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You are currently browsing the Engineers Without Borders at Boston University blog archives for September, 2011.

Sep

27

“Release the Burden of Being Perfect” -Robert Kaplan, Prof. of Management Practice at Harvard

By ewbexec

Robert Kaplan“Release the Burden of Being Perfect” -Robert Kaplan

At Saturday’s opening ceremony, Robert Kaplan, a renowned leadership professor at Harvard University who has held too many positions outside of academia to list, focused on advising the 1000 students squeezed into Memorial Church on how to become better leaders. Most of the ideas he discussed had a distinctly philosophical flavor. After talking about his ‘critical questions’, he noted that all leaders need to forget this idea of perfection. It can only create a crushing weight that nobody can hold up for long. We must be honest with our faults and realize that perfection is a goal that isn’t a goal–it’s a trap.

Kaplan placed four main suggestions and questions before us to answer in order to grow as leaders.

1. Write down your strengths and weaknesses.

While this may seem innocent enough, it’s the opposite, argued Kaplan. This simple list requires leaders to truly delve to the core of what they have to offer and what they need to work on. He also noted that if you don’t know what you’re struggling with, how can you possibly make a change? So, if you can’t list off your strengths and weaknesses, don’t assume you’ll make any improvements anytime soon.

2. Write down your passions.

Robert Kaplan's book on leadership

How do you know what your passion is? “It’s when you’re at your best,” Kaplan stated. This is the moment where we are free of all outside forces and can simply embrace the sensation of being completely engaged in life. However readers be warned, things like peer pressure and ‘conventional wisdom’ will always seek to plant seeds of doubt. Be strong.

3. Write down your values.

Okay, so maybe you think that this is the piece you can skimp on. I mean in the seconds it took you to read #3 you probably had 4-5 words pop into your head. But, do you actually live by those values? Put another way, “what are your boundaries?” asked Kaplan. If you don’t seriously think about what lines you aren’t willing to cross (ex. I won’t…lie, cheat, steal, sabotage, coerce, etc.) then, “when the moment comes to make the decision, it’s too late,” warned Kaplan. As a leader, you have to think about your boundaries before the moment to act arrives or else, almost inevitably, you’ll rationalize any partially constructed boundaries away.

4. Do you practice…

The final piece of Kaplan’s Four was the idea of practice. Can you look yourself in the eye and honestly say you practice…”self-disclosure, listening, asking for advice” etc. Leaders cannot claim to be strong leaders without practicing the traits of robust leadership. What do you practice?

Finishing his practical advice for the future leaders sitting in the pews, Kaplan ended on a final piece of food for thought, a favorite quote of his by Albert Einstein.

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and what can be counted doesn’t always count.”

So take a chance, complete the Kaplan Four and see what you discover.

Sep

23

“Don’t Confuse Motion with Progress” -Paul Ellingstad, Director of Global Health at HP’s Office of Global Social Innovation

By ewbexec

Paul Ellingstad, Director of Global Health at HP's Office of Global Social Innovation “Don’t Confuse Motion with Progress” -Paul Ellingstad

If you’ve read our last post featuring Jason Russell of Invisible Children, you know he urged us to action and to take a chance by being a little crazy and doing what it takes right now to face the largest issues facing our generation, today.

In contrast, Paul Ellingstad from HP’s Office of Global Social Innovation asked us for patience. He agreed that critical action needed to be taken now in order to begin turning the tide on the fight against extreme poverty. However, “lasting change takes time,” he said. If it doesn’t stick, then what’s the point? All you’re left with is a whole lot of wasted energy and effort. Be deliberate. We can’t accept the feeling of movement as a marker of progress. We must always check ourselves by asking the hard questions: Is this valuable? Is this effective? Is this efficient?

“We must strive to live by the ‘Rules of the Garage'” -Paul Ellingstad

HP Rules of the GarageAt the end of his presentation, Ellingstad pulled up a slide of the HP “Rules of the Garage”. These concise 12 rules are the foundation of the HP philosophy. Ellingstad left them with us as a reminder that the most basic truths found in the most mundane of circumstances can be used to build an empire. Stay true to the things you’ve learned and be honest about what you can accomplish. And always work like you’re still in your garage just trying your best to build something new.

Sep

22

“Intention rules your life” -Jason Russell, Co-Founder, Invisible Children

By ewbexec

Jason Russell“Write this down: Intention rules your life.” -Jason Russell

At the closing plenary on Sunday for MCC, Jason Russell had the hundreds of students in the crowd mesmerized. Within his first minutes on the stage, he began urging the crowd to copy down his words–words of wisdom, advice, warning, and passion.

