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Sustainability & CSR

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* Sylvia's Social Sabbatical


This blog is part of a series and the other blogs can be found here:

1. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Week 1 + 2

2. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 1

3. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 2

4. Current blog: SYSOSA in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 3


Peace, Peace, give me some Peace and Quiet!


Planning for the third week was well under way before weekend April 23/24 was there. So what to do? In discussion was a visit to the Leshan Giant Buddha or going to Mount Qingcheng, which is one of the most important centers of Taoism. Hmmm, both sounded interesting! So what to do?


Ha! Decision was made very fast as soon as I heard that there will be thousands of tourists at the Giant Buddha, but much less - if you arrive early - at Mount Qingcheng. So there we went, this time only three of us.

And here they are, and I am behind the camera. Did I tell you already that I hate selfie sticks, no? I do!

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Mindy from the US and Jeremy from Canada/ France/ Ireland - it's complicated...


As you can also see, there was no one there! We took the train at 6:40 am and we where in Qingcheng Station only an hour later, took the bus, and there we were: at the park entrance at 8:00 am on a misty Saturday morning with the promise of rain and about 10.000 uneven steps ahead of us, but I have never felt so relaxed (and tired) during the first three weeks! I can see why it is a center of Taoism. Walking up all those stairs is a mediation in itself.


So up, up, up the stairs we went...for 3 hrs, seeing temple after temple, not many people,...,

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...and after having climbed up stairs for 2,5 hrs we thought we deserved a little break! And so did the locals, they were drinking tea, we preferred a cooler drink, and we did NOT share one beer. And believe me, ordering beer is not that difficult, but ordering a cold beer is a challenge. In China people drink either hot water or tea, but never ever a cold drink, or even worse, something coming out of a fridge as it is unhealthy. So even if you see a fridge with beer in it, it does not mean that the fridge is actually on and is doing its work...

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After 3 hours climbing we were rewarded with a view, a pagoda, and some interesting views:

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At the same time with us arrive a group of monks, male and female:

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After we have reached the top, there was the long way down and by that time we were pretty hungry. But before we came to a place where we were able to order some food here are some impressions that I want to share with you:


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So, how do you order food when you are very hungry, but there is only a menu in Chinese and none of the waitresses speak English?  You take photos of the dishes from other guest that look promising - the dishes, not the guests - and show it when ordering. This sounds pretty straight forward, but the waitress needed the name of the dish, and she was not able to recall it. Fortunately for us there was a young boy around 9 who was able to speak enough English to help us ordering our feast! How cool is that? And this is what we got: a dish with mushrooms, one with chicken, I hope it was chicken, and lots of chili, and some double cooked pork (?) with green vegetables, and rice. By the way: you do not get rice with a dish, you specifically have to order it. It is usually the last dish that is severed, to get you full - finally!

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Walking down was as hard as walking up, although it was faster, and so we ended up at the train station and in the train after five. We were all pretty tired, after an early start, lots of exercise and fresh air, beer and good food, which had its toll on us during the journey back:

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Sunday was a complete different story, and this will come soon...

We are on our way out. What an experience. My head is full of pictures, in no order at all. Women selling food at junctions when lights are red, carrying all on their heads. People sleeping in odd places. People singing and dancing. Slums, but people emerging from them wearing proper and clean clothes, women in magnificent colors. Wealthy neighborhoods with luxury houses. Traffic scenes of all kind. A lot of green nature. Wonderful beaches. It is an endless stream. Ghana truly is a beautiful country with so many great people. They are warm and relaxed. I listened to more laughing in two weeks than in two months in Germany (in two years?).


After only two weeks I can´t dare to have a fair judgment on how things go here. But I nonetheless want to share some thoughts: If I want to point to something which could be improved, then to me there is a lack of “connecting the dots” in Ghana. To think pro-actively, to think beyond the immediate task which someone is assigned to, this all seems to be restricted to a very small elite. Maybe it is because the broader population does not learn this in any way. In school it is all about facts and figures, it is all about repeating what the teacher has said – in exact words. Not helpful. Creativity is not asked for, it is restricted to some pockets of excellence in private school system which can only be paid for by a small minority.


I share just one example: After our field trip and 9 hours in the mini-van we arrived back in the hotel. I just wanted to go to my hotel room and take a shower. When I tried to open the door I realized my key was not working any more. Ok, could happen after being not in 2 nights. So I went to the reception and the guy there in a friendly way helped me getting a new access card. Back to the room I tried to have my shower. Then I realized that there is not water coming. So me heading back to the reception. The very same guy then told me that there is currently no water available at all. I asked him why he did let me find out on my own and did not inform me about the water outage 5 minutes back. He said: Oh sorry, the manager is just now calling to all rooms and informs the clients. So the task was given to someone else, he was off and not connecting any dots. He did not even understand my question. This is just one example, but here you encounter it every single day. Sometimes difficult for Europeans.


Hierarchical thinking is another fact which hinders development. It hinders young talents when they need to obey to old men at all costs, regardless to what extent it makes sense what these old men decide. I do not want to say that we don´t need respect for experience and for age. But it must be possible to criticize and change things in a fair manner.


