The real slums of Slumdog millionaire

slumdog millionaire

Saw the movie Slumdog Millionaire today. I had overheard some of the gossip around the two child actors Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail. Little did I realize they actually lived in the slums of Garib Nagar near Mumbai's Bandra station. (Full)

Garib Nagar slums

Bottom picture courtesy Lee Thompson

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Humanitarian aid and the power of the media

During major humanitarian crises, 13 British charities often raise money jointly under an umbrella organisation called the Disasters Emergencies Committee (DEC), with appeals shown on all the major television networks.

But the DEC had its fingers burned when the BBC and Sky decline to cooperate on its last appeal for the Gaza conflict, fearing the media's involvement would compromise their political neutrality as news organisations, a story we reported previously on The Road.

The consequence of the BBC's Gaza decision seems to have a deeper impact then we anticipated: it was a precedent of how the media could "make or break" a humanitarian appeal effort. The Gaza media incident spilled over into the current humanitarian catastrophes in Sri Lanka and Pakistan as now DEC is still contemplating whether or not to launch appeals for Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

"The issue is whether the broadcasters will support an appeal and my impression is that they won't, for perceived reasons of (aid) access in either case, and for perceived reasons of political complexity in either case." (Full)

So, let me get this straight: because the media decide not to provide coverage for an appeal, a humanitarian organisation decides NOT to launch an appeal? Eh? Would that make DEC's decision not to appeal for Sri Lanka and Pakistan as revolting as the BBC's decision not to provide media coverage for the appeal? Are soon humanitarian organisations 'picking and choosing' which operations to support, based on 'the possible support by the media'?

Current balance: Humanitarian organisations' resources already stretched because of the current economic crisis, are left close to depleted. Not because the need was not there - Pakistan's war in Swat Valley uprooted close to 3 million people - but because of lack of support and attention from the media.

The phenomenon is known amongst aidworkers as "The CNN Effect": If an emergency gets the spotlight on CNN, humanitarian wheels start rolling. If it is not featured on CNN, the emergency is forgotten and hushed in a corner. You might just as well not start an emergency operation if you feel you won't be able to fundraise for it, right?

Which turns the Rupert Murdochs and Ted Turners of this world the Gods deciding between life and death for thousands.

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Jihad on horseback

Two years ago, Al Arabiya producer Nabil Kassem was asked to put together a documentary film on Darfur.

What he witnessed there, and recorded in this film, were scenes of unspeakable brutality and untold suffering.

The movie never made it to the airwaves. That is why we publish it on our blog.

If you are interested in Darfur, check out Darfur Now!

More on The Road about Darfur, Sudan and genocide

Video courtesy

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How do people read the news?


I have been dealing quite a bit with aggregating and distributing news lately, so I got curious as to how people actually read the news.

So I did a quick poll yesterday. I posted the poll on my blog and Reddit and twitter-ed the links.

On the question "What is the best way for you to follow the news?", 41 people answered. Not that 41 people is anywhere close to being representative to the population who has web access, grossomodo the results were evenly distributed between via a website, Twitter, feed aggregators and an RSS reader.

If you combine the fact that most news distributed via Twitter, Email and news aggregators is generated by RSS feeds, it is clear how important RSS has become as a way to syndicate content.

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Telefon. Maybe I am a Russian agent after all.

Don't you just love these old movies?

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Worrying events...

swat valley refugees

There is always something going on, somewhere in the world, that keeps us, aidworkers, busy. Here is what is on our mind these days:

  • 8,000 Somalis are displaced in one day of fighting around Mogadishu (Full)
  • A rebellion seems to be on the raise in Nigeria (Full) and Niger (Full)
  • Relief agencies still don't have full access to the displaced civilians after the Tamil was defeated in Sri Lanka. (Full)
  • Southern Sudan seems to fall back into violence (Full)
  • ...while in Darfur, the war is flaring up again (Full)
  • Pakistan's offensive in the Swat valley displaced 2.3 million people, with aid agencies scrambling to cope. (Full)
Items discovered via International Aid Workers Today and AidNews.

Picture courtesy Reuters

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More reading to do on humanitarian issues...

food distribution in Tajikistan

I have updated several of my resource lists in the side column. (with thanks to Eric for the harvest!)

1. Added to my Aid News links:

Earth Community Project
News for Development Professionals
NEED Magazine
Inter Press Service

Articles from these sources are also added to my AidNews aggregator. You can also follow updates via AidNews on Twitter.

