Diploma in Strategy and Innovation
Ubuntu is a beautiful and complex word from the Nguni language, which is difficult to translate into English. Its meaning embodies the ideas of connection, community, care and human kindness. At the heart of each definition is the bond that exists or should exist between people. Interdependence and interplay between the self and the other(s).
As I reflect on the thought-provoking Globalisation and Strategy module and the current rather sad state of global affairs, the rise of populism and rapidly declining quality of the public discourse, what about if we replaced and/or complemented our frameworks with ubuntu?
Could we add humanity towards others to our 4 Cs “Naming and Shaming” reaction framework as we confront, co-opt, convince or comply? What about virtue, goodness and kindness as we plan to shape and influence market and non-market environments and analyse issues, institutions, interests and information? And what about the idea of wider community well-being as we adopt, aggregate and arbitrage? Wouldn’t it be great to replace corporate diplomacy with ubuntu diplomacy?
As we celebrate Nelson Mandela Centenary this year, I think about his legacy, our own peace-building work in Northern Ireland and beyond and the concept of ubuntu. When journalist Tim Modise interviewed Madiba and asked him specifically how he defines the concept of ubuntu, Mandela replied: “Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question is, are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you, and enable it to improve? These are important things in life. And if you can do that, you have done something very important”.
Ubuntu does not mean that individuals, communities, nations, governments and corporations should not focus on their interests, well-being and prosperity, but certainly not at the expense of the other. How do we build and unbuild systems and create a better future and a better, fairer and more equal world? How can we address the uncertainly and the fear of globalisation and otherness? Rabbi Sacks in one of my favourite TED Talks ever suggests the simplest way of safeguarding the future ‘you’ is to strengthen the future ‘us’ in three dimensions, the us of relationship, the us of identity, and the us of responsibility. Just another take on ubuntu.
What I really value about the Saïd Business School experience is that we are not just educating our minds – we are educating our hearts too. In and outside the classroom. 68 classmates, 29 nationalities from a variety of backgrounds. I could not think of a better way to learn about globalisation, strategy and innovation and about the self and the other than among such an amazing and diverse group of people. As Mandela’s dear friend and the former chairman of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission Desmond Tutu said: “We belong in a bundle of life”.
Diploma in Strategy and Innovation 2018
CEO, Centre for Democracy and Peace Building and TEDxStormont curator
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