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4 Communication Barriers Curtailing Your Success

Good communication is essential to strong relationships.

Communication is the glue that holds together relationships, families, and friendships. Also at work, communication is one of the most important skills. It’s often the difference between a project succeeding or failing – or even a business floundering or thriving.

Yet most of us are poor communicators and we don’t even realize it. We’re either too afraid to speak our minds or say things callously under the guise of good intention. We’ve been taught to think that as long as you mean well, that’s all that matters. When you think this way, you’re no longer communicating.

I’ve learned the hard way that when the stakes are high, the consequences of poor communication can be devastating and by the time you realize it, it can be too late.

So how do you do communication damage control before problems reach the crisis stage? Better yet how can you thrive personally and professionally by building the relationships you want?

First, create an environment that puts you in your best mental state and find ways to do what fulfills you. When you are feeling excited and alive, we’re able to respond more effectively to whatever comes our way… and that includes stressful communication situations in both our work and personal lives.

Second, change your mind… or consider the possibility that there is another perspective that you just don’t understand yet. Be flexible, listen with an open mind, and seek to understand. Of course, that’s easier said and done when the person you are communicating with has your blood boiling, but try to focus on the issue, not the person. Avoid getting distracted by emotional noise. We often react emotionally to certain words or ideas due to our past experiences. Sometimes we get distracted by our bias about the speaker’s appearance, gestures, etc. Make a conscious effort to quiet your emotional reactions so that you can truly listen.

Third, value yourself and your own experiences, even as you recognize they could be barriers to accurate perception. This requires a two-prong approach – You need to be firm about your own rights and needs, even as you work on analyzing and expanding your awareness. Never undervalue yourself. Offer your ideas and expect to be treated well.

You can be successful through how you communicate every day.  

The opposite is also true. What you say or don’t say matters.

What DOESN’T work

  • Being in a state of anger and stress
  • Too much thinking
  • Disapproval
  • Passivity

What works

  • Happy, relaxed, open, calm, and expansive
  • Being fully present, aware, and in your 5 senses
  • Approval to yourself and the person you are communicating with
  • Acting with intention

Here’s one more bonus tip.

If you want to be an effective communicator, active listening is just as important as being able to get your point across. Watch the behavior of the person you are speaking to.

Are they frequently interrupting, repeating points, or zoning out during conversations? You’ve likely got poor listening skills. 😅 Here are 5 key active listening tips that will change your relationships and transform your life.

What are your tips for better communication?

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How to Find CALM in Conflict

Conflict is inevitable.

No matter how hard we try to avoid it, we all become entangled by conflict in our personal and professional lives.

In the workplace, clashes with coworkers might erupt because of disagreement on strategy, interpersonal friction, mishandled responsibilities, etc.

Even with family and friends, conflicts will arise from time to time. It doesn’t matter how different or similar we think we are.

Typical reactions to conflict include ignoring it, complaining to others, and reacting without thinking. I’ve learned firsthand that none of these produce effective results.

Instead, we want to master the practice of feeling and finding CALM.

So, how can we do that when caught in the heated emotions of conflict?

First, we want to become aware that we’ve been provoked. Instead of lashing out reactively, we want to pause long enough to notice how we feel and have the willingness to experience it. If we ignore or suppress the feeling, it will intensify. What we resist persists.

In that moment of pause, we can turn our attention to our breath, and take a few soothing inhales and exhales. This will help re-establish a feeling of clarity.

We can acknowledge the feeling of hurt then recognize that we are the creators of our emotions and choose to respond with purpose versus reacting out of fear. Choosing to take responsibility puts us at the affect of our lives rather than at the effect of our circumstances.

With our breath, we have a moment to restore psychological calm. Instead of feeding into intense emotions and escalating the situation, we’re able to think, listen, and handle things with a level head.

Now we’re ready to take a CALM approach:

  • Clarify the Issue: Most of us do not take the time to back off and analyze why the conflict occurred, and what we desire as a resolution. Before we address the other person, we need to ask ourselves a series of questions. What am I upset about? Have I contributed to the problem?  If I was the other person, how would I want to be approached and dealt with?
  • Address the Problem: Find a safe space,  time, and place to have an open, two-way discussion with the other person involved.
  • Listen to the Other Side: There’s a great principle created by the late Stephen Covey which can help us remain mindful in the face of conflict. It goes: seek first to understand then to be understood. Often our instinct is to defend ourselves and prove our point, but when we force our opinions, while others force theirs everyone feels unheard and conflict escalates.
  • Manage Your Way to Resolution: This step involves gaining agreement about the nature of the conflict, as well as the steps to be taken by both parties to resolve it.

