On being unreasonable: it gets you to the G20.
Being unreasonable has gotten Peace Dividend Trust (PDT) invited to attend the Group of 20 (G20) Summit in South Korea this month. Try that on for size. There have been many times I have been described as unreasonable. I would agree, I am. But its not always a bad thing, in fact it can be quite positive.
About a week ago I was having a chat with the President of Timor-Leste, Jose Ramos-Horta. [I am normally not a shameless name dropper]. Once upon a time ago he was, as the overseas representative of the Timorese independence movement, described as being “unreasonable” by most people. He was even viewed as a crank by some. To challenge the armed invasion and occupation by a neighbouring country 200 times the size of his own – seemed to many as beyond the bounds of “good sense”. Yet, he managed, along with his compatriots to win out, despite being so “unreasonable”. I was chatting with him in his office at the Presidential Palace of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. How is that for being “unreasonable”? Oh ya, he also got a Nobel Peace prize for being unreasonable.
- Not guided by or based on good sense.
- Beyond the limits of acceptability or fairness
Google was itself viewed to have unreasonable ambitions – and then it changed the world.
I have an old university friend who is totally unreasonable. He does extreme swims. Check him out. In July 2007 he swam 1km across an open patch of sea at the North Pole to draw attention to the melting of the Arctic sea ice. He recently swam 140 km around the Maldives. He is now an internationally recognised athlete and environmentalist. Being unreasonable gets things done, it creates change.
I am going to tell you something. Being unreasonable gets you invited to the G20 Summit. Here’s the story in brief.
I was first involved with PDT in 2001/2 when it was simply an idea. It seemed an unreasonable one. I liked it. It was designed to challenge conventional wisdom, and to constructively raise a little hell in the aid industry, a much needed although broken industry. PDT has since evolved into a band of about 150 unreasonable people. We come from about 20 countries, and most of us are Afghans, Timorese and Haitians.
What are we being unreasonable about?
- From 2006-2008, we unreasonably helped some very smart UN people draft the first serious attempt at a management tool for starting up UN peace operations, many of which are billion dollar a year affairs. I dare anyone to find me a more comprehensive tool on how to get 15,000 United Nations peacekeepers up and running in a tough place, to do a tough job.
- Between 2006 to the present, we have unreasonably suggested that local business should be used to rebuild after conflict or disaster – so as to maximise local economic impact and put the country in question on a sounder footing thereby creating a sustainable peace. Many years ago I had a very senior official in a large multi-lateral organisation, with some 25 years more experience than me, snark at me “nice idea, can’t be done”. We have then very unreasonably proved him wrong, and have over 500 million ways to prove it. Looking to buy something in Afghanistan, Haiti, or Timor-Leste? Hit www.buildingmarkets.org and we will help you do things you thought were impossible. A billionaire cum philanthropist gave us a big prize in April this year – all for being so bloody reasonable – er, make that unreasonable.
- About 4 months ago Scott came to me and asked what I thought about Factor Finance in the places we work – I told him its alot of bollocks, quite reasonably and its turns out quite inaccurately. He sent me some scribblings and over a stiff gin (I do not drink Grey Goose vodka) I realised that he was onto a dramatically unreasonable idea. One which is so unreasonable its positively a game changer. Anyway the idea was banged around a bunch of people in record time – and we came up with a way to deliver credit to SME’s that is so obviously smart and needed its amazing a zillion dollar a year industry has not done it already. Kind of like, buying locally. Hmmph. This idea was then submitted to the Ashoka Foundation G20 SME Finance Challenge being run in cooperation with the G20 – and we won. We found out 4 days ago. Quite amazing.
Anyway its a victory, but between now and 8 November there is a public online vote for the best of the 14 winners. The top three get to receive the prize on stage with the G20 leaders – can you say Obama? Years ago, a mate of mine who is a genius told me Obama would win, quite unreasonably. He was right and I was wrong, and the world is better for it. If I was American I would have voted against Bush but in 2008 I would have bet my left leg that Obama was a loser in the making, quite reasonably, and quite incorrectly it turns out.
Remember that it was a very very unreasonable man that made sure we have safe cars to drive, and revolutionised the world automobile industry. Being unreasonable is a good thing. Now back to that gin… But before I forget, I unreasonably tweet at http://tinyurl.com/26rl7hl