Cooperation between organizations needs to be pushed to a higher level. There seems to be a tendency to hold on to own assets, to work in silos. If I observed it correctly then everything is here, it just needs to be brought together, there are ample opportunities for connecting the dots. No need for money from outside, maybe the need for some knowledge sharing here and there.


The country is so rich, by all kinds of natural resources – agriculture, fishing, gold, oil etc. But still more than half of the population lives in poverty. I spare to talk about politics, this seems not be safe when travelling home. Freedom of speech apparently is a higher value here in Ghana, I am sad to say.


Back to me. I am so grateful for having been exposed to this great learning opportunity. Thank you SAP for providing this Social Sabbatical program.


Thanks so much to you for following my blogs. I am honored by all the positive reactions I received!


Thanks so much to Francis, Keren and Mina. They are wonderful people I will never, ever forget in my entire life.


Let´s take a minute for an individual, silent closing prayer.



Amen!

We really worked hard in the past days to come up with possible solutions for our challenge: How to scale the rollout of IT training to teachers (iTeach).


Initially we spend some time discussing fundraising. But then we changed this and put it on low priority. Why? Every project asks for more money, fundraising is serious business. Given we are only two weeks here we started to ask what can be reached with the same resources. We did not want to join the choir of “we do not have enough resources and that is why we are stuck.”


Number one, and that was the obvious one, we propose to use much more content which is already out there on the internet. There are free MOOCs, there is YouTube, there are many other things. So far all teaching content has been created by the two full time employees of Dreamoval foundation, Mina and Keren. If they put together in a digestible way what is out there (using free content builder tools) then they can free up quite some of their capacity to work on the scalability topic.


Second, so far the curriculum covers five days. Great for the teachers, but none of them will be capable afterwards to teach all of this content to other teachers. Especially if they are real beginners. That is why we propose to split the content into two courses, a basic course (2 days), followed by an advanced course (another 2 days, preferably delivered online). The basic course will include an introduction into the use of the computer/laptop, educate how to leverage search capabilities, E-Mail and Social Media, and last motivate and explain the value of Excel, Word, and PPT. The advanced course then does the deep dive. This content should be teachable after attending each course.


Third, a functioning multiplier concept will be key for success. So our proposal is that every attendee of the base course will be asked to pass the knowledge on to at least 3 other teachers. Only then they will be eligible for the advanced course, other incentives can be thought of (e.g. certificates help to be promoted to the next level). This will be checked through certifications which can either be done online or in cooperation with the regional representative of the Ghana National Association of Teachers. Dreamoval anyway cooperates with them, they are the ones who so far select the teachers. They are present in all regions, in all districts. So they have the reach to do this. We spoke to them at their headquarters here in Accra and visited a regional center on our trip towards the west. They take iTeach very seriously and will help in every possible way.


We propose as well that only those teachers are eligible to the courses who can prove that they have access to a computer afterwards, either personally, at their school or whatever. This maybe sounds somewhat brutal but multiplying will not work otherwise. We spoke to several teachers as reported, and only those with this pre-condition did pass on their knowledge afterwards. The others had the great experience of the class but more or less already forgotten most of the content.


Fourth, we created a “heatmap” which shows the density of teachers per the 10 regions in Ghana, correlated with the availability of internet (data density). This gives an indication on how to come to a better structured roll-out. So far one region per year has been tackled, chosen more or less randomly. If our suggestion is followed, then we start in the regions with the highest density and expand from there. Thus more teachers can be reached – and success creates success. When sharing with the Dreamoval team they very much liked it. Data always is a convincing argument. Don´t ask how difficult it was to get to this data, this in general is a real issue here in Ghana.


Five, we strongly propose to change to a decentralized approach – in the sequence the heatmap proposes. So far all trainings have taken place in one week in August in a college here in Accra. Teachers travelled to Accra, all has been paid for. We found out that there is another local NGO called “techAide” which accomplished to set-up 70 computer training labs allover Ghana (EduLabs) in the course of the last 10 years. Dreamoval needs to interact with them to come up with a least 10 co-operations – one per region. Then trainings could be held there, participants would have a much shorter distance to travel. And they would be even willing to cover the travel costs under this circumstances, this we validated with the groups we talked to. Two Dreamoval instructors could travel to one location and give 2 trainings there in one week (as we reduced the course duration). So instructors travel to the classes, not the other way round. This is far more efficient. Instead of 60 attendees travelling to Accra for one class 30 teams of 2 instructors could go and teach 60 classes (2 day course).


And instead of one course in one week in Accra, Dreamoval could announce a “Month of iTeach” in August, so the instructor resources could be spread over a longer period of time. We initiated a first meeting with Dreamoval and techAide, it went well, so it looks promising.


