nigeria, where he was guest speaker. I was introduced to him by a friend I prefer to call Salt. It was a brief and pleasant meet up. Later in the year, we met again; this time, it was at the World Economic Forum on Africa. Steve, who was busy at the ‘background’ working towards the success of the Economic forum, came to pick me up after one of the sessions, we had another round of great honest conversations on several things (including nation building, youth development etcetera) and thereafter continued our conversation on phone and site. He is one young (though very much older than I) Nigerian I respect, for his commitment to chastity, truth and freedom.

With several truths outlined in the book ‘Better than Harvard’, I couldn’t but notice the creative use of mathematical terms and their redefinition. I wouldn’t review the book – at least, not yet. You can get a copy here. However, it is pleasant to note that just like Steve, we may also decide to change our definition of terminologies life lob towards us.

As young people and patriotic citizens, there remains the dire need to live right and contribute consciously to the development of our society and country. We need to make more commitment to the development of discipline and character.

We need to improve the scale for measuring the quality of our lives, personal growth and societal development. As Steve noted, mensuration goes beyond being a branch of geometry that deals with the measurement of length, area, or volume of shapes. It is a position or perspective through which you interpret and understand what or how you see, hear, feel and think about everything that happens to and for you in life.

A calculus of our relationships is important, as we forge alliances, make friends and build networks. Calculus in this context is the critical analysis of relationships in your life that either differentiate or integrate you, essentially indicating the life you could or will have, depending on the people variables you make available to influence you.

This is another year for young people (and every citizen) to model integrity, live intentionally and grow exponentially. Vote at the polls, make our voices heard, speak words and take actions, respecting the dignity of human. Take personal education beyond schooling and invest in holding ourselves and our leaders accountable for words, thoughts and actions.

Everyday in this newly flipped calendar will require timely decisions; let’s make them wisely, seeking depth rather than mere heights. Our life and that of others count on those decisions. Thank you for your ‘commitment’ in previous years; let us do more, henceforward.
Damola Morenikeji
Categories
Education Thought

Ebola and the #UpforSchool Rising

They had gathered in numerical strength, young; most from diverse backgrounds, diverse cultural inclinations but with a unifying passion. They raised their voices – even in the face of seemingly silence-filled actions – to call attention of the world to the basics and its implication when tended and if ignored. While they leave no chance to the latter, their words and demands were unambiguous: they were rising up for school, demanding actions to get every child to school, without danger or discrimination.

It was the #UpForSchool rally that brought together young people from more than 85 countries, concerned about the global emergency in the education sector. Though they gathered in New York – with the United Nations Special Envoy on Global Education, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, Chernor Bah, Hadiza Bela Usman from Nigeria and Bamine Boye (a fellow Global Youth Ambassador from Sierra Leone), inter alios – they are supported by hundreds (or even thousands) of other young people (individuals and institutions) across the world, working remotely for quality education and increased value of learning and living for this and future generations.

With about 58 million children without access to basic education globally, I resist the temptation of not reiterating – sadly though – that about 10.5 million of them are in Nigeria. The number may, if safe schools are not secured, increase and produce less desirable aftermaths. The #UpforSchool reveille surprisingly coincided with the date announced by the Federal Government of Nigeria, for resumption of primary and secondary schools across the country. The date had previously been postponed due to the visitation of the country by the notorious Ebola Virus disease.

Fortunately, our nation has been successful in the fight against Ebola. We recorded 21 cases of EVD nationwide and a mortality of about 33 percent. The proactive response of government and development partners is highly respected and commended. I observed keenly as Nigerians – irrespective of social class – paid attention to the nitty-gritty of personal hygiene and other necessary information in the prevention and – possibly – the cure of the virus. I however opine that this attention, if equally concentrated on other important issues, including (but not limited to) education and youth development, would produce positive outcomes, especially as we count down towards the year 2015.