When we sincerely listen before weighing in, we extend respect to the other side. This helps dissolve heated emotions. We create an opportunity for dialogue, where everyone involved can calmly share how they feel, ask questions of each other, and find a resolution. Everyone wins when conflicts are resolved conflicts in a cooperative and respectful manner.

When we face conflict mindfully, periodic scrapes don’t descend into chronic wounds. So do your best to approach discord with mindful awareness. Mastering the practice of feeling and finding calm offers a chance for anger to soften, clarity to surface, and resolutions to emerge.


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3 Key Traits of Successful Leaders: Inspiration, Inclusion, Integrity

What are the characteristics of a good leader? It’s an age-old question and everyone has an answer.

Most people say good leaders have some core characteristics like influence, courage, vision, empathy, the ability to delegate, strong communication skills, self-awareness, learning agility, gratitude, respect, and more.

While these characteristics matter, leadership is less about the individual and more about a group of people working together to achieve results.

In my opinion, leadership is a social process.

Great leadership boils down to mastery over relationships.

These 3 leadership skills lead to successful outcomes:

  1. Inspiration: Great leaders inspire teams that continuously produce innovative solutions that generate superior outcomes for customers, shareholders, and the community at large.
  2. Inclusion: Successful leaders create inclusive working environments that foster collaboration, growth, and continuous employee development.
  3. Integrity: Real leaders conduct business responsibly to benefit not just the business, but communities and society.

Leaders shape our nations, communities, and organizations.

Now more than ever, we need good leaders to help guide us and make the essential decisions that keep the world moving.

Leadership is one of the most important aspects of any endeavor, from our family and community to business and beyond.

How do YOU measure a great leader, and what are you doing to become one?

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Your Mindset & 5 Keys to Effective Leadership in Uncertain Times

Right now marketing calls for relevance, empathy, performance, productivity, focus, resilience, and so many skills.

What is the most valuable skill you can have in these times of great uncertainty? I believe it’s LEADERSHIP. As a leader, there’s a part of you that’s strong, regardless of what’s happening around you.

Where there is a challenge there is also opportunity.

Tough times call for that part of you that’s hungry, tuned-in, courageous, bold, brilliant…

As we figure out how to navigate a state of no-new-normal, we are required to call on that can-do part of us that drives a vision with creativity and massive action. Our teams are experiencing a constant barrage of negative news. As leaders, we must stand guard at the door of our minds while recognizing the emotional upheaval our teams are likely experiencing. The onslaught of fear and lack of physical proximity increases the possibility of people feeling disconnected, disengaged, and potentially less productive.

Here are 5 tips to help you harness your power and inspire your team.

1. Find Your North Star

The path may change but the mission can still hold.

Your mission gives you purpose, meaning, and sometimes happiness 😊. This is what makes you live beyond a successful moment to a significant life. What do you want from life? When you prioritize, adjust, and adapt without compromising your commitment to your mission, you will achieve your goals.

Once you are clear on your mission, organize your tasks, and make every item on your to-do list express that vision. If an item does not align with your purpose, drop it. This will also keep your team clear and focused.

2. Promote Trust and Autonomy

Having a virtual team does not mean that you have to constantly breathe down everyone’s necks to make sure that they are working. Provide clear goals and trust your team members to accomplish those goals.

3. Make Everyone Accountable

While you give your team autonomy, you never lose sight of accountability. Provide work goals, and ensure they are met. Don’t let projects drag on and on. If workers know that goals and deadlines are enforced, they feel more involved in the team.

I’ve found that one-on-ones are one of the best ways to build rapport and create a culture of trust. Unlike status reports, standups, and other types of meetings, one-on-ones create dedicated space for a manager to connect, give, and get personalized feedback.

4. Get the Right Tools

A Gallup Poll found that those who were able to spend 60% to 80% of their time away from the office had the highest rates of engagement. Another extensive global study reported in Harvard Business Review reported that virtual teams can lead to increased efficiency and better business results.