2. Added to my Aid resources links:

Resources for aidworkers:
The Journal of Humanitarian Assistance

Blogs about aid, development and social issues:
Beyond Good Intentions
Views and Vision
All for Africa
Imagine 1 Day
Uganda Rural Fund News
Blogs by Mines Advisory Group
MyMADRE blog
With my own eyes
CCF Communities

Organisations field blogs:
Mercy Corps
Raising Malawi
Bloodwater Mission
Edna Hospital of Somaliland
Uganda Village Project
Solar Aid
Peace Corps Journals
Sowing seeds for SOS Eldoret
Growing Family Trees
Care International Notes
International Medical Corps
Samaritan's Purse
Christian Children's Fund
World Vision International

Social community, social media and bookmarking for a cause:

Projects for a cause:
EarthWire Climate
Global Dashboard

Keeping a critical eye on aid & the UN:
Whistleblower on the UN

This mega list now grew to 269 sources. The easiest way to read the updates is via my "For Those Who Want to Know" aggregator. You can also follow updates via Change Thru Info on Twitter.


Picture courtesy Shehzad Noorani/WFP

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O'Hare airport must like Italian soccer

Received this email today.

We are proud to announce the launch of the new Chicago O'Hare International Airport website It provides comprehensive real time flight information on arrivals, departures and delays, terminals and maps, parking, transportation, directions, food and shopping, hotels, etc.

If you find our website to be of value to you and your readers, we would appreciate it if you could add a link to us at your URL Italian Soccer and flight delays where, in our opinion, it would be the most relevant. (..)

If you have any questions, please, do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kind regards,

Natalia Klimovich
Website Administrator

I am not too sure how Natalia relates O'Hare airport with my rambling about flight delays in an Italian provincial airport due to the fact everyone was watching their national soccer team on TV... Maybe she has a good sense of humour. Or likes soccer.

Or maybe O'Hare will also decide to delay all flights during the Play-offs.

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Picture of the day: Somalia on the run again

somali refugees

Hundreds of families are still fleeing the Somali capital, Mogadishu, despite relative calm in the past week following intense fighting between insurgents and government troops.

They are joining hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps on the outskirts of the city and in safer neighbourhoods inside Mogadishu. (Full)

More Pictures of the Day on The Road

Picture courtesy Hassan Mahamud Ahmed/IRIN

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Our local rock band

our local rock band

Snapped this picture while walking in the town (eh, village) where I live, near Rome in Italy.

Locals tell me their popularity equals that of U2. At least in the village here.

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The UN in the news today. Spot the politics.

un-flag folded

On Aid Topics page of NewsFeeds, I keep track of news articles in which the UN are mentioned.

Today's selection gives a good overview of what the world body is tackling.

... From politics to internal problems, human rights, environmental stuff and back to politics. And no matter what issue, there is always a political taste to the problem, it seems. Can you spot some of them?

Picture courtesy National Army Museum Te Mata Toa (NZ)

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Picture of the day: Sri Lanka war is over. The misery is not.

sri lanka war

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been forced to suspend the distribution of emergency supplies to as many as 300,000 people displaced by the Sri Lankan Army’s victory over the Tamil Tigers after the Government blocked access to aid camps. (Full)

More Pictures of the Day on The Road.

Picture courtesy Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images

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UN wants cartoonist for Somalia

cartoonist wanted

The UN Development Programme is looking for a cartoonist in Somalia. No kidding. The Terms of Reference specify the details..

The background:
Somalia faces significant challenges in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). (...)

To address this issue, and bearing in mind the low literacy levels in Somalia, UNDP Somalia, through the Human Development and Economics Unit, is seeking a consultant to produce cartoon designs for an MDG comic as well as two cartoon characters (male and female).

The objective of this comic would be to educate local Somalis throughout the country (the civil society in rural and urban areas, and nomads); private sector; educational institutions, and local administrations) on what exactly the MDGs are.

It also specifies what exactly they want:
1. Two cartoon characters (one male and one female).
2. Cartoon to be included in a UNDP Somalia comic depicting correct, neutral and culturally sensitive messages on MDGs that illustrates what MDGs are, how each one may be attained, and who is responsible for attaining them.
(It should be..) Humorous where possible.

It is not just for anyone. You must have, amongst others, the following competencies:
- Have more than 7 years’ experience in design, illustrations and desktop publishing.
- Possess at least 5 years’ experience of working in the context of Somalia, with proof of dissemination of products.

So.. what are you all waiting for? Apply!

Maybe the next step is a cartoonist to educate the Somalia pirates that taking oil tankers is a "no-no"?

Cartoon courtesy Cartoonstock.

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Welcome to the world, Maite!


I have done some crazy stuff in my life. Went to the Antarctic twice, lived on deserted Pacific islands, got ambushed, negotiated with Taliban and worked in war zones.

But Jipé is even more nuts than me (one of his adventurous undertakings, you find here).

But today, I got news of one of his biggest adventures. Her name is Maïté. Ten pounds and sister of Zahra. Congratulations to Catherine and Jipé!

Ain't she cute? Welcome to the world, Maïté!

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New aidworker blogs

front office in Malawi

Eric, our of The Road's readers, found these new blogs from aidworkers in the field:

The last two are ex-aidworkers who are now back on the road again.

They have been added to list in the side column under the heading "Links: Aidworker blogs", a list which now grew to 60+ blogs from humanitarians in the field.