As young people across Nigeria return to school on October 8, there is the continuous need to make schools safe havens for conducive incremental learning. In spite of the successes recorded in containing and eradicating the Ebola virus, hands should continually be on deck to provide information about further prevention of the disease. Training of teachers on the procedural ‘first aid management’ is a favourable step in the right direction. Beyond the training, government – especially through the ministries of education and health – and other stakeholders need to pay attention to the provision of necessary up-to-date resources.

Where are the non-contact thermometers and sanitizers situated in private and government-owned primary and secondary schools across the country? Where are the cartoons, rhymes, and songs linking the adverse effect of EVD on education and how to prevent it? Where are the teenagers equipped with the necessary information to serve as peer educators (building a strong-willed commitment for positive participation)? I ask these questions, hopeful for answers. It is not enough to serve information. Information, targeted at unique audiences need to be issue-based; we want schools to be safe, we demand actions to improve the quality of education and get every child in school.

Not even Ebola can stop these.

This piece appeared on PUNCH on October 7, 2014.

Categories
Education Leadership Thought

Of Productivity and Growth; lessons from the Productivity Award

My phone rang. I had just received a call from the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta who also is the President, Association of African Universities. He sounded delighted to have spoken with me, and eager to see me. The phone welcomed several other calls, most from within the university intimating a pleasant urgency and some intuitive actions.
That morning, I was concluding plans to help facilitate a two-day training with some young professionals before returning to my ‘location’ for the community-based farming program. ‘Multitaskingly’, we were hosting an #OpenEd twitter discussion in commemoration of the 2014 Day of the African Child, with a focus on education of the African Child, the abduction of over 200 girls in Chibok, Borno state, demanding that strategies be renewed to #BringBackOurGirls and make schools, across Nigeria, safe for learning. Meeting the Vice Chancellor, he broke the news; I had been painstakingly selected for the Vice Chancellor’s Productivity Award by the World Bank Africa Centre of Excellence in Agriculture – the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, as part of activities for the 21st and 22nd Convocation ceremonies. Values and benchmarks for the nomination, recommendation and selection were service to the university, courage, excellence, dedication, truthfulness, new initiatives, innovation, punctuality, selfless services and academic contribution. It was indeed honour and grace!

Damola Morenikeji and Professor Bamidele Oyewole; President, Association of African Universities

On the D-day, I joined other eminently distinguished personalities at the University’s Heroes Day of Recognition and Excellence. I was elated as some academics and prodigies were called to step forward for honour as their citations gave convincing glimpses of their outstandingly remarkable contributions to humanity. I was fortunate to be one. That evening, I returned home more humbled with honour and thanksgiving – as the youngest awardee and only undergraduate among the honoured prodigies –, with a plaque which I must admit sparkles amidst other plaques on my shelve and an adjoining cash of a tenth of a million naira which was duly invested into getting more resources that will aid the growth of other young people and mine – especially as the non-profit organization I founded, All for Development Foundation hosted the Youth Roundtable on Education and Democratic Governance seven days after the Heroes day. The day and activities surrounding it taught and reminded of some lessons. In it, I learnt, unlearnt and re-learnt. Some of the lessons include:
Consistency Pays!
Among several other lessons, the award attested and still attests to a long term belief that consistency pays. It reminds that even when what you do is seemingly invincible to everyone, keep doing it. Keep keeping on. When faced with challenges and you don’t know what to do, just keep breathing, keep believing, don’t let go, don’t give in. The towel is always there, we may decide to throw it in or use it to clean our sweats and proceed more intelligently and passionately, after deep reflective thoughts. It may be surprising to note that most of the projects I and our organization have embarked on for the last five years (since year 2009) are self-financed. However, two major things that kept us going were the strong conviction that what we did/do made/makes a difference and the people we are focused on are capable of making positive differences. The same principle may apply to whatever you are into, either as an academic or social entrepreneur, a musician or comedian, an artist or skills professional. Be consistent in what you do. You may learn from another long-term mission of mine, which is the conscious commitment to the consistent creation of value. Wherever you are, be there indeed!