Set Yourselves Up For Daily Conversations

Team chat allows for rapid real-time communication to get work done and gives virtual teams a very strong sense of being “present” as a team. This goes a great way to keep everyone feeling involved and motivated.

For high context conversations, chat can be too cumbersome.  In these cases, hop on a quick audio/video conversation. There are scores of tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Fleep, uShare.to, Zoom etc. that virtual teams can select from. You can even use your phone as a webcam to video chat with your cross-functional partners, colleagues, teams, and direct reports, so you don’t miss any conversations that affect your projects.

Organize Your Team’s Effort With Collaboration Tools

Beyond communication, there is a range of collaboration tools that can help organize your team’s effort and keep them productive. Use group calendars to coordinate schedules and events, project management tools to coordinate team tasks, responsibilities, and deadlines, and document management to share important presentations, templates, and policies. You could explore Box for document management, Calendly for scheduling, etc. Tools like HyperOffice Atlas, Office 365 for Business, and GSuite offer all-in-one team toolkits. Organization in the daily execution of your business eliminates stress and frees your mind to focus on projects.

Leverage Video for Team Building

Video reinforces the human bonds between your team members. Skip the default to audio conferencing and make it a point to turn on video as a reminder that there are real people, with smiles, a myriad of emotions, and maybe tousled hair behind the voice.

5. Make time to reset

Set serious work-life boundaries to avoid burnout. Remember your health is highly crucial and should be first on your list of priorities. It determines your prosperity, comfort, and overall attitude. Eat a balanced diet, develop a solid exercise routine, and don’t skip sleep.

Your interactions with your team shouldn’t always be about work, work, work. Without the warmth of human presence, team interactions can sometimes become dry exchanges. Never miss an opportunity to encourage your team to just have normal social interactions. Take a few minutes at the beginning of a call to make small talk and just chit chat about life in general. Share a funny video now and then in a work chat room. Many teams have a dedicated chat room for “cooler chatter”, where teams talk about everything but work. And this fun banter can fuel creativity!

These are crazy times… but it’s time to turn the corner. It’s time to write our comeback story and transform our collective struggles into massive success.

It all starts with our hearts and minds!

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3 Ways to Thrive Remotely

83% of employees feel they do not need an office to be productive, according to the Fuze Global Report on Workforce Future.

Knowing how to motivate virtual team members is now an essential skill for team leaders.

Let’s dive into the art and science of motivating yourself AND others.

1: Celebrate Small Wins

Most people think about motivation in terms of incentives, competition, compliments, financial rewards, etc.

What do you think is the biggest motivator of all? Progress!

In his best-selling book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink pulls apart four decades of scientific research on human motivation. His research shows that financial incentives are poor motivators for success.

Pink argues that there’s a deep human need to direct our own lives, to learn, and to create new things. This is the secret to high performance and satisfaction.

According to Pink, we need to harness the power of small wins by being heroes of progress.

Whether you are talking to your colleague, your spouse, or trying to motivate yourself, highlight progress. Here’s how:

  • As you make your to-do list, start with what you already have done up top
  • Check off the progress you’ve already made ceremoniously before doing more
  • Make scoreboards for yourself and your team so you can see how far you have come in the middle of a big project
  • When speaking with your team, talk of what’s already been done, in addition to what’s next
  • When giving a compliment, highlight specific tasks already achieved. Don’t talk about how little they have left; talk about how far they have come!


2: Watch What You Say… to Yourself!

Our thoughts are secret—and that’s often a good thing.

We are far more brutal in our minds than in reality.

The problem is the brain believes what you tell it most.

How do you talk to yourself? Are you kind, mean, harsh, or sweet? Ask yourself, would you talk to your best friend that way?

Our self-truths are the beliefs we hold, whether they are true or not.

Sometimes, we learn our self-truths from life experiences. Other times, we pick them up from those around us, our parents, bosses, teachers, etc. These become our limiting beliefs.

Here are some common negative self-truths people say all the time:

  • I am horrible at remembering faces
  • I can’t remember names
  • Things never work out for me
  • I have terrible luck
  • I’m awful with people
  • I’m so clumsy
  • I’m so awkward
  • I’ll never fit in
  • I’m not creative
  • Mondays suck
  • I’m no good at …
  • I’m just not the type of person who …

If you are warming up your mind with these kinds of thoughts, there’s no way you can be your best self.

