Growing up (and admittedly still now), I was a massive fan of Star Wars, Transformers, Terminator etc; watching this video on Marc Andreessen’s is a little unsettling however and perhaps it would be nice if it wasn’t quite what it seems…
Today is the most important day in the year for me. It is the focal point for remembering those who have served and died for Australia. And of course, from the words of Laurence Binyon,
For The Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condem.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
The name Sadr is not just the name of a rebellious ‘upstart’, nor should it be construed as such; it is in fact a highly regarded name within Iraq’s Shia community. With a lineage dating back to the daughter of the final Prophet of Islam, the Sadr name has been intimately linked with some of the key leaders within the Shia community. In more recent times, the last Grand Ayatollah Sadr and two of his sons were assassinated by friends of Saddam Hussein in 1999. From a western perspective, this would almost equate to the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Pope being assassinated.
From this august family comes Muqtada al-Sadr, the chief protagonist in leading Shia violence in Iraq. Leaning upon his family’s name, rather than intellectual or moral (or religious) authority, it was not surprising that he received significant followings within his community. And throughout his supporters was a significant core of violent criminal gangs, although it would be incorrect to assume that he fully controlled them.
Dealing with Sadr has been a difficult task for the Coalition (I particularly recall this from my time there in 2004) and sadly many people have died as a result of his destabilising activities. The challenge since late 2003 has been the issue of negating or marginalising his influence and power base without making him a significant rallying call for Iraq’s Shia populace. On one level it is a shame that the Coalition failed to achieve this; however in the context of Iraq’s political landscape, that is a good thing.
The best solution for dealing with Muqtada was always going to be an Iraqi-led solution. It has taken a few years for the opportunity to properly arise for this to occur and it is fantastic to see Nouri al Maliki step up to the challenge along with Iraq’s security forces. While not an overnight process, Sadr is becoming marginalised within Iraq without becoming a martyr. The writing is on the wall for him – it is becoming clearer that he no longer has the power that people felt, and in a place where power is everything, his prestige and ability to influence will wain.
It has been quite remarkable to see some of the recent MSM (mainstream media) reports suggesting that Maliki’s actions are a failure. That is quite a ridiculous assertion. Iraq’s public institutions are not perfect, nor are the branches of government. But here we see a new democratically elected legislature (that is majority Shia) dictating a decision to the executive (military and police) which is being enacted; sure, it isn’t perfect, but then it is pretty good for a government that has been around for barely a few years. The recent operation had a number of tactical failures (as do many military operations), but strategically it was a great success.
Getting rid of Sadr is not going to happen overnight, but slowly and in a very Iraq way, it will happen.
Via Blackfive, I read a remarkable article called AntiWar wounds written by the wife of a US National Guard soldier serving in Afghanistan. And in a recent post, I found out about a great USMC video called America’s Marines. It includes some great drill from the USMC Silent Drill Platoon – very impressive stuff.
EYP is going through a big growth period at the moment and some of the exciting work is around establishing relationships with corporate sponsors (which was a discussion point in the recent Make Your Mark get together). We are presently finalising deals with two big companies here in London and the experience has taught me some interesting lessons which I thought I might share.
Sponsorship perhaps implies a one-way relationship where the sponsor is providing support one way. EYP has certainly had support like this in the past, but I don’t see that sponsorship is necessarily the right thing anymore. What is important (particularly with all the belt tightening going around) is the establishment of a relationship that provides value for both parties. In both instances, the relationships are not about EYP getting a bunch of money for an evening function, but building up a relationship over time where we support each other. Instead of being corporate sponsors, these two organisations are very much becoming corporate partners. Rather than spending the sponsorship money in one hit, we can provide benefits for our members over a long period of time which gives membership a degree of value, and at the same time, our corporate partners get support from our members (a nice arrangement). Through these relationships and our own networks, there is a great opportunity pipeline for other corporate partnerships to be built, which drives value for our members.
In some respects, this is no different to one of my personal guiding principles in networking, and that a great network is one where you bring value to the members of your network and for that to be reciprocated.
We have a really exciting event coming up in June where we are going to do a workshop with one of our corporate partners. They have some products from Eastern Europe that are new to the UK market; in a fun workshop environment, we will be coming up with some ideas about how best to promote these products in this market. This is a great way to use the diversity of our organisation (in terms of different skills and experiences, and different nationalities) to achieve some tangible business outcomes. When appropriate I will say a bit more about it, but it is really going to be fun :p
I thought that I should try and make sure that I post again given the length of time between posts (at least it is only a month this time). The last month has absolutely flown by. GoLow is now starting to really take shape as a business which is very pleasing to see. Yesterday, I was at a conference hosted at the Said Business School on Climate Change. The opening speech was by Sir David King talking about the threat of climate change, and it was perhaps the most compelling speech that I had heard about this issue. One of our ‘sister’ companies used this as a bit of a launch event – check out 2Degrees. Oxford University is establishing a really exciting organisation called the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment which should provide great opportunities for identifying how business can address the issues of sustainability and climate change.
The other big exciting thing that I am involved with at the moment is European Young Professionals. This is a great organisation, and I am incredibly fortunate to be the CEO and closely involved in seeing it evolve. EYP has quite a lot of members (i.e. thousands) in Bangkok and London and events are run in both locations around 9-10 times a year. We are working on our strategic plan for the next few years, which is almost complete, and we have some really great relationships starting up with other social enterprise ventures and some corporate partners. I am getting involved in speaking at a few events at the moment; last week I spoke at a Make Your Mark event about EYP and it was really exciting to see some of the enterprising activities that are taking place around the UK. Next week, I have been kindly invited to speak at an event in London for the Network of Entrepreneurial Talent, on a boat on the Thames no less! It should be really fun.