If not all regions can be covered by this EduLabs, there are other options for the more rural areas: There are “trolleys” with a number of laptops, all pre-charged, which can be used. A technical device, also developed by TechAide, could be set in the middle. It is prefilled with all the content and creates connectivity within a 20 meter radius, so it more or less simulates the internet. While talking with the Ghana National Association of teachers even the possibility was discussed to own a bus which serves as mobile IT lab. More costly, but not completely out of reach.


Of course as good corporate SAP citizens we brought all proposals to a proper PPT presentation we used in our discussions with the team. I just highlighted the main aspects here in written form. All in all we think we made proposals which are rather simple to be implemented, anything else would not work to our judgement. And there are several factors built in which help to scale: reduced course duration and easier content creation, de-central rollout with instructors travel to the classes, multiplier concept, cooperation with other NGOs. If only a few are implemented it could already make a difference.


Let´s see to which extent this works out. We have a bit the McKinsey-Feeling right now: Flying in, work on a strategy, present it to the clients, fly out again. We will keep in contact with Francis, Keren and Mina to check the progress.


One more thing to mention: We did present our proposals today to the management team of Dreamoval. Angelique, Franz and I were truly touched by the kind words they found to thank us. It was expressed to eloquently, so warm, so human, wow. I am still emotional while I write this down.


This is not yet the end, there is one more blog to come.

We are on a “field trip” towards the Western region of Ghana. It is a long ride, 7 hours on a minivan one way. We stay there for 2 nights and then head back to Accra. Our intent is to talk to teachers who have been educated by the iTeach program of the Dreamoval foundation in the last years. Have they been able to pass on their newly gained knowledge about IT? At least to their colleagues, maybe even to their pupils? Remember: Only 360 out of 170,000 thousand teachers have been reached by iTeach so far. So a well working multiplier structure is key. Otherwise it will simply not work out.


Close to the boarder of Ivory Coast we met a group of those teachers who shared their experience. They were all thrilled by the training they received and praised the advantage it brought to them. Excel for example is simply great for them to calculate the results of their pupils. As single class has on average 40-50 kids (sometimes even up to 80), this rating work usually consumes a lot of time. With excel knowledge this is so much easier to be accomplished.


Challenges they shared with us are: lack of computers – only a minority of teachers own one. Not even half of them have a smartphone or any other mean to access internet privately. In some schools they even do not have electricity. But they are really engaged, they find different way to overcome challenges. Sometimes at least the headmaster of the school has a laptop, and if teachers are lucky, they are open to help and make their laptop available for training purposes. One teacher told that he has a desktop PC at home and then regularly on Fridays invite 5-6 pupils to his house to train them for an hour after school. As there is almost nowhere a projector available they have to take turns with the pupils – a very time consuming approach. A female teacher told us that there is an Internet Café near to her school, and she takes pupils there. For those who can´t afford the small fee she even helps out. What an engagement level! Surely not all teacher in Ghana are like that, but we really met a few true role models.


I attach one picture of our discussion with the teachers. The other one shows a school we did visit. The level of discipline there was amazing! The pupils stood up when we entered the room, they greeted us all in a choir, they were quiet and very attentive. I don´t think too long about with which education means this level of discipline is reached…  Anyway, what I really need to tell my two kids when I am back: The class was shouting in excitement when it was announced that as part of our visit all of them will receive a frozen joghurt! The cost is at 1 CEDI each, which equals some 20-25 Eurocent. They surely don´t get it every day.

* Sylvia's Social Sabbatical


This blog is part of a whole series and the other blogs can be found here:

1. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Week 1 + 2

2. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 1

3. Current blog: SYSOSA in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 2

4. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 3


Our Journey to Jiuzhaigou or the 9 fortified Tibetan Villages

A few days before our second weekend we decided to book flights & hotel and go and see Jiuzhaigou, which is pronounced Tschutschaigooo - or for experts tɕi̯òu̯ʈʂâi̯kóu̯ in the North of Sichuan province.

What we had heard about it sounded spectacular: "Jiuzhaigou is a nature reserve and national park located in the north of Sichuan province, China. Jiuzhaigou Valley is part of the Min Mountains on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and stretches over 72,000 hectares." See more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiuzhaigou

The whole valley has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 and is since 1997 a World Biosphere Reserve.

And all photos looked brilliant!


Okay, flights were booked with the untiring help of Zhen Chen from Pixera Global - not easy to get seven people booked on the same flight where you need passport IDs of all travelers for the reservation - thanks again, Zhen!

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Hotel was found, and it was extremely cheap, but the reviews were sort of okay. Let me say that we had running hot water, and free WIFI. And we did not have to share rooms.


Chengdu Airport and Toilets


The flight on Friday night was around 10:00 pm, and Chengdu Airport at night looked like this: deserted!

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As one better uses the toilet before a flight I was surprised to find this sign here :

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But everything was fine, what I found behind the door was a "normal" toilet with a seat. Now I have to explain that in most public toilets there are only squat toilets... and I did not take any photos of them, and there is a good reason for it!