Watch out for your limiting beliefs and limiting wishes.

For example, one woman told me that the reason she can’t make friends is because of her horrible nose. “I look like a toucan,” she said. “When I’m talking to people, I know all they are thinking about is my nose. As soon as I get it fixed, it will be so much easier to meet people.”

Let me ask you a question. Have you EVER not been able to talk to someone because you didn’t like their nose? Absolutely not. Her limiting wish was, “If only my nose was smaller, I would be able to make friends.”

She helped me realize that my own limiting wish was: If only I was thinner

Here are some more common limiting wishes:

  • If only I was taller
  • If only I was richer
  • If only I was funnier
  • If only I was smarter
  • If only I got that promotion
  • If only I could move to that city
  • If only I could find a significant other
  • If only I could have a baby
  • If I was older…
  • If I was younger…

Are your desires holding you hostage?

Bottom Line: Stop thinking you need to change something before you can achieve your desired outcome!

3: Say Bye-Bye to These Buzzkills

In order to motivate others, you need to know how to motivate yourself first.

We are inspired by highly productive, efficient people.

Here are some of the most common bad habits that hurt our motivation:

  • Starting projects but never finishing
  • Numbing yourself with addictive habits, substances, food, etc.
  • Watching too much News
  • Watching too much TV
  • Projecting negativity
  • Procrastinating
  • Eating badly
  • Not exercising
  • Ignoring problems
  • Being disorganized
  • Working too much
  • Working too little
  • Complaining
  • Gossiping

Any of these look familiar?

In his book What to Say When You Talk to Your Self, Dr. Shad Helmstetter states that we are programmed by our thoughts. He breaks down being able to change your self-talk into five levels:

Level 1: Negative Acceptance

“I can’t _____ .”

The fill-in-the-blank with your limiting beliefs and wishes. These are the current negative ideas you’ve accepted about yourself.

Level 2: Recognition and Need to Change

“I need to …”

“I should …”

Here you’ve achieved a level of awareness.

Level 3: Decision to Change

“I no longer …”

Here you’ve decided to change some of your limiting beliefs.

Level 4: The Better You

“I am …”

Once you have retired a limiting belief or changed it, you then have a new self-vision and concept.

Level 5: Universal Affirmation

“It is …”

Finally, you see the world differently. You have changed your own belief and the world around you.

What level are you at?

If you’re not at Level 5, commit to change.

You have a choice. You can live on autopilot or you can live intentionally. If you want to thrive remotely, choose the latter.

Do you have rituals and routines, to get psyched up for something big… like a meeting, a date, or an event?

Your life is bigger. Create the right habits to motivate yourself.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Use music to pump yourself up
  • Build the perfect morning and evening routine
  • Use daily affirmations and incantations

Love the affirmation that Jennifer Lopez shared in her interview with Oprah (at 39.41 mark):

I am open and receptive to all the goodness and abundance the universe has to offer. I am in perfect health. My children are in perfect health. We are safe. We are whole. I am whole. I am good on my own. I love myself.  I love you, Jennifer. I love the universe. The universe loves me. God loves me. I am beautiful, youthful, and timeless at every age. I am enough.

What’s your daily affirmation? If you don’t have one, commit to thrive and create one today!

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5 Ways to Power Your Small Business Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

The world has been turned upside down. The ability to adapt is a matter of life or death for many businesses, because even when we are past the chaos, things won’t likely be the same again. For most businesses to survive the storm, they need a new game plan.

Survival depends on adaption. As Mike Tyson famously quipped, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”  The sooner we figure that out, the sooner we can get up off the mat and start fighting back.

The world has punched us in the mouth. For some businesses, it may be a knockout punch. But it doesn’t have to be. Take a page out of the Silicon Valley playbook… The pivot.

Remember that you exist to solve problems for your customers. And just because their problems have changed doesn’t mean you can’t still solve them. You just need to think of new, innovative ways to do so.

Read on for 5 things you can do right now to pivot your business and survive this pandemic.

1. Offer More

For some businesses, survival will require offering more than you ever have before.