Damola Morenikeji recieving the Productivity Award

Uphold Integrity
Integrity is more than just an attribute we mention when describing the type of leaders we want – within the students’ union, university senate, local, state and federal government and the entire society – Integrity is a key value which other values of accountability, empathy inter alia is dependent. Integrity is the reflection of morality of character in any and every situation. I once learnt from a wise man that integrity commits itself to character over personal gains, to people over things, to principles over conscience and to long-term view over immediate gratification.
Give recognition and show appreciation
Appreciation and genuine recognition matters. That, as I heard and later read is one of the reasons for the rebirth of the award; ‘the University believes that there is always a reward for outstanding performance and such reward will serve to encourage others to emulate those who have previously been recognized’. Taking it beyond official recognition, we can admit, after a deep reflective thought that others have contributed to our current success. The time to show appreciation is ripe. Appreciation begets more. As you walk through the crowd, walk slowly,recognize people’s efforts. Smile, shake hands, listen and truly appreciate the contributions of others on your growth. No man is self made. Everyone is a product of interactions with divinity and others. Robert McNamara, a former President of the World Bank, once said ‘Brains are like hearts – they go where they are appreciated’. Imagine a community where everyone is appreciated, celebrated – not just tolerated – for who they really are. The existence of this community – even within our immediate environment – is achievable.
Build quality networks and bridges
The Heroes day provided another platform to meet, interact and build bridges with others. Have you ever heard that our network is a determinant of our net worth? If we are assessed in terms of social capital – and not financial riches – how wealthy will you be? Everyday presents opportunities to build quality networks with people. Build an effective relationship with God, yourself and others. Don’t call God your father and live like an orphan. Though we may not be influential enough to choose our family – parents and siblings – however, we have the ability to choose our friends. Another wise man once challenged people to evaluate those they spend/invest their time with and decipher those that add more value to them and those that diminish their self esteem. This is not only applicable in business relationships, but also in platonic and other relationships. Decide who your friends are. Don’t be parasitic; invest positively in them too.
Discern the call and step up to the challenge

I would have made a very big mistake if I had taken the recognition and award as an unending call for celebration. Of course, it was, but also more than just a cherished recognition, it is also a call. It is a call to service; a call to stand tall in the face of adversity. For all young people reading this,

it is a call to dream more, think more, grow more and do much more. Don’t emulate the past, be the future. It is a call to build more capacity and positively influence the world within and around us. It is a call to pursue excellence through diligence; to work towards greatness, not just success. It is a call to ask ourselves pertinent questions and give honest answers. The choice is ours to heed this call.

Regardless of anything, be thankful for everything.
This is self explanatory; worry about nothing, be thankful for everything. I have never – and with grace, will never – fall prey of believing that a certain thing is not enough to be thankful for. As I mentioned earlier, appreciation is key. Permit me to set this balls rolling; I appreciate everyone that have been instrumental to my growth, everyone that I have been a blessing to, everyone that heeded to an advise I gave and got positive results. I am also appreciative of you for reading this thus far! Do the same. Love indeed!
Conclusively, productivity may not be a function of acceptance. Continue doing what is right. As young people, we have several responsibilities and rights, the future of our nation – soon – lies on our shoulders. We have to be committed to act as if our every of our action becomes a universal principle, living in respect to our values. The productivity award is a reminder to all young people that we can achieve what has been set out to achieve. Work in accordance to God’s plans for you, act diligently, seek knowledge of who you are and who you can become. In addendum to all we had discussed earlier, I urge you to treat each day with utmost commitment and sincerity. Commit yourself to honesty, reliability, and always remember this: for excellence and growth, do what you have to do, in order to do what you want to do.
I believe in you!
Categories
Thought

