We live in a strange world. In privileged corners of the globe you find an overwhelming wealth with extravagant consumer behaviour and a lot of complaining people, who can’t get enough. In many other parts of the world people are living – and dying - under terrible, poor conditions, but they invite you to their home and share the little they have. Some of us get angry when the cost of a newspaper or television subscription is raised with 4 %, whereas others are deprived a free press and the right of expression. In the past year I have met a number of such paradoxes.
International development aid
In November I was in Lesotho on field visits to CARE projects in areas of the country which due to global warming are in the process of being turned into desserts and where 30 % of the population is infected by HIV/Aids. They are offered free medicine, but have difficulties using it due to the lack of proper nutrition. Also in Denmark and many other rich countries we know of nutrition problems – but of a quit different kind. We are eating too much and are now threatened by serious diseases due to overweight.
The Lesotho trip was made in connection with a CARE International global conference in Johannesburg gathering some 400 CARE people coming from most of the 70 local CARE offices in third world countries and guests for four days of discussion and exchange of experiences. The result of the US presidential election a few days previously really lifted the spirit of the conference. Addressing the conference Bishop Desmond Tutu was wearing a blue “Yes we can” cap. Following a governance reform of CARE International I was appointed to its Executive Committee looking forward to join the committed team leading this important organisation.
Media – two kinds of crisis
In Denmark newspaper companies have in resent years been involved in a deadly battle over reader- and advertisement market shares. One of the dominating television stations is economically on its heels. Following the intense debate you might get the impression that the whole media business is threatened.
In many European countries outside the little North-western corner of the continent media people and their informed audiences are involved in a different kind of battle. Here governments are moving in and taking control leaving less and less open space for free media. Also in the past year it has been my privilege to assist a number of journalistic NGOs, individuals and public broadcasters worried about the still worsening situation for a free press and the democratic rights of free expression. In November I participated in a start-up conference hosted by the Open Society Institute, which is now initiating a project to look into the influence digitisation will have on media politics (cultural pluralism, democratic processes, freedom of speach etc.)
Management and symphony orchestras
I met a paradox of a very different kind when I was asked by the five Danish regional symphony orchestras to assist them improving the co-operation between the soloplayers and tuttimusicians. The orchestra culture embraces both a very complex structure of conflicts and a number of unusual forces enabling the orchestra, contrary to much textbook managerial theory, to perform at an artistically high level. In the autumn I was invited to present the project at a European radio symphony orchestra conference in Glasgow.
Thanks to my attachment to the Copenhagen Business School I have also participated in a number of projects analysing resent changes in public administration, governance and leadership. In May I was appointed chairman of the Board of Roskilde University now in the middle of a very important process of educational reform.
All in all a very busy and fruitful year not leaving much time for family life. In the summer my wife and I cleared the calendar and travelled 4,000 miles by car through 18 Eastern US-states from Chicago to Charleston (see map here). A marvellous country also that full of contrasts and paradoxes – as the rest of the world.