Finally in Jiuzhaigou


We landed after about 40 min at Jiuzhai Huanlong Airport in approx. 3500 m above sea level, and it was freezing cold with - 2°C, in Chengdu we had around 24°C. We then were expected by two drivers who drove us in nearly complete darkness to the village. The journey was long, sometimes interrupted by speed cameras and Yaks on the road, but after 90 min we arrived at the hotel, and they were still waiting for us at 0:20 am in the morning.


The next day we finally saw where we were: in an extremely busy little place, with its main purpose to accommodate as many tourists as possible, with all drivers, regardless of the size of the vehicle, honking and honking and honking! It was maddening, even more so as I had a room to the street and the first lorries started to rush past at 5:00 am! Aaaaarrrrggg!

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Our hotel was in walking distance of the park's entrance, so we had a quick breakfast in a small dumpling and noodle soup place and off we walked.

When we finally arrived at the ticket counter we were not the only ones. In high season there will be on average 15000 mostly Chinese tourists in the park. You have to pay for the green shuttle busses, and at every bus stop there are 10 to 20 busses waiting to drive passengers back and forth!

So not a quiet little place where you can enjoy the loneliness and peacefulness of the surroundings. And it was cold, the sun disappeared in the afternoon, and ice even saw a few snowflakes.

All in all not something I have expected. You had to fight to get a good view to take some photos, and if you were not fast enough, people pushed you out of the way.

As I had been to New Zealand several times, this place felt a bit like Disney Land, some kind of a show you had to pay for. And it was the dry season, so most of the lakes had no or not too much water.



Here some impressions: this was the view....

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...and when you turned around you saw this:

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Here are impressions from Tibetan buildings:

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and waterfalls, and you can see that it was a very dry winter:

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In the afternoon it started raining and snowing, which did not improve the mood, but nevertheless we decided to come back the following day, and voila: we had sunshine, and there was fresh snow on the mountains and the lakes were finally green:

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On our way back to the hotel we found a market or the market found us, and some of us discovered that they were quite good at bargaining with the locals:

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Then it was time to fly back and we finally saw where we landed as it was still light on the way to the airport - photos were taken out of the car:

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Back at the airport we found out that the only warm place was the little restaurant there, which is where we spent every minute before our check-in.


What we have learned:

Overall the whole weekend was an interesting experience, we had managed to order a fantastic dinner in a Tibetan restaurant, but one of the waitresses spoke some English, that helped! Otherwise it can be a challenge to communicate. The good thing is that  nowadays there are plenty of apps you can use to translate back and forth between Chinese and English, and there is also sign language and a calculator when you want to bargain. And all 7 of us were still in speaking terms when we got back to Chengdu, cool!

The third week was waiting for us.


More to come here:

SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 3

* Sylvia's Social Sabbatical


This blog is part of a series and the other blogs can be found here:

1. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Week 1 + 2

2. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 1

3. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 2

4. SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 3

 

In Weekend Excursions I decided to talk a bit about everything not related to our work in Chengdu, so you will mainly find information about our weekend excursions and trips.

 

In another blog I will write about week 3 to 4 and in a last blog abut the final presentation - but this will come later.

 

The team arrives in Chengdu:

On our first weekend the twelve of us arrived all at different times coming from all corners of the world.

We had 3 people coming from Germany: Tom, Peter Stock and myself, although Tom is from the UK, but he lives in Gernany.Then we have George from the Uk, Jeremy - Le Français - lives in Ireland, Grimley - originally from the Philippines - now lives in the Netherlands, Rahul from New Delhi, Shinto from Bengaluru, Mindy from the US, Mariana from Bulgaria, Florencia from Argentina and Pete, living in Canada, but originally he is an Aussie, not liking Kiwis, hmmm, what can he do?

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Chengdu City:

And while we were waiting and waiting for people to arrive, we decided to explore the city. We literally arrived during a timespan of 48 hrs.

We took the metro - 2 lines so far in the city, but approx. 11 more lines to come within the next years - and arrived at Wenshu Monastery, which is the best preserved Buddhist temple in Chengdu! And I think it all hit us when we saw the temples that we will be working in Chengdu for the next four weeks, and there was no escape!

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The next experience was when we wanted to order food at lunchtime in a recommended vegetarian restaurant. Okay, we were a bit late, but by the time we arrived at the restaurant, the only drink they had was hot water - and I nearly forgot - hot soy milk - which was disgusting! We left it open on the window sill, to keep the only wasp away we have seen so far. They had no tea - no tea in China? -  no coke, no cold beer, nothing! And just as a remark: the "cold" was a challenge! We hardly ever got cold beverages, cold beer? Ha! And if they had beer, it was either very warm or lukewarm, hmmm, very nice!

 

Thaaaat was a good start, but we were not disappointed after all, the food was excellent! We had tofu 9 different ways, or was it 7? I cannot remember, but it was the best tofu I've ever had: on one plate came a fish, but then we thought "fish in a vegetarian restaurant"? And it was actually tofu. And very, very delicious!

This was already a good outlook of things to come: food in Chengdu is excellent! I have never eaten so many different dishes in my whole life! But this will be a different story.