With sweeping hand motions and long strides across the stage, Russell urged us to find our passion, the thing that made us feel the most alive, and grab it. Not to let fear of judgment or failure inhibit us, but to celebrate it. “You are what you do everyday,” he said. So, be brave and do what you’re meant to do, every single day.

“Write this down: You are so powerful.” -Jason Russell

He spoke emphatically of the power we have to change the world as young people. As you get older, you don’t always have the freedom to take risks and be bold. There’s more at stake. But now, at the brink of adulthood, we are limitless. So take the chance and step out of the crowd! Tear down the walls of tedious expectation and comfortable complacency and begin your journey because our generation’s window of time to generate real change is closing quickly.

“Write this down: They will try to cut your wings.”

He also warned that naysayers and cynics will try their best to ‘ground you’. His response? “Don’t listen.” We can dream big and be crazy in order to face the incredibly urgent and serious issues facing our generation. Because if we aren’t willing to be a little crazy in order to solve these problems, then what’s the point in being grounded in an ugly reality?

Jason Russell in Uganda filming the Invisible Children documentary“Write this down: Make a friend.”

Russell’s NGO, Invisible Children, was created because he made a friend from Uganda who had experienced the horrors of being forced to fight in Joseph Kony’s child army. Hearing his story caused Russell to travel to Uganda, film the atrocities, and spread awareness around the globe. He stated that if we just make more friends then if they’re in trouble we’d be racing to help because “you don’t leave a friend in need.”

To conclude his impassioned speech, Russell quoted Apple’s “Think Different” campaign.

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones,
We see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world,
are the ones who do.

Sep

19

Millenium Campus Conference Series

By ewbexec

MCC 2011This past weekend, 10 of our wonderful members and officers attended theMillennium Campus Conference (MCC) across the river at Harvard. MCC is an annual conference put on by the Millennium Campus Network–an awesome organization dedicated to connecting student groups across the nation in the quest to ending extreme poverty and accomplishing the Millennium Development Goals.

It was an incredible event and we give a huge thank you to the team of volunteers, staff, and students who helped organize and run the event. In particular, Nicole Theobold deserves a standing ovation for sending out emails like a mad woman and keeping everyone on track.

EWB-BU at MCC 2011While the weekend was extremely busy, we got to hear from some truly incredible people and learned a lot from the keynote speakers, panelists, and workshop leaders. In order to spread the wealth of new knowledge and inspiration, we’re starting a series on our experience and take aways from the MCC.

We hope you’ll enjoy being exposed to some new non profits and hearing some words of wisdom. So stay tuned and check back for the first feature!

Sep

12

A new year…

By ewbexec

We’ve been horribly negligent in updating this, but we’re back and ready to renew our blog’s web presence. Hopefully, you haven’t completely forgotten us 🙂

To get you up to speed:

We closed our project in Peru and are working to open a new program. Students from the BU School of Public Health continue to work with the community and were just finishing up some more health surveys this past spring. For our newest program, we’ve been building connections with clinics in the Mazabuka district of Zambia via the Center for Global Health & Development (CGHD) and its local representative the Zambia Center for Applied Health Research and Development (ZCAHRD).

CGHD has started a pilot program in these rural Mazabuka district clinics to speed up the transmission of infant HIV/AIDS test results from dried blot spot (DBS) tests. By using SMS messaging, 1-3 weeks of waiting time can be trimmed. This means a quicker turnaround for a treatment plan, and acts as an incentive for mothers to return to the clinics for post natal care while their test results are arriving. The problem is cell phone reception. Because the clinics are rural the reception is very weak and unreliable. If we could offer a method to increase the reception, this program would be much more successful and relevant.

We are extremely excited at the prospect of collaborating with ZCAHRD. However, we still need to work with EWB-USA to be sure our project matches their mission and gets approved. Until then, we cannot ‘officially’ start any work on a project.

While we continue to work through the red tape and talk with national, our technical lead, Saeed, has been working to find a mentor on our campus with knowledge of cell phone reception.

The next item on our agenda is to throw our Annual Silent Auction Reception. This will be held on Thursday, October 27 at 6 pm on Boston University’s campus. We’d love to have all of our supporters turn out, so save the date!

Boston University-EWB Executive Board