Take the fancy restaurant down the street (we’ve all got one). With their dining room closed for the foreseeable future, their go-to solution is likely to offer takeout and delivery, keeping their fingers crossed that things will go back to normal soon. Sure, by offering takeout and delivery, they can continue to serve delicious food to hungry people, but their average order value is taking a huge hit. No in-person dining means no alcohol sales, no appetizer and dessert up-sells, and of course, no tips for their staff.

So, what can a business like this do to overcome these unexpected challenges? Offer more. To survive an extended hit to their traditional business model, they need to think of ways to offer more to their customers, driving average order values back up to what they were when guests dined in-person.

The restaurant could offer a White Glove Date Night Service. Partnering with other local shops, they could put together a special bundle that includes a full takeout meal, a bottle of wine, a white tablecloth, homemade candles, an invite-only romantic Spotify playlist curated by the restaurant’s Hostess, a list of staff favorite romance movies streaming on Netflix, etc.

Now this restaurant’s takeout meal has turned into an experience. Something to look forward to. Something to keep the romance alive during the quarantine. And something that goes from a $35 takeout bill to a $99 package that local couples will happily pay in order to bring some happiness and excitement into their homes.

All this, just by offering a little bit more.

2. Offer Less

Of course, sometimes less is more.

For some businesses, the best way to survive these troubled times is pare-down their product or service, and focus exclusively on the customer segments that drive the most profit.

Take a typical SaaS company that offers both entry-level and enterprise-level versions of its product. Sure, when times were good, it made sense to staff up and serve both of these segments. But now? Probably not.

A company like this would need to take a long, hard look at which of the two segments drives more to the bottom line, and is most likely to continue growing (or at least maintain) during the impending recession. Based on what they discover, the business will have a game plan as to which segment (and corresponding product features) become the priority, and where they can offer less.

Now, that’s not to say that they need to (or should) fire a bunch of customers from the less valuable segment. It just means that they should reevaluate the time and money invested in areas such as product development, marketing, and customer service related to this segment. This group doesn’t need a whole bunch of extra features right now, nor can you afford to develop them. Now is the time to focus, and the best way to do that is to offer less.

3. Solve a New Problem

Though it’s easy to forget, the core reason businesses exist is to solve problems for their customers. But what happens when the problem you solve is no longer relevant?

Take Airbnb for example. With people not traveling, their customers no longer have the problem of finding unique, comfortable lodging while away from home. But many of their customers have a new problem: a desperate need for a quiet space to work remotely.

So, what should Airbnb do? Pivot, of course (at least temporarily)!

The company could adjust their platform so that hosts can offer reduced “daytime-only” rates to rent out their home office/bedroom with a desk (one that’s deep cleaned nightly). Customers with a less than ideal work-from-home situation would now have the option to head down the street to an empty, quiet Airbnb listing to work for the day.  And hosts would have an opportunity to still bring in some much-needed revenue.

Same business. Same product. Different customer problems solved.  Not necessarily quarantine approved.

4. Redefine Your Market

When there’s an overnight shift in the global economy, it’s not uncommon for businesses to see a shift in their target markets as well. Your core customer base might disappear overnight. But, there may be one waiting in the wings…a market you previous would have never expected to serve.

And for those businesses paying attention and acting swiftly, this spells opportunity…not only to stay afloat during the crisis but to perhaps emerge stronger than ever.

For example, take Instacart. This on-demand delivery service has traditionally focused its efforts on acquiring urban-dwelling Gen Z’ers and Millennials. These groups are early tech adopters and heavy eCommerce shoppers, making them ideal candidates for the service. But with nearly everyone forced to stay home, millions of Baby Boomers across the U.S. are suddenly signing up for Instacart. What a huge opportunity for the company! Baby Boomers comprise a massive share of the nation’s buying power but have traditionally shunned online retail in favor of shopping in physical locations. As Baby Boomers are forced to adopt the service en masse, this might be a turning point for the entire generation. And for Instacart, a chance to redefine their market. Hopefully, the company is already strategizing as to how they can retain this valuable customer segment once the pandemic subsides. Because if they can keep the Boomers coming back long term, they will unlock a massive opportunity to grow.