The Main Thing – Reflections of Gratitude and Vision

Over the last 5 weeks, I have seen, met and heard about several other young people (and professionals) who against all odds are building capacity, and contributing to making things better.
Harnessing the transforming power of a principle-based vision and mission, creating an upward spiral of learning and living, making daily choices keenly with much #Godfidence, we should/would continually remind ourselves that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
I am thankful for those I meet; thankful for those I connect with on social media; and thank you (yes, You!) for being you.
@DamolaMore
Categories
Education Thought

World Economic Forum and the New Vision for Education

Earlier this month, I participated in the World Economic Forum on Africa held in Abuja, Nigeria. Though the forum had the theme ‘Forging Inclusive Growth, Creating Jobs’, I was more engage in brainstorming with other global stakeholders in the education sector on how we can effectively achieve a ‘new vision for education’.

A session at the forum, co-hosted by the Global Business Coalition for Education was dedicated towards the ‘New Vision for Education’. With an insightful coordination by Sarah Brown, Executive Chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education, the session focused – among other things – on discussing strategies to reshape education for Africa’s sustainable long-term growth and competitiveness, by exploring approaches to define the education-employment gap, determine effective distribution infrastructure, deliver education through technology and fund education for growth. You can read my reflection here.

Another important highlight of the World Economic Forum was the launch of the Safe Schools initiative by the United Nations Special Envoy on Global Education, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown and the Nigerian business community.

Damola Morenikeji and Gordon Brown at #WEFAfrica
The pilot phase of the safe school initiative is meant to ensure that we have 500 safe schools in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa states and other states in the Northern part of Nigeria.
It can be recalled that over a month ago, more than 200 girls were abducted at their school in Chibuk, a town in Borno state, Nigeria, causing a continuous out-pour of solidarity to ensure that actions are taken to #BringBackOurGirls. As Gordon Brown noted, effective actions should be taken to bring the abducted girls back, ensure schools are safe for learning and deal with the insecurity challenge.
Read excerpts  of my reflection on the realisation of a new vision for education here. After reading, I would love to know what you think is missing? What should we do more? What shouldn’t we do? Why? How else can we achieve this? I want to read from you!
I continually affirm, that with the right actions taken by the right people at the right time, things will turn out right.
Damola [@DamolaMore]
Categories
Thought

Bring Back Our Girls: My Call for Urgent Action

It was unexpected. More than a week ago, over a hundred girls were abducted from the gated Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, a town in Borno State, north-east Nigeria. Till date, their fate is still being laid on faith.

I am disturbed that not only are there still conflicting data as to the number of girls – any of whom could have been our sister, daughter, niece or cousin – abducted, but the adverse effect of that incident on qualitative education and learning.

UNESCO’s Education for All 2013/4 Global monitoring report informs that about 5.5 million Nigerian girls are not of school. With over 10 million Nigerian children missing out of basic education, there has to be proactive urgent action to ensure that our children – who are reflections of our future – are not only in school but educated in a secured environment that encourages continuous learning and education.

The psychological trauma caused by this abduction and its consequential adverse effect on the abducted girls, their families and other young people within our country calls for huge concerns. Every additional day used in detention increases their risk of suffering from confusion, impaired concentration – and memory – hopelessness, helplessness, anxiety, fear, emotional imbalance, depression and withdrawal from the larger society.

While it is assumed that the Nigerian defense systems are making frantic efforts to bring back our girls, there is an urgent need for a consistent change in strategy – as situation demands. Bringing back our girls involves red-alert actions to be taken by government, both at the state and the center.

Nigerian child wants us to Bring Back Our Girls
Bring Back Our Girls

The Nigerian government should – if need be – involve other stakeholders in proffering a solution to this menace. Result oriented actions have to be taken urgently. The inaction, or late actions of all concerned tend to pose serious danger to national security, security of our collective lives and properties, and may make our environment devoid of increased creativity, fueling ignorance, illiteracy and poverty.


If decisive actions are not taken now, in rescuing our precious girls and making schools safer for learning, another generation of young Nigerians may be exposed to civil unrest, unemployment, poverty and increased vulnerability.

The life of every young person is important to our future; I remain highly hopeful that we will bring back our girls.