They are must read for those of you, curious about the exotic, the hopeful, the adventurous but also the realistic and the cynical.

Remember you can find a digest of all the latest posts of these blogs on AidBlogs. Each digest entry links to the original blogpost.

Thanks again for the help, Eric!

Picture courtesy Letters from Malawi

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Technologists, here are 5 things I want from you

cartoon technology

Technology is leaping behind. It is becoming a drag. Wanna make money? Then make what everyone wants. You will be a millionaire. And popular too.

1. Make all devices communicate via wireless. WIFI, Infrared, Bluetooth, Pinkfire, I don't care, but please let me get rid of all the messy wires. You hold two gimmicks close and 'ping' they are connected.
No more words like DB9, RJ-11 or USB-2 ports in our vocabulary. Who wanted a keyboard or a mouse to have cables in the first place? Why would I need wires to plug earphones into my mobile phone? The phone is a wireless device, for God's sake, but the wires take up as much space as the phone itself!

2. Make all devices charge from one universal device. Make them charge via magnetic pulses rather than via an electrical wire you need to plug into them. Free us from travelling with twenty power supplies!

3. Make a screen that is readable in sunlight. I want to work on my computer while laying in the sun, dude!

4. Make fast computers. Fast software. Fast memory. Fast harddisks. I am loosing way too much time waiting for the computer to finish. Whatever it is doing. It is doing something. The light flickers. What-the-hell-is-it-doing?

5. Forgot. Oh yes. Of course:
Make one device, which has the quality of a good digital camera, a good video camera, and all features of a mobile phone and palmtop device. Like iPhone meets Sony Handycam. With the weight of an iPhone, of course!

Picture courtesy P.S. Mueller via Climate Protection Campaign

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As I am leaving Sudan.

bor south sudan

In the past, I published several stories written by Cyprien, one of my friends and colleagues.

Cyprien is originally from DRC but worked with us, based in Kosovo, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mozambique, Senegal and Sudan. He is about to be reassigned to the Somalia operation and wrote this story reflecting on his time in Sudan. It is both a tribute and an emotional good-bye to a country he got to love during the past years.

As far back as primary school, I heard about Sudan. I do not remember very well in what context, but I am sure it was during our geography courses. Later I learnt more about Sudan over the news. I remember the days when every evening my father used to call me to sit with him and listen to the radio.
Almost, everyday there was news about Sudan then, just as there is today. I can't remember what it was all about, but I remember that the name John Garang was mentioned often.
As I grew up, my interest to Sudan became even greater as I realized that this country was one of our neighbors.

In 2005, when I got an assignment with the UN in Senegal, I hired a driver. During the interview, I requested his papers to learn more about him. In the paper he gave me I could read : " Ethnie (Ethnic group): Soudanais (Sudanese)".
I asked him how come he was of Sudanese ethnic group. This man did not go to school at all, but he gave me a clear answer: "Sudanese is a nationality, but it is also a race, and a ethnic group that migrated from Sudan to the Senegalese coast. These are often the taller and darker people you see in Senegal."
From then on, when they spoke about Sudan, I kept in my mind the idea of a country, a race and ethnic group.

In 2006, there was extensive media coverage on Sudan (or may be it was my feeling), some people talked about something similar to a genocide happening in Sudan. I heard about the Janjaweed militia, about Darfur, about the "South Sudan" issues. I remembered the pictures showing the UN planes flying in the Sudan skies airlifting food aid assistance. I saw the pictures of people suffering, I saw a picture of a child abandoned by its parents, struggling to walk as a wild bird waited for the child to die so it can eat him.
I felt a call to assist. I decided to search for an opportunity to go to Sudan and bring my small contribution.

By February 2007, I joined the Sudan relief operation. As I landed in Khartoum, I could count the few number of trees per square kilometer on the fingers of my hands. The city was brown. Its layout and geometric design reminded me of Islamabad, in Pakistan, where I had lived before.
As I walked the street of Khartoum, I did not feel like I was in a country at war or where ethnic groups were fighting against each other. Khartoum is rather a city where I found Sudanese of all origins and color all leaving together, even though I noticed some jobs were done only by one "category" of Sudanese.

I proceeded to the South days later. I slept in a tent. The only luxury I had was my ventilator which blew fresh air but also new dust. And dusty it surely was in the months of February and March.

In the South, you could find signs of heavy fighting that took place in the recent years, but all was relatively calm and people felt proud to enjoy peace. I travelled across the country and I could see the sign of hopes everywhere. Roads bridges being built, schools opening, some times even under a tree. The WFP Humanitarian Air Service flights which used to be the only ones in the sky, were joined by the commercial flights.

Slowly tents shelters that were used as accommodation by hotels, UN and NGOs were replaced by prefabs, and later on by durable structures. This, to me, was a signal of the progress, and all of this brought me hope about the Sudan that I got to love.