5. Update Your Business Model

For some entrepreneurs, the changes brought on by coronavirus will prompt a necessary change in their business model. Are you doing large corporate events? Think about the long-term outlook of the previous business model. Not a great place to be… Customers may no longer be willing to put the same amount of time and dollars when things go back to “normal” but they may be open to smaller events with an extended online experience that integrates opportunities for serendipitous connections.

So, what can you do? Don’t hanker down and wait for this to pass. Test a new model. Today!

Explore ways you can help customers create meaningful connections that go beyond video meetings on Zoom. What you learn may pay off  in passionate, loyal customers that stay with you into well into the future.

While it may be stressful to have change forced upon you, the ultimate expansion can be a positive outcome from an otherwise terrible situation.

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Seeing The Light

A Powerful Poem by Best Selling Author Robert Michael Fried

Some things hazy
Soon will be right

Some things hidden
will come into sight

Some things so wrong
will soon become clear

As we gallantly strive
towards a life without fear

Fortune 500 marketing strategist and best selling author Robert Michael Fried, has spent most of his career directing or repositioning the marketing and sales strategies for blue chip companies. He strikes a refreshing balance between making money and making meaning. Robert Fried’s Best Seller is entitled Igniting Your True Purpose and Passion: A Businesslike Guide to Fulfill Your Professional Goals and Personal Dreams. The book is acclaimed by Guy Kawasaki, best selling author and former chief evangelist of Apple, Cynthia Kersey, best-selling author of Unstoppable, and Marci Shimoff, best known for co-authoring 6 Chicken Soup For The Soul Books, and her prominent role in the documentary video The Secret.  Fried’s New York Times critically acclaimed book, A Marketing Plan for Life soared to #1 on the Amazon Best Seller List, in three separate categories; Success, Self-Help and Personal Transformation.

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Goodbye Grandma

My cũũcũ passed away today.

I’m told she died peacefully in her home and felt no pain.

My story began with my cũũcũ. Her story was one of will power, persistence and principle. She pushed herself beyond her point of endurance so her children would have hope, a future. She worked day and night on her farm so she had enough to provide for her children, enough to share, and enough to sell. She had her children out of bed working before dawn and made sure that was never a reason to cut out school. Late at night they all studied by the light of a kerosene lamp with their feet dipped in cold water to focus and ward off sleep. She instilled in them the value of service, sweats and smarts, discipline and delayed gratification and they in turn passed these values on to us.

As I spent time with her in her latter years, arthritis had stolen the spring in her step and age had mellowed the intensity in her eyes. It was hard to believe she was the same lady who tore through the fields with a hoe or a sickle, carried bales of Napier grass on her back and taught women in the village zero-grazing so they too could provide for their children.

Still, she carried herself with grace and the determination that rang in her voice spoke to her pioneering spirit. My grandmother was the first lady in her country to cycle to the dairy and drive to the market. She was the woman who saved her scarce pennies for a sewing machine so her children would not go naked. She is the only Kikuyu grandmother I know who can talk to her grandchildren intelligently about Martin Luther King and Caesar Chavez, revolutionaries who fought for freedom many miles from her East African village.

I hope that my life is a tribute to my grandmother, who showed me the love of life and the people along the way who have given me joy and a meaning to it all. I hope that my life says I had a generous attitude towards people. That I worked hard, loved much and learned from my mistakes, that I had a vision and lived with a mission and that my perpetual optimism was a force multiplier.

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[Call for Volunteers] COVID-19 Innovations

Hope you are all keeping healthy!

I’d like to celebrate contributions of members of the Alliance4ai Africa community to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, and ask if there’s anyone here with a knack for PR and creative writing who’d like to volunteer on telling this story so we find them more resources? Please contact me.

Natalie (South Africa) – her team at Robotscanthink is using their five 3D printers to produce 100 masks a day to distribute to 5 local hospitals. We are preparing an appeal for other South Africans to donate them more 3D printers, and to raise a fund to buy more

Darlington (Ghana) – his team at MinoHealth has built the most comprehensive map of Coronavirus spread across Africa. He has put out a call for volunteers to help with data labeling to allow him to continue to provide real-time updates on the current situation to aid decision-making

Prof Amo-Boateng (Ghana) – Well I call him Elon Musk of Africa. He’s got his students working on 6 incredible solutions. A few worth noting are Rapid Diagnosis with a mobile phone, novel drugs from Physics (new method), drugs from existing molecules. If any of these are of interest, there are always opportunities to help.