 

So we were definitely in Chengdu, China, there was no mistake. Everything look Chinese to us, even the door knockers:

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And here is more: temples, pagodas, outlooks through windows...:

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Even the wheelbarrows and ladders are different, the electric cables on the street or the apartment blocks:

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Chengdu and its famous Pandas:

On Sunday we went to the Panda Park or better to the Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. The Panda Center is about 10 km outside Chengdu Downtown, and, as we were not the only ones, who wanted to see the Pandas, we got up really early. Pandas are not only a Chinese national treasure but are also beloved by visitors around the world -well, here we were then! Pandas can be be found only in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. In total there are less than 2,000 pandas, and 70% can be found alone within the territory of Sichuan Province! So we were really lucky!

We arrived at the park at 8:00 am and then we were hunting for the little beasts as they get fed in the morning and are most active after they had their portion of special bamboo shoots.


And of course some photos, although it was very difficult to pick the best as I had tons. They can use their paws in a very agile way, but they are not the most energetic species. Eating bamboo is not really a good idea as bamboo is not very nutritious and they have to eat lots and lots of if, and still: they sleep most of the time.

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On the second weekend a group of us went on an adventure to Jiuzhaigou. More about it here:

SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 2

SYSOSA* in Chengdu, China 2016 - Weekend Excursions - 3


Today some guys from the Dreamoval team gave us a demo about their products. In short: This was very, very impressive. Their flagship program is a full CRM suite for banking. Several banks here in Ghana are on it. In addition they have a solution for mobile payments with some 30,000 individuals using it so far. The further potential is huge. Ghana is a big country, some family members work in the larger cities or even abroad and want to send money to their families. Traditionally this is very cumbersome, with the Dreamoval solution everything is completely seamless.


Their products are all build using open source, all are cloud solutions. Everything they use is absolutely state of the art. They follow a scrum methodology, so after giving the presentation to us the team went for a meeting to plan the next sprint. “Backlog”, “daily scrum meeting”, all normal terminology to them. My colleague Franz Hero, who leads a development unit, was really taken by surprise. You could easily read his mind: “I want to hire some of these smart guys!”


Below you can see pictures of them giving the presentation to us, on the second you see their development. Not “a” development lab, “the” development lab. It is amazing what they put together with a workforce of 43. Sure, they work long hours, but obviously enjoy it. To nonetheless prevent burn outs, they introduced a rule a while back which says you need to leave office at least one day per week in time, to go out for following your hobbies, meeting friends etc.


One other thing stood out: They had amazingly beautiful and simple slides. For them the standard. Everything which goes out for being presented is checked by a graphic designer. They take as well great pride in having really nice UIs in all their software.

Dreamoval in 2015 won a price for being the best software company in Ghana, and you could clearly see why. Angelique de Vries, my colleague from Presales, will make sure that SAP exploits if there is the opportunity to cooperate with Dreamoval in one way or the other.


The company was founded 9 years back by 4 guys who had just finished university. They all did study computer science. The first investor they had gave them 10,000 US Dollar so they could get started. In return he received 15% of the shares. If I look at Dreamoval now, I would say this was a business opportunity I have missed!

We started early in the morning to arrive 7.30 am at the office of Dreamoval, after a 1 hour drive. The day there starts with a prayer, a reading from the bible including a short discussion on the meaning of it, and a song. All in all some very inspiring 15-20 minutes. It surely creates team spirit. This mindful start into the day is a common theme at companies in Ghana. Religion is big here, and all in a very tolerant way. Various kinds of beliefs peacefully co-exist.


Afterwards I owed Francis an answer. The day before he had approached me and offered me a job. Dreamoval now has 43 employees, they expect further growth. So far there is no HR person on board, payroll is outsourced. Now they want to have an HR Director who helps the company to scale in a professional manner. The offer comes with a very decent salary at local standards, plus health insurance for the entire family, plus pension scheme, plus a company car allowance. So all in all very attractive. I told Francis that I will sleep one night over it. Now I had to tell him I can´t take the offer for family reasons.


Sounds very strange? Maybe not. Pyxera is the 3rd party vendor who works with SAP and other companies on Social Sabbaticals. One of their employees told the story about an HR professional from Ireland (not at SAP) who after a Social Sabbatical in Bangladesh decided to join the company they had supported, including re-location at own costs and local contract.


Francis stayed cool and said he did not really expect me to join. But in return he asked me to join interviews they had set-up for the afternoon. It was a shortlist of three candidates for an open position. So this is how I gained recruiting experience in Ghana.

 

The set-up for the interviews you can see on the pictures attached. To the left Francis and I were sitting behind a desk, to the right the candidates, also behind a desk. And in between we had some 3 meters of space. Unusual to me, but obviously the standard setting. All three candidates were “a bit” surprised meeting me, but they managed to cope with it. Question-wise the interview went 95% similar to the approach we have. There is only a slightly higher focus on formal skills and education. I asked a fair amount of questions and enjoyed the 3 hours. Francis and I afterwards discussed the outcome and both were almost completely identical in our judgement of the candidates. So we reduced the list to one candidate who will now meet the CEO for the final round.