On a bright Sunday of Easter 2008 I went to pray in a local church. The priest started preaching about how to preserve the peace dearly acquired. He linked the suffering of Christ to the suffering of the people of South Sudan. He went to explain how after the suffering, Jesus rose high and enjoys great times at the Right of the Holy Father and he linked it on how south Sudanese are now enjoy life after the sad days.
One thing is missing, he explained: "I have seen hotels and restaurants opening from Juba Bridge (the south side of Juba town) to Gudele (the north side), but I have not seen one kindergarten being built!". "Can we develop a country with hotels and restaurants only? We need to build educational institutions if we want to establish ourselves as a nation", he continued. "I would like those who are in charge of issuing licenses to stop issuing licenses to open new restaurants, bars, and clubs and promote business related to education", the priest concluded.
The audience stood-up and exploded in a huge applause, but it got me to think about the institutional progress in Sudan.

UN agencies, INGO and donors have done a great job in South Sudan, where I have witnessed changes happening at a very high speed. One should be proud and happy for having contributed in a way or another to this, but how much of this progress was durable, and not superficial?

My worries grew bigger over the past months, as I am about to leave Sudan for Somalia. The ICC decided to issue an arrest warrant for the President of Sudan. I will not get involved in mitigating the collateral damage this is likely to have on the peace and development in the South. Specialists have already commented on that.
I will not talk about what will happen to millions of people who were surviving on aid, including food and medical supplies, distributed by the expelled NGOs.

I also do not want to think how much the Sudanese work force will survive with their families in the new global economic recession. A Sudanese friend who runs a car workshop, told me yesterday, both hands in his pocket: "Juba fell into a recession. I need to lay off some of my technicians. There are no more customers coming in anymore since few weeks now." Anybody in South Sudan is feeling business slowed down.

Economic recession, the repercussions of the ICC indictment, the superficiality of the economic development... These are the thoughts I have when I leave Sudan after two years.

Picture courtesy Ulrik Pedersen

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The Red Cross is 150 years young.

150 years of ICRC
A counselor listens to a rape victim at an ICRC-supported "listening house" one of numerous such sanctuaries near the fighting in the DRC where victims can receive medical support and emotional support.

On 24 June 1859, during the War of Italian Unification, Franco-Sardinian forces clashed with Austrian troops near the small town of Solferino in northern Italy. More than nine thousand wounded took refuge in the village of Castiglione, lying dispersed and unattended.

On that day, a gentleman by the name of Henry Dunant, a citizen of Geneva, Switzerland, was travelling in the area. He was shaken by the human suffering, resulting from the war. He mobilized a small army himself. An army of local volunteers, mostly women to care for the wounded, wash and dress their wounds, and to provide shelter and basic food.

In 1862 he published a book entitled "A Memory of Solferino", in which he described the battle and the wounded of the Chiesa Maggiore, concluding with a question:

"Would it not be possible, in time of peace and quiet, to form relief societies for the purpose of having care given to the wounded in wartime by zealous, devoted and thoroughly qualified volunteers?"

That question would set the basic principle of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which is now to the largest humanitarian network in the world.

Dunant also asked the military authorities of various countries another basic question:
..whether they could formulate "(...) some international principle, sanctioned by a convention and inviolate in character, which, once agreed upon and ratified, might constitute the basis for societies for the relief of the wounded in the different European countries?".

This second question was the basis for The Geneva Conventions.

2009 marks 150th anniversary of the battle of Solferino and the 60th anniversary of the four Geneva Conventions. To put these anniversaries into the spotlight, the Red Cross Movement has launched a campaign, Our World. Your Move, to remind everyone of our individual responsibility to lessen human suffering.

The photography exhibition "Our World at War," scheduled to tour 41 countries, is one of the events of this campaign. Life magazine features several of the pictures.

Picture courtesy Ron Haviv (ICRC - VII)

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The Taliban makes it to the catwalk.

The Turban is Back

In the shortstory "In Pace", I predicted one day the Taliban turbans would become mainstream fashion.

Looking at this picture, found in a NY Times article on fashion, it seems my prediction came true.

How often is this not the case: A certain culture, pops up as a violent opposition to mainstream society and then is gradually absorbed into the same mainstream culture which adapts ever so quickly but changes ever so slightly.

Che would turn in his grave if he knew his image was used as a fashion statement these days. Don't know if the Taliban would be happier neither... ;-)


Pictures courtesy,

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Somali Pirates, We!

Video courtesy South Park Studios

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We raised $1,000 in a day!

Joice Dodo

Joice Dodo in Juba (Sudan), wanted to expand her bread baking business to build a house she wants to rent out. We loaned her $50 via Kiva's micro financing scheme.
She is one of the loans we issued today:

Today, we gave these loans on behalf of Bex (as a birthday present for "E")
- Lina in Lebanon: $50
- Dao Thi Sau in Vietnam: $50
- Joice Dodo in Sudan: $50

Temmy and other team member of our Kiva Lending team chipped in more, so in a span of only 24 hours, we raised


for loans on our Kiva micro financing project... We are now just a breath away from $10,000. Who would have thought this was possible when we started "Change Starts Here", only six months ago?