Others are Bayo (Nigeria) of Data science Nigeria, Getnet (Ethiopia) of Icog Labs, and Celina (South Africa) of Zindi.Africa

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Crisis Sparks Action! Let’s Find Our Creativity in Coronavirus

When it is dark, you can see stars.

Epidemics inspire innovation

Epidemics of the past have changed the way we lived and inspired innovations in infrastructure.

For example, Tuberculosis was the leading cause of death toward the end of the 19th century. I in 7 people around the world had died of the disease ranked as the third. While the medical community recognized TB was caused by bacteria, most people in the general public gave little attention to the behaviors that contributed to transmission. It was common for family members, or even strangers, to share a drinking cup, even when it was clear one coughed and expectorated.

The “War on Tuberculosis” public health campaign discouraged cup-sharing. States banned spitting in public spaces including inside public buildings, transit, sidewalks, and other outdoor spaces. Soon spitting in public spaces was considered uncouth, and swigging from shared bottles frowned upon too. These changes in public behavior helped successfully reduce the prevalence of tuberculosis.

Many infrastructure improvements and healthy behaviors we consider normal today are the results of past health campaigns that responded to devastating outbreaks.

In many large cities, rot and horse waste were commonplace. For example, city streets in London and New York overflowed with filth. People tossed their trash, chamber pots, and food scraps out their windows onto the streets below. The horses pulling streetcars and delivery carts also contributed to the squalor, putting pounds of manure and urine on the streets every day. When a horse died, it became a different kind of hazard. Children would play with dead horses lying on the streets. A carcass would be left to rot until it had disintegrated enough for someone to pick up the pieces.

There were also no sewer systems. When people would come to live or work in the city you had 25 to 30 people sharing a single outhouse. The privies frequently overflowed and folks would damp barrels dripping with feces into the nearby harbor. The frequent outbreaks of typhoid and cholera made cities recognize the need for organized systems to dispose of human waste. Filtration and chlorination systems were introduced to clean up municipal water supplies. Water closets became popular, first among the wealthy, and then among the middle-class. This led to plumbing and house reform.

Builders started adding porches and windows to houses as physicians said good ventilation and fresh air could combat illness. This fresh-air “cure” partly incited the study of climate as a formal science. People began to chart temperature, barometric pressure, and other weather patterns in hopes of identifying the “ideal” conditions for treating disease. Today ventilation, access to outdoor spaces, and parks still entice homebuyers.

Epidemics fuel altruism

For example, during the 1793 yellow fever epidemic, there was no formal crisis plan. Philadelphians selflessly stepped up to create a makeshift hospital, and build a home for 191 children orphaned by the epidemic. Volunteers collected clothing as well as food and monetary donations. Members of the Free African Society were particularly altruistic, providing two-thirds of the hospital staff. They also transported people, buried the dead, and performed numerous other medical tasks.

The diphtheria outbreak hit Nome, Alaska, in January 1925. This small region inspired national support and innovation. While there was an antitoxin serum available to combat the disease, the region was in short supply and the town was inaccessible by road or sea in the winter. This led to the creation of the Iditarod, the famous dog sled race. The dogsled teams and mushers carried a supply of the serum 674 miles from Fairbanks, in record time, facing temperatures of more than 60 degrees below zero. The challenges of delivery by dogsled also sparked an investigation into the possibilities of medical transport by airplane.

The polio epidemic of 1952 sickened more than 57,000 people across the United States, causing 21,269 cases of paralysis. In response, the National Foundation of Infantile Paralysis (NFIP), which had been founded in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt distributed around $25 million through its local chapters. The March of Dimes, as it later came to be known, provided iron lungs, rocking chairs, beds and other equipment to medical facilities, and assigned physicians, nurses, physical therapists, and medical social workers where they were needed. The success of this campaign has served as the gold standard in public health education and fundraising since its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s.

Disease can permanently alter society. Public health emergencies have inspired innovations in education, information circulation, and civic debate. The cycle continues today, as media powers and regular citizens flock to social media to discuss COVID-19—disseminating information and collaborating to create solutions.

What will we create in this pandemic?