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Thursday, January 01, 2009

My three words for 2009

Yes, this time of the year again... My three words for 2009 are:
Complete. Wisdom. Shared.

I've arrived at these after doing an exercise called Best Year Yet. I've also got a more complete list of goals, guidelines and paradigms. There's a handful of projects to finish (complete), some depth and insight to be gained (wisdom), and some stories to be told (shared). Last year, my words were Connect, Rejoice and Grow. What are yours?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Erster Advent

Liebe Eltern, Geschwister, und sonstige übliche Verdächtige,

ich wollte nur mal kurz bei Euch anklopfen und (beste Grüße bestellen, Euch lieb umarmen, und ja) eine kurze Diskussion über Weihnachtsgeschenke anstoßen.

Konkret: Mir geht es gerade enorm auf die Nerven, wie sich überall die Läden mit billigem Flitter und Tand füllen, den Menschen nur deshalb kaufen, weil sie sich verpflichtet fühlen, sich damit für Flitter und Tand von anderen zu bedanken. Oder dass Leute ihre Advents-Samstage damit verschwenden, durch überfüllte Einkaufszentren zu hetzen, um Dinge zu finden, die niemand braucht und haben will - weil man ja schenken muss.

Ganz ehrlich: Ich würde gerne darauf verzichten, meine (und Eure) Wohnung mit unnützen Besitztümern zu füllen. Ich würde gerne darauf verzichten, in diesem Jahr durch den Weihnachtskommerz der Innenstädte zu ziehen. Und ich glaube, dass unser aller Geld besser eingesetzt ist, wenn wir uns selbst kaufen, was wir wirklich brauchen.

Ich glaube auch, dass Konsum nur ein sehr unzureichender Weg ist, um auszudrücken, wie gern ich Euch gern habe. Daher meine Bitte: Schenkt mir nichts dieses Jahr. Und bitte erwartet nicht, dass ich Euch etwas schenke.

Lasst uns lieber dafür sorgen, dass wir Weihnachten eine gute Zeit miteinander haben. In die Sauna gehen, Kekse backen, spazieren gehen, Spiele spielen - was immer.

Was meint Ihr?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A reverse chronology of my life

2008 - The year of change we can believe in
Where everything is new - the flat, the job, and the year is not even over yet

2007 - The year of travel
Where my carbon footprint is more than ruined after trips to Ecuador, South Africa, China, Vietnam - and Scotland

2006 - The year of arrival
Where I try to settle (and instead grow my passion for nonprofit technology)

2005 - The year of flexibility
Where I juggle four jobs in three countries, and have no money to show for it

2004 - The year of graduation
Where I get over my broken heart, and nearly miss the Edinburgh festival

2003 - The year of departure
Where I don't get my dream job, and instead go abroad (and stay there)

2002 - The year of committees
Where I travel to hundreds of meetings, write proposal and try to be useful

2001 - The year of sustainability
Where I go to Gorleben, work for Greenpeace, join BUNDjugend, start the Kurs ZukunftsPiloten and campaign for peace

2000 - The year of geek-ness
Where I commute between Scharnhorst and Bremen to learn about bits and bytes

1999 - The year of activism
Where I help to mobilize against nuclear power in Germany

1998 - The end of an era
Where I finish school, my grandma dies, and Helmut Kohl is finally sent to retirement

1997 - The year of the clowns
Where a small circus tours to teach about development, and I play the diabolo

1996 - The year of programming
Where I teach myself BASIC and decide to go into computer science

1995 - The year of ambition
Where I try to get into a United World College, but fail

1994 - The year of teen-oblivion
Where something must have happened, but I forgot

1993 - The year of perspective
Where I go sailing, and meet my first vegan, feminist and punk

1992 - The year of water
Where I learn to surf, and am otherwise terribly bored in Tunisia

1991 - The year of fair trade
Where I start spending my Friday afternoons volunteering in the local World Shop

1990 - The year of English
Where I travel to Scotland to meet my penpal Elaine

1989 - The year of buses
Where 18 km distance to school mean getting up at 5:45

1988 - The year of Winnetou
Where I bury myself in Karl May novels, and play cowboys and indians

1987 - The year of service
Where I join my first summer camp, and regularly go to church

1986 - The year of Chernobyl
Where playing outside suddenly became dangerous

1985 - The year of the alphabet
Where Frau Rahm teaches us how to read and write

1984 - The year of Eike
Welcome to the world, brother!

1983 - The year of construction
Where we move into the house my parents built themselves

1982 - The year of Kirstin
Welcome to the world, sista!



1979 - The year I'm born

(hat-tip to Jason Kottke for the format)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Job Transition Take-Away

I'm changing organization, and I'm excited and sad at the same time. Only having graduated in 2004, it's a significant change for me to change after three years in one place. I had a great time, and lots of challenges to grow with [1].

The biggest take-away for me is that I've found my niche: Nonprofit communications. I believe that if a nonprofit gets its communications, its relationships with constituencies and external environment right, there's hardly anything to stop it from changing the world. This understanding of my niche motivates me to look into further education to deepen it, possible with a marketing degree.

Some other things I've learned:

  • Communication is deeply strategic. To do it well, you need to reconsider what you want to achieve, who it is that can help you deliver this change, and how to engage them to get things done. Raising awareness on obscure objectives and as an afterthought will not work. Strategic communication is hard; the tools are often the easy part.
  • Resources spent working on a project don't matter as much as your own focus does. It's easy to spend endless amounts of time on petty projects and email requests. It's your responsibility to break out of that, set goals and make time for them.
  • Help people improve. You can't change people. But what you can change is your own way of dealing with them. More likely than not they will adjust their behaviour. If you are helpful, listen and take time to explain, you are supporting your colleagues' (and the organization's) learning processes - and that probably improves the outcomes.
  • Take time for the small things. It's never urgent enough to spend time on a better database, working templates or other crucial infrastructure. Yet, they are important, and often don't need that much time. Take half an hour before that meeting starts, the time you're waiting for the information to be sent or just the time when you're too tired to think of anything big and strategic, but don't keep postponing these tasks.
  • Pick up the phone and connect. Email is not a good medium for discussions and questions, and sometimes prone to misunderstandings. A simple phone call takes 2 mins and gives you the information you need immediately. Instant messaging can work wonders as well.
While I'm slowly moving towards my new field - social and environmental standards - I can feel the pressure rising in me: Will I be good enough? Will my work meet the high expectations? Will this be a good fit? How can communications best help to deliver our programme? What ideas will we need to bring together all these requirements? These and other questions will fuel my start. They scare me. But then - isn't a question without an obvious answer the best way to inspire powerful solutions?

[1] The highlights: Setting up the Countdown 2010 initiative, developing the exhibition "Nature - our precious web", and relaunching I've also worked with some amazing people and organizations, and helped to stage some events that moved things forward in conservation.
Photo: PrASanGaM via Flickr

Thursday, October 30, 2008