Follow the progress of our project on our scorecard, and why not join our lender's team?

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More micro finance loans

susan edward

Susan Edward from Juba in Southern Sudan is 28 years old and married to a teacher. She has two children who are in school. Susan sells green vegetables at the market and is requesting a loan to open a shop.

We gave her a micro finance loan of $50.

This is one of the new loans we gave as part of $400 raised at the birthday party of my friend "E", who also wrote this short story on The Road.

"E" preferred not to receive gifts for her birthday, but asked for people to donate to our Change Starts Here project.

Ester was one of the people who stepped forward.

Thanks to Ester and "E", we financed these projects:
- Grace Elunai in Sudan: $50
- "Women in Need" group in Sierra Leone: $100
- Mimania Edward in Sudan: $50
- Susan Edward in Sudan: $50
- Rena Hasanova in Azerbayijan: $25
- Enero Women in Paraguay: $75
- Rubelyn Lumanta in Philippines: $50

Follow the progress of our project on our scorecard

With a big thanks again to Ester and "E"!

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Swineflu - Miss Piggy has known better days

miss piggy is unhappy

More on The Road about Swineflu

Thanks to "E" for the tip.

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The H1N1-swineflu news hype ratio

In the time 31 people died of H1N1 (swineflu), 60,000 died of tuberculosis. Reason enough for Prof. Hans Rosling to prove his "news hype"-point by calculating the ratio of news article coverage versus H1N1 casualties.

More on the swineflu hype on The Road.

Video discovered via Infosthetics and @aidworkerdaily on Twitter

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Picture of the Day: Heading for bad weather

heading for bad weather

A picture retrieved from a presentation by Dr Robert Costanza on ecological economics.

More Pictures of the Day on The Road

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The summer season arrived in Rome

summer essentials - take 2

With 27°C today, here near Rome, we hereby officially declare the summer season open for business. Time to get the essential survival equipment out from its winter storage: the deck chair and the hammock.

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Happy Mother's Day !

moedertjesdag tine

A post dedicated to my wife Tine, knowing it is much easier to be a nutcase (me) than to live with one...

Flowers would have lasted a week. Instead, thought of a present that will last. This picture from our girls is uploaded to WFP's Wall against Hunger.

Happy mother's day, honey!

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Ten tips for good presentations

Peter at the ictkm-sharefair in Rome

Throughout my professional life, I spend many hours either giving or attending presentations. We all do.
If we could translate these hours into a dollar value we would be amazed how little of this good money is spent productively. I am amazed how few people understand, or even think of, some basic rules of giving a good presentation.

While I am not a professional in giving presentations, allow me to share 10 key tips I have picked up over the past years.

1. Focus on the message, not on the tool.
Too often we spend much more time on tweaking Powerpoint slides, than on the contents, the core messages we want to bring.

A Powerpoint presentation is just a tool, not the goal of your presentation. Think of other tools.

In a recent presentation about information management, I used a disassembled Rubik's cube as the key tool to illustrate how different pieces of information fitted into one website. I let the audience play with the pieces, as if they were working with "units of information".

2. Think of the your audience first.
Who are the people you are presenting to? What do they know, and more importantly, what don't they know? You present something because you know something they don't. You probably work with the subject of your presentation day in and day out. They don't.

So start with the basic question: if I were them, what would I know and what would I not know? If I were them, what would I want to get out of this presentation?

3. What is your key message?
Think of one key message you want your audience to take home with them. Of all the things you are saying, what is the key thing you want them to remember? Focus your presentation around that key message.

Often I use a key phrase, a slogan, and repeat it throughout the presentation. Often I use a metaphor as the key phrase.

4. Slides are for your audience, not for you
Way too many presenters confuse their notes with their slides. Use slides only as a guide in your presentation, as a way to ensure your audience continues to see the structure in your presentation. Or use your slides as illustrations.

Don't cramp your slides with text. Only put key phrases on them (and make sure they can read it). Or only a picture.

One of my friends, a professional trainer on this subject, once said: "There should be as many words on a slide, as you would print on a Tshirt".

After all, your audience should listen to you, not read slides. Otherwise you could just as well have emailed them a report, rather than giving a presentation.

Oh, and when you put text on slides, please spell check them!

5. Entertain
A good presenter, is an entertainer. Move your public. Make them laugh, think, react.

The most important parts of your presentation are the first and last 60 seconds. Think long and hard how you will start "your show". In the first few seconds, your audience will decide to pay attention to you or not. After all, everyone in the audience gathered physically in one room, but their thoughts are not there yet. Get their attention.

I typically start with a joke, a short story. Or I surprise them. I take off my shoes, saying "I can not think with my shoes on".
One recent presentation, I started with saying "Hi. I have only one thing to tell you. One word." and I showed a slide with only one word on it: "WTF".
I asked who knew what "WTF" meant. Only one person knew. "What The F..k !". It shocked them. I grabbed their attention.

