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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.

G20 Leaders London Summit 2009.

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.

Google defines unreasonable as:

  1. Not guided by or based on good sense.
  2. 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 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.

    Our Marketplace projects. More to come, Africa next.

  • 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.

If you want to support the idea that being unreasonable is a good idea vote for us, you can vote here!

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

Ralph Nader - unreasonable man.

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  1. Other than the part where you appear to compare me to Ralph Nader, I’m blushing.

  2. Salim Loxley says:

    Great note Ed!

  3. V Gulati says:

    Well done Ed and Scott. I am sure you are aware of what George Bernard Shaw said:

    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

  4. one filter at castaway says:

    nice, and a couple of pointers on swimming strokes.. a reasonable man will navigate around parameters that have already been set.. an unreasonable man?.. well, i guess he can do whatever he wants, and yes, sometimes that is for the best~

    good job


  5. W says:

    Edward – that was unreasonably well said.

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Edward Rees, Edward Rees. Edward Rees said: On being unreasonable: it gets you to the G20. @PDTglobal #G20 #unreasonable […]

  7. Bharadia says:

    Rees – unreasonable use of the word unreasonable in your reasonable piece!

  8. Al says:

    I hear you, and share the love, Ed…………… A beautiful ‘unreasonable’ proposition. Another one.
    Reflecting further on the blushing, I think Scott and Ralph Nader might be related.

  9. Marie Claire says:

    Can’t resist another quote from Shaw, an unreasonable old codger if ever there was one: “I am sick of reasonable people: they see all the reasons for being lazy and doing nothing…”
    And now I’m off to pull out the Irish vote for PDT.

  10. Edward Rees says:

    Ah the Irish, go the Irish! Now there is an unreasonable lot of people there…..

  11. my supervisor requests i write this note on his behalf as he is upset after allowing a “lafaek tear” to drop in his espresso. he says:
    1. you should wear a 10$ xanana gusmao wristwach next time you meet ramos. and while you are at the market buying it, get a putin one as well, you’ll get a two for one deal and will have something tasteful to wear at the G20 as well;
    2. Who is Ralph Nader?

  12. Edward Rees says:

    Dr. Kurtz, you slowly peel back the veil. Edward

  13. David of Maliana says:

    great article and more importantly great work, i am not sure being called unreasonable is actually that bad, I usually get called worse than that the main thing is not to listen to those folk – perseverance is the key

  14. phyl herbert says:

    Well said and very very well done. phyl herbert

  15. Fabia Yazaki says:

    Ed – way to go, UNreasonably thinking outside the box and puting it into practice.

  16. Edward Rees says:

    Thanks Fabia, very little thanks to some dudes in Obrigado Barracks. Although a few have been very helpful!

  17. […] You can view the complete posting online here. […]

  18. Porto says:

    Congratulations Ed,and Scott, – and your other PDT rebels with a cause. When’s the doco coming out? Also, are you linking PDTs efforts into any local-enterprise mitigation of the environmental impacts of aid efforts?

    Long may the dividends flow.


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