It was amazing how often Francis expressed his gratitude for me joining the interviews. He even wrote an e-mail in the evening to say thank you once more. People in Ghana are just so open and warm, simply great!

We travelled into Accra from different regions of the world and arrived in the evening at our hotel. The next morning we all gathered and met the local team supporting us in the interaction with the start-ups. We got to know each other better through team building exercises and received even more information about the projects we will work with. Details to follow.


In the afternoon we went to a city tour through different parts of Accra. There are really nice areas with decent houses, there are lively streets with shops, restaurants etc., and there are crowded markets of all kinds. All very, very colorful. Towards the end we visited Jamestown, which is the area at the seaside where the fishermen reside with their families. Puuh, that was a really different experience. Adults there live on 1 US Dollar or less per day (like some 50% of the population in Ghana). They work very hard to make a living with fishing. They reside in direct neighborhood to their wooden boats in all kinds of sheds. All live on limited space. I attach a picture. If internet is stable enough I will be successful in up-loading them to this blog.


We were there for some 20 minutes and everyone had the urge to leave the place. Partially because you could sense that many fishermen did not like us looking around. It was not always adequate to take pictures, especially portraits of individuals. They did not want us to document their poverty and maybe were suspicious that we show the pictures back home, making fun about them.

Back in our little bus silence was the motto. My initial thoughts were: The next colleague in Walldorf who approaches me to complain in an inappropriate manner about the quality of our free lunch at SAP will be send on a free ride to Accra, in order to spend 48 hours in Jamestown…


Ok, ok, I will of course never do this, I was simply sharing my initial thoughts.


Back to reality. Clear learning is to be thankful and sensitive about what we as SAP employees all have, to be conscious in what luxury position we are. It is surely ok to criticize things at SAP in a constructive manner. But it should always be clear that it is about the last 5%.


More to come, Wolfgang

The next morning we all gathered and met the representatives of the 4 projects we work with. The meeting started with an opening prayer, then we all introduced each other shortly. The 4 social start-ups presented what they are working on and talked about the challenges they are facing. Angelique, Franz and me will interact with Dreamoval foundation. It is set up by a mid-size software company called “Dreamoval”. Related to their expertise they have a program called “iTeach” which educates teachers on basic IT knowledge (use of PPT, Excel, apps etc.). They started it six years back and so far trained 360 teacher – one class of 60 teachers per year. The course duration is one week. All training is provided by employees of Dreamoval. Teachers to be educated come from all different regions of Ghana and stay for this one week in Accra. Most of them have not touched a computer before, did not use a mouse before, do not possess an e-mail-address etc. The idea is that when they return to their hometown they can transport some of their newly gained knowledge to their pupils.


It is a great initiative, all driven by two full time employees (Keren, the young lady in the middle of the picture attached, and Mina, to the right), plus Francis. In his day job he is the Sales Director of Dreamoval, in addition he drives the foundation with a lot of energy. Just amazing! He is the one who wrote the beautiful e-mail I was referring to in my first blog.


Keren, Mina and Francis started our interaction with giving us local first names. These names are related to the day of the week you are born. But one thing is guaranteed: I will blog about everything we do here in Ghana, but I will never ever disclose this name!!! And if Angelique or Franz are doing this, then they will be in deep trouble!

 

Let´s now come to the real challenges: In Ghana there are 170,000 teachers. iTeach so far reached 360 of them in six years. This will not scale. Many teachers in the rural areas do not have access to computers, sometimes there is even no electricity. So even the ones who have gone through the initial training will not necessarily pass their on the knowledge. As a side remark: Average monthly income of a teacher in Ghana is 200 Euros.


So how to scale, how to overcome this limiting conditions?


Angelique, Franz and I are now working on it, let´s see what we can achieve within two weeks. The good thing is that our CSR team at SAP is clever: They already plan to bring a “normal” Social Sabbatical to Ghana for four weeks in October, most probably to continue working with Dreamoval. So they then have the opportunity to repair the damage we super-clever executives caused to Dreamoval foundation.

SAP is a great company, no doubt about it. I have been chosen to participate in a Social Sabbatical which takes place right now in Ghana. It is an “Executive Pilot” and together with 11 SAP colleagues from different countries and LOBs I am part of it. I am still amazed that SAP provides such opportunities. All paid for, all organized, wow! Without thinking too much about it my choice was clear. And honestly: It is more about my learning opportunity. If in addition we are able to help someone that will be great.

The idea is that the 12 of us split into 4 groups of 3, and will consult social start-up companies to solve issues they face, be it to scale to the next stage, be it to come to more professional structures, whatever.


Everything was prepared just perfectly. A month in advance we started with preparation calls to get to know the details. I learned that I will work in a team together with Franz Hero from Development and Angelique de Vries from Presales. At one call we had a colleague from security giving us tips about how to behave to be safe in Ghana. All made completely sense. When after the call I looked into Outlook I discovered a welcome e-mail from the organization Angelique, Franz and I will work with. Honestly, it touched my heart. Here are some sentences out of it:


“I guess this calls for popping of a Champagne bottles to celebrate this milestone. Thanks for the efforts and the confidence reposed in the initiatives of the foundation to assign to us the SAP Executive sabbatical team. We are already excited at the thought of spending 2weeks with us at the foundation and will certainly engaged them as much as we can to get the best out of the team.