6. Interact

Gosh, how boring monologues are. Don't only talk to your audience, but interact with them. Ask questions. Stir them up. Make a joke, or make them think. Let them interact with each other without loosing control over the flow of thoughts or the timing of your presentation.

When presenting, I move around amongst my public. I use my arms and legs to illustrate my points. I make noises.

Once, in 1996, I made a presentation about a new email system we developed. I stood by a slide, illustrating the architecture of the system, and made a funny "Psssht" and "Bam" noise to illustrate each time mail moved between servers, and arrived at destination. Up to today, people remember that presentation. And remember also how the Email system worked.

7. So much to say, so little time...

A good presentation runs like a good movie. Anyone in the audience looking at his/her watch, is a sign of trouble, one person you lost. If you can do it in half an hour, good. One hour, including Q&A is fine. Anything longer... mmm...

People get annoyed when you run over your time slot. They have other things to do, might have other meetings and will be thinking only of one thing: "Gosh, when is this dude ever going to stop". They are no longer listening to you. Waste of time.

8. Update your presentation
All too often, when presenting for big audiences, people ask a copy of my text or slides well in advance. It often surprises them when I answer that I typically make my presentation the night before the event, and fine-tune it, up to the last minute before "I walk on stage".

Why? I try to put elements in my presentation which link to recent events, to what other speakers said, to anything that just happened. It helps engaging my audience.

9. Test your presentation tools
How many times does it not happen that the first 15 minutes of a presentation are spent fiddling with overhead projectors, screen resolutions, or peeping microphones? What impression does that give to your audience? Not one of professionalism!

Set up all equipment and test it out on forehand. Make sure the lightning is tuned, so all can see your slides, and all can see and hear you.

10. And the winner is...
When you give a good presentation, people will want to interact with you afterwards. These are the people you convinced, or at least "moved" for your cause. This is the fruit of your presentation. Don't throw it away.

Close off, conclude your presentation so those not interested in further discussions can leave, but still giving the space to keep those interested with you. Book your meeting room for a bit longer than the time allocated for your presentation, so you have the physical space to talk to them.
If you can't, then tell them how to contact you.

If you want to see a collection of mostly great presentations, check the TED talks.

Picture courtesy Silvia Renn via the CGIAR ICTKM blog.
As you can see, I use my arms a lot ;-)

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Mother's Day: A day to honour ALL mums

May 10 is Mother's Day in many parts of the world. A day we give our mum some special attention, often in a way as a "thank you" for what they have passed on to us.

But let's think a bit wider. Mother's Day is an opportunity to honour all mums in the world. And the role of mothers in the world is nowhere as critical as in the developing countries. Let's think of those mothers also, on Mother's day. Think about some of the hard reality they are facing (Source):

  • More than 60 percent of chronically hungry people in the world – around 580 million people – are women. (Source: FAO)
  • Around 50% of pregnant women in developing countries are anaemic. Lack of iron increases the risk of death of the mother at delivery, accounting for at least 20% of maternal mortality. (Source: Kraemer, K. and Zimmermann, M.B. Nutritional Anaemia, Sight and Life, 2007)
  • Women are the world’s primary food producers, yet cultural traditions and social structures often mean women are much more affected by hunger and poverty than men.
  • In most developing countries women produce between 60 and 80% of food, but own less than 2% of the world’s titled land. (Source: Rural Development Institute)
  • A mother will often be the last to eat – instead saving food for her children and other family members.

This is what I am doing:
- I am putting my mum's picture on WFP's Wall Against Hunger. (update: Here is my mum on The Wall! )
- I am mobilizing my fellow bloggers to put one of these banners on their blog, and to join the viral rally on Bloggers Unite.
- And.. I am putting the word out on my Twitter account

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Song of the day: The Corrs and beatboxers

I have two variations of music for you today.

If you feel romantic and in the mood for a bit of floating, try "Only when I sleep" by The Corrs:

If on the other hand, you have to shake that rhythm out of your booodeh. Then... these two British beatboxers performing at the cafeteria of Google London will probably do the trip:

So which one worked for you?

Beatbox video discovered via The Next Web who got it via Michael J. Cohen's FriendFeed

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Picture of the Day: Penis extension

penis extension

No comments...

More Pictures of the Day on The Road.

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The Gaza War Crimes Saga continued.

Gaza UN school bombing

The Gaza Saga on human rights abuses seems to get a nasty tail. A UN inquiry just published their findings.

A United Nations inquiry into the Gaza conflict earlier this year concluded that Israel intentionally struck a U.N.-run elementary school, killing three young men seeking shelter from the fighting, according to a summary released Tuesday.

The incident was one of eight in which the Israel Defense Forces fired on U.N. personnel or facilities that drew scrutiny from a three-member U.N. board of inquiry. The board found that Israel had repeatedly breached the inviolability of U.N. premises and that, in attacking another elementary school, it exhibited "reckless disregard for the lives and safety" of civilians. Two children were killed and 13 others injured in that attack.

The board also accused Hamas or another Palestinian faction of firing a Qassam-type rocket at an unoccupied World Food Program warehouse on the eastern edge of the Gaza Strip.

There was no evidence, the board said, that Palestinian militants had used U.N. facilities to launch military attacks against Israeli troops. (Full)

Update:While the 184 paged report remains confidential to protect witnesses etc.. you can find the 27 page summary of the UN inquiry report here, which goes into sufficient gruesome details, to understand the extend of the issue. The summary also includes a cover letter by the UN Secretary General.

To no surprise, Israel rejected the report’s findings and its Foreign Ministry says the inquiry board “has preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organisation, and by doing so has misled the world”. Defence Secretary Ehud Barak repeated that Israel has “the most moral army in the world” and laid full responsibility for casualties on Hamas.

The good news is that the report recommends further investigation of other both UN and non-UN related civilian deaths which have given rise to allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law by both the IDF and Hamas.

The bad news is that in his covering letter, the UN chief says he is “carefully considering” what actions “if any” to take on the 11 recommendations by the inquiry team. Mr Ban goes out of his way to thank Israel for its co-operation in the inquiry. He makes a point – urged on him by Israeli ministers and officials – of speaking out against “continued and indiscriminate” attacks by Hamas. As a conclusion: "I do not plan any further enquiries." (Full)

In short: This report concludes that it looks most probable both Hamas and Israel have committed either war crimes and/or stepped on the international humanitarian laws with excessive civilian casualties as a result. But.. let's all have a drink and forget about it...

Picture courtesy The Guardian

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Interested in humanitarian issues?

In case you missed it: I make it a point to regularly update my list of aidresources in the side column. Over time it grew to library with hundreds of sites covering aid work, humanitarian and development issues, activism...

New posts on any of these sites are automatically summarized and re-posted on For Those Who Want to Know.


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Twitter users declare the end of the swine flu emergency

Twitter Swineflu posts

It seems the number of Tweets about swineflu has considerably dropped over the past days. [sarcastic] Until further notice, I guess we will call the swineflu emergency as "over"!

I will update the latest updates still for a another week.

Source: Trendrr on swine flu, with thanks to AidWorker Daily for the tip.

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Weekend in The Ardennes

This weekend, I flew back home to celebrate my parents' 50th anniversary. We all spent a weekend in the Ardennes, right on the border between Luxembourg, Belgium and France.

The walks reconfirmed every country has gorgeous sights. Every trip reveals some great sights, where you can just sit and enjoy the beauty.
This trip was no different. Some snapshots:

Ardennes Belgium May 2009

Ardennes Belgium May 2009

Ardennes Belgium May 2009

We ended up in a small French town, Williers, just on the border between France and Belgium. Total population: 44.

Ardennes Belgium May 2009

Ardennes Belgium May 2009

Ardennes Belgium May 2009

44 people and one huge walnut tree...

Ardennes Belgium May 2009

44 people and one hotel/restaurant, called 'Chez Odette', after the previous owner. Odette's cafe once was famous for its swallows nesting inside the cafe every year, flying in and out through the door and windows.

Ardennes Belgium May 2009

And of course, a walk in the Ardennes *has* to be concluded with a beer from one of the monasteries.

Ardennes Belgium May 2009

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Winnie the Flu

winnie the pooh piglet and swine flu
(click on the picture for high resolution)

More on The Road about Swineflu

Picture courtesy The Daily What

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Why the hype about swine flu? Is there any reason to be concerned?


In a previous post, I compared the amount of swine flu (or Influenza A(H1N1) as WHO has decided to call it) and a regular flu. In short, every year, seasonal flu kills 36,000 people in the US. Influenza A(H1N1) has killed 17 people up to the moment I write this (May 2 16:00 GMT).

Seeing the media hype, the traffic peak on social media like Twitter, I had to find out more. Was the fear rounded on real facts or creative inventions? Was it really only a media hype, a blib on the screen of international attention. A bright star or news focus, to faint as soon as another mediaworthy event took place. Like Russian troops deciding to make another weekend trip to an ex-USSR satellite state, the US closing all tax-heavens, Obama making his first trip abroad or the Pope appearing in public with a condom over his head.

So.. Swine Flu (Influenza A(H1N1) -sorry): "Hype or Threat? That Is the Question!"

I googled it, scanned many different news sources, dug into the CDC and WHO sites, and asked colleagues who are 'in the know'.. Information was hard to find, which is a sign by itself. If swine flu was that deadly, details of the actual threat would be all over the media. And they were not. [Hype: 1 - Threat: 0]

Sure, it spreads fast (any flu does), it kills people (any flu does), it transmitted from pigs onto humans (which is not the first time), and WHO raised its pandemic threat levels (not the first time neither).. So what made it exceptional? What other facts can fuel the fear?