To you, Wolfgang, Angelique and Franz, we say welcome in advance to Ghana. We know you will enjoy every moment with us at the foundation as we work together to the help us strategically streamline the foundation and the various projects we are working on.

It will be a privilege to work with you for the next few days as you spend your time in the most peaceful and friendly country on earth.”


We spent 30 minutes on safety instructions and here it says “most peaceful and friendly country on earth”. So this is my first learning before even starting the Social Sabbatical: It is all about different perspectives. Ghana is surrounded by countries which see civil war and other difficult situations, Ghana itself is very stable. So for them it is peaceful, for us it is a high-risk country – interesting.


With that I come to the end of my introductory blog on this Social Sabbatical, more to come, stay tuned, Wolfgang

Though we don’t speak the same language, we do speak soccer.”


The quote you see above is from Ravis Mubiangata, a first-year college student who is always smiling and who, given his constant upbeat attitude, seems never to have experienced a bad day in his entire life.


Upon looking at Ravis, most would probably identify him as a typical college student. It is only when learning where he is from that you get the sense that his story might be anything but ordinary.


Ravis was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a country that has unfortunately been marred by conflict and humanitarian crises for a number of years, infamously so from 1998 to 2008.


There are others who have similar experiences to Ravis’s: Wadhah from Yemen, a country currently impaired by instability; Hel from Myanmar, a country that has just begun the process of setting a new, bright future for itself.


From March 31, to April 2, SAP in Silicon Valley hosted the KickApp Cup, a first-of-its-kind program that brought refugees and immigrants together through a shared passion for soccer and technology.


In all, 27 youth refugees and immigrants, who recently settled in Oakland, CA, attended the event, where they worked with 20 SAP developers and design thinking coaches to learn how to effect positive change through soccer and technology.  


The youth and developers were split into 4 teams to develop an app that would accomplish this goal, and the winning team, the GOALden team, with their app that works to improve the safety of soccer players, will be heading to Walldorf to participate in the Streetfootballworld Festival during the UEFA European Championships in Lyon, France.


The Silicon Valley event represented the fourth location at which SAP held the KickApp Cup, following events in Waldorf, Sao Leopoldo and Bangalore. The next KickApp Cups will be held in Budapest and Ra’anna later this spring.


To follow the upcoming events, or to see pictures from previous, be sure to follow the KickApp Cup on Facebook.

 

Some Feedback from Participants of the KickApp Cup in Silicon Valley:

"The KickApp Cup makes me more interested in technology. I hadn't really thought about how technology could be applied to sports and really make people better athletes and healthier people. I see it can really do that, and it can be influential to the community and address social issues." - Yohannes Teklemiriam, Eritrea


"When I came to the United States it was so hard for me to speak English, I had moments when I would never learn and felt so depressed and I felt this wasn't the right environment for me. Sometimes when people try to speak to you feel sad that you can't answer. But now my I feel like I am at a new level, about to go to college, and I will make good decisions to make the best of my future." - Wadhah Albarak, Yemen


"Leaving your country is so hard, we didn't want to leave but we had no choice. Now I feel so happy that I have new chances here, and I can people with people that I love and make new friends." - Hel Sal, Myanmar/Thailand

"Soccer is my breathing space." - Johnny Thang, Myanmar (Chin)


Kickapp Cup Blog Graphic.png

It’s been a fantastic experience so far from the time I landed in Chengdu China on 3rd April till now as a part of Team Grasshoppers. Chengdu is a beautiful modern city with tall smart buildings, the best of sport cars on road like the Porsche, Bentleys , Ferraris (you have showrooms all the car makers in the world when you come from the airport to the city) and amazing eating joints serving Chinese and other kinds of food.  We are a team of 12 from all corners of the SAP world and assigned in groups of 3 to 4 different projects.  I am working with Thomas from Germany and Florencia from Argentina for charitable foundation called Yinghuo (www.yinghuo.org) established in 2005. This is a public service organization (6 people only). aiming at improving rural education in southwestern areas and facilitating community development and youth growth. They have two programs- one is focusing on providing education to encourage reading,  Spring bud plan for girls on  physiological improvement, giving nutrition in form of eggs to kids on a daily basis) in rural areas for kids. The second one is the "Youth Growth" Program which is their flagship program which organizes and sponsors educational and voluntary teaching through summer and winter camps of around 2 weeks that are run by volunteer university students together with local rural schools and communities.  Our main task was to assess and recommend changes to their Youth Growth program. Yinghuo provides training to the volunteers, curriculum materials and finance for the logistics for these camps. In 2015 they already supported over 50 camps reaching over 5,500 children.