Yesterday morning, I was on a bus between the boarding gate and the plane, flying to Belgium for the weekend, and saw a few pages of a newspaper someone had left behind, the business pages from the Daily Telegraph apparently. And there it was: the best summary I could find on the actual threat of swine flu. (which apparently can also be found in Breaking Views)

Swine flu is still an unknown adversary, there's no knowing how it will behave.
Robert Cyran

Swine flu has come to stay, but it is unclear how our unwelcome guest will behave. We don't know how dangerous it is or will become, because the virus will mutate. We will simply have to wait and see. In the meantime, it would be wise to brace for multiple waves of market panic in the run-up to the flu season.

The virus has been easily transmitted. The fact that it is occurring in the spring is also unusual - flu epidemics almost always occur in the winter.

The key question is how virulent the flu could be. In Mexico, the virus has displayed an alarming tendency to kill young and healthy patients, most likely from an overreaction by the immune system. Scarily, this is not all that different from the way the 1918 Spanish flu kicked off, eventually killing tens of millions. Cases in the US haven't displayed a similar pattern. It's simply too early to say how dangerous the disease is.

While a new strain of flu is horrible news, there are several reasons to be hopeful. Antiviral medication still works, although that could change as the virus mutates. Unlike 1918, we now have antibiotics to help fight the secondary infections. And, unlike avian flu, there probably aren't inherent problems with vaccine production.

Still, there's plenty to worry about. Swine flu will mutate over the summer, because flu viruses make lots of errors when they copy themselves. And people and animals will also come down with two forms of flu at once, allowing the viruses to swap some genetic material. This could make the virus more deadly and render vaccines made over the summer ineffective by winter. Alternatively the virus could mutate into a perfectly innocuous bug.

The only thing that is clear is that bits of information will surface piecemeal. Some will be true, some false. All will be subject to misinterpretation. Few things are more contagious than rumours and panic on Wall Street.

Let's expand this just a bit. For the moment, you have more chances of being killed while driving your car to work in the morning, than by swine flu or Influenza A(H1N1). However, unless the virus genetically mutates into a killer for which we have no vaccine, the most probable impact you will see, IF swine flu continues to spread fast, is on an economic or hysteria level.

- If swine flu continues to spread, travel will be restricted, trips will be cancelled. Multinationals Nokia, Samsung, Hon Hai, Adidas and Swiss Re already restricted travel for their employees. Honda simply cancelled all trips for the time being. This affects not just the travel industry (airline shares dropped for a third consecutive day yesterday) or the tourist industry, but the economy as a whole. People travel to do business. Less travel is always less business.

- If the virus continues to spread and changes its genetic code, countries can close their borders for people and/or goods, in an attempt to protect themselves. This will have quite an impact on trade as certain countries might not accept goods from others, ships will refuse to sail to certain countries and insurance premiums will take a hike if you fly anything or anyone to an infected area, or close to an infected area.

- When an area gets infected with swine flu, even in its current -hardly deadly- genetic code, schools might close, public transport will be restricted or any transport -goods or people- might cease all together, effectively grinding the local economy to a hold, as we saw in Mexico city.

- When an area gets infected, and movement of people is restricted, there will be a rush to local shops to hamster food and other supplies. People's coolheadedness will decide if they will react calmly, or if they will just raid and loot shops. Rioting is likely.

- Even if swine flu is hardly deadly at this moment, it is transmitted fast, easily and effectively. If it continues to spread, many people will be infected. Once infected, even if not life threathening, people become economically unproductive, as they have to recover while staying home. One could imagine entire companies' workforce being affected, or companies closing down temporarily just as a precautionary measure. Bad for the economy again.

- Governments hardly reveal their national pandemic preparedness plans. Those I have been involved in, were limited to passing mass quantities of Tamiflu vaccins around, isolating travellers from/to infected areas, isolating infected populations,.. but there was not much done in terms of 'how this country will function with 40-50-80% of the workforce staying home'. 'How can we ensure critical services -water, electricity, communications- to continue working?'
Contingency plans have been made when everyone was gearing up for an Avian Flu pandemic back in 2005-2006, but since then these have since been shelved and gathered dust rather than momentum. In short, most government will be caught with their pants down. If we get a real pandemic, that is.

And as a closure: at this moment, there are not enough flu vaccins for the entire world population, and the production will not cope with an expected sudden peak in demand. The worst off, of course, are developing countries, which hold no or hardly any stock, where vaccine prices are beyond the reach of people, and the local distribution and storage systems simply can not cope. Because the quality of life, poor people are less immune to illness. Poor nations have less advanced health services, and populations live in more isolated areas. It is expected, if indeed swine flu will continue to spread as fast as it does, most of the victims will be in developing countries.

More on The Road about Swineflu

Picture courtesy ESL

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Swine flu: Air travel spreads the virus

airborne pigs

More on The Road about Swineflu

Picture courtesy Flightstory Aviation Blog

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