 

In addition, we are also recommending ways for their employees to be motivated with a better work environment which facilitates open communication and sharing of knowledge and learnings so that they are always charged up to keep doing the great work of bringing smiles to faces of kids.

 

We’ve developed a great bonding with the Yinghuo team through team meetings at their work place where we always had warm welcome, Hotpot dinner and barbecue lunch and visit to the Sichuan University. There is also great help from the student translators who have been terrific in translating both the verbal and written material from Yinghuo team to us in English.

 

Some great moments below:

 

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It’s also great to hear from the other 9 SAP colleagues on their experiences on working in different projects through weekly sharing sessions, team dinners, exploring Chengdu like visiting the Panda reserve base which was an awesome experience. Made new friends with all

 

Team & Panda.JPG

 

 

Not to forget, the guidance and support from the PYXERA Global team (Brandon, Zen) and the SoSa Alumini Mark has been super!!

A big thanks to SAP CSR for this wonderful opportunity!!

 

This is just the mid-way and I would have more to share in the coming 2 weeks… Stay tuned.

I thought I could add another perspective on the admirable SAP Social Sabbatical program writing from the 2nd of 4 weeks in Chengdu as part of team Grasshoppers. This is a "mid-size" Chinese city in the South-West with ca. 14 million! people and capital of Sichuan province.  It is a modern and for China surprisingly green metropolis with shining towers and impressive infrastructure (and fantastic food).  The roads are bumper to bumper with Maseratis, Porsches, Bentleys & Ferraris and the luxury boutiques seem still to be doing good business here.  At first I found myself wondering what kind of social support would really be needed here - but please read on.  We are a team of 12 from all corners of the SAP world and assigned in groups of 3 to 4 different projects.  I am working with Florencia from Argentina and Rahul from India for  charitable foundation called Yinghuo (www.yinghuo.org).  Yinghuo in Chinese means firefly or firefly light and there is a saying that many fireflies together create a big shining light.  The organization is very small (6 people) and they run educational, pastoral support, nutrition and other programs for children in remote rural areas of SW China including ethnic minority (Tibetan) communities.  There is a huge gap between the mega-cities and the countryside where basic infrastructure and amenities are often lacking or not there at all.  There is also the phenomenon of the "left behind children" - an estimated 62 million kids whose parents leave them to seek work in another region or city mostly visiting for a few days only once a year.  The majority are left with relatives but several million are alone to fend for themselves. Our main task for Yinghuo is to assess and recommend changes for their flagship "Youth Growth" Program.  This program organizes and sponsors educational and pastoral care Summer and Winter camps of around 2 weeks that are run by volunteer university students toegether with local rural schools and communities.  Yinghuo trains the volunteers, provides curricula and curriculum materials and finances the logistics for the camps.  In 2015 they already supported over 50 camps reaching over 5,000 children.  These are links to just 3 videos made by the volunteer groups of camps last year. http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTMxMzk5NDI5Mg==.html55 http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTMyMTg0OTkzMg==.html http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTMxNjA5ODk4MA==.html

It is the children's smiles that motivate the volunteers and the teams.  Of course this program also provides huge benefits for the University students who receive training & experience too. This is the Yinghuo team and a couple of pictures from a volunteer recruitment event at Sichuan University - also of course including an obligatory selfie with the volunteers and applicants as well as the equally obligatory Sichuan Hotpot...

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It is my hope and aim that by the end of our time here - we can really deliver some sustainable value to the Yinghuo team that will help them put more smiles on more faces and I am very grateful to SAP for this opportunity and for being so supportive and to allow me to take the time off regular work for this experience.

 

SAP CSR Rocks!

The race is on! I can't wait to see who will join us, what the feedback will be and where the discussions will take us.

 

Today marks the start of the new free openSAP course "Sustainability through Digital Transformation". I had the pleasure to be part of the team that helped to prepare the course and get the word out. While I contributed a rather minor portion, the project still became very dear to my heart. That's why I am so excited to learn how the course will resonate with participants and what thoughts and ideas they will be sharing in the online discussions.

 

During the past months, I have come across many amazing examples of companies - large and small - that embraced the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their business. Some are creative or surprising, others smart or deliberate. Many are bold and inspiring. Either way, I could see the relevance of the SDGs increasing for companies - be it as a must-have to not fall behind and fulfill stakeholder expectations or as an opportunity to explore new business models and grow.  

 

While there are quite a few sustainability practitioners who have discovered how to use IT and digital technology as an enabler or accelerator, there are still many who do not yet have the awareness or understanding. I see that when talking to other sustainability professionals in other companies who often have little IT background and rarely consider IT as a part of the solution.

 

The World Economic Forum in Davos and its theme "The Fourth Industrial Revolution" have put forward the topic. The course now hopes to build on that and bring to more people’s attention the many opportunities digitization offers to further drive sustainability. Our wish is that it becomes more widely understood, how technology power can help companies become more successful while contributing to the SDGs and transforming their business and industries for the better. Let's see how the online discussions will reflect whether we will achieve this ...


What's your view? Enroll and join in the discussion within the course or share your thoughts here on SCN too.

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