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  • 12 May 2013 20:49 | Armelle Loghmanian

     “Gender” is a relationship in a particular social context, that is enacted, reproduced, thus it can also be transformed…

    By Alessandra Zocca



    Maria del Rio Carral

    Post-doctorante FNRS - boursière UCL

    Maria, you won a prize for academic excellence from the Lausanne University. Could you tell us more about that?

    My PhD thesis about the well-being among senior women managers was awarded this prize by the Social and Political Science Faculty (SSP-UNIL), because of the originality of the methodology that I developed and of the practical implications of my research for women, health and work issues…I must admit it was a beautiful surprise, a wonderful reward for my work.

    Why and how have you been inspired to research on women and business?

    For many years I have been interested in women and work, in particular in how their work responsibilities & duties fit into their lives alongside their private priorities (family, but also social and personal lives). For instance, a long time ago I conducted an exploratory study on women working as “housekeepers” in Mexico, admiring their capacity to cope with their children, their jobs, their housework, etc… A few years later I was completely fascinated by understanding how women - that have succeeded in breaking through the “glass ceiling” in the private/public sectors in Switzerland - cope with multiple responsibilities and manage to respond to simultaneous requests stemming from different contexts (family, social, work, personal lives).

    What is your job about?

    After my PhD, I was given a grant by the Belgium FNRS (Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique) as a postdoc fellow at the UCL (GIRSEF-CIRFASE Department at Université catholique de Louvain on to continue my analysis on work-life interference issues.
    My research coordinator and I are now studying work-life interferences amongst young highly skilled women and men at the beginning of their career, holding precarious positions in the academic “greedy”, demanding and competitive institutional context.

    Maria, do you teach as well as doing research? Are you doing your post-doctorate research straight after other study or have you instead worked in business yourself for a few years and then gone back to do the research?

    I have taught seminars and courses at Bachelor and Master Level, mainly in Qualitative Methodologies and in Health Psychology at several Universities in Switzerland. By the way, I enjoyed doing it very much! Within my current job at the University of Louvain I have also been a “student coach” for a practical seminar in Sociology, which was a great experience for me too.

    The research you conducted concerns work-life interference and subjective well-being among female senior managers. Could you explain to us what triggered this research and what the main findings indicate?

    Although there is an undeniable increase in the number of women holding executive functions in Switzerland, this population is still a minority (10-15%), considering that 46% of the total workforce is represented by women. Unfortunately some of the main trends tend to focus on either a “pathogen” approach of work-family conflict as a source of stress and fatigue.
    However, there is a lack of scientific literature concerning women senior manager’s well-being by taking into account their concrete life conditions from their own perspective, in a non-reductionist fashion. My study tackled this challenge through the analysis of these women’s everyday activities using a qualitative method.
    Our main findings suggest that subjective well-being is a changing process involving the body, the social and the psychological levels of a person.
    By making sense of their experience, women develop original resources when being frequently confronted by contradictory and conflicting priorities, responsibilities, values and norms in four “realms”: work, family, social and personal lives.
    Among these women’s resources we have identified:
    • Supports giving a feeling of control, such as organisational devices to respond to multiple obligations (paying for childcare, making to-do lists, etc.)
    • Supports meant to let go of the feeling of control such as: relaxing and resting by creating spaces of “one’s own”; taking a 15 minute break in silence, breathing, having a drink, going to the movies, reading a book, going swimming;
    • Social-affective supports, that is participation in several social groups (the workplace, family life, friends, clubs, political commitment, etc...).
    Overall, even though women senior manager’s professional and/or family responsibilities demand a great amount of energy and time, their lives are not reduced to these two realms. Subjective well-being emerges from participation in a plural, changing and often conflictive social context. Difficulties impeding this process were also identified.

    Have you also spent time in a business working alongside a female manager or is your research conducted by interviewing female managers, possibly away from their workplace?

    My methodology was characterized by an original interview device. Women were interviewed at their workplace, or at any other place, depending on their choice. The method involved two interviews separated by a six month interval:
    • The first one consisted in a detailed description of “a day in the life” from a subjective point of view of the interviewed women: it was an interesting way to access routines, habits, gestures, in other words, every taken for granted detail that is apparently without importance but happens to be essential in the end.
    • Six months later each woman was interviewed in a reflective way to discuss the activities described during the first interview.

    What are the practical implications of your research?

    Finally, my research allowed me to create a method and a tool that has been shown to be of great use for women senior managers to work on different life realms in everyday life, on the supports that can contribute to their well-being in their life situation or, on the contrary, what may be impeding this process. Such a tool is based on concrete situations and uses reflection as a key element to “slow down” and think about one’s own life conditions and experiences.

    What is the situation for women in the academic world, based on your experience? Is there the same sort of problems with the academic pipeline as women face in regular business, or is the power more equally distributed?

    This is a very interesting question, Alessandra.
    Whereas there are a large number of women at the beginning of the scientific career (PhD, postdocs), this number diminishes dramatically among higher positions (e.g. Professors, Head of research departments, etc.). We observe the opposite trend among male counterparts…
    I am very proud of being part of a research project where we focus on the first stages of the scientific career in order to better understand:
    • How the selection process of academic excellence might operate,
    • How everyday practices in the academic field ‘deal with’ men and women differently,
    • How gender plays a role in work-life among women and men.
    Gender differences vary among disciplines as well.

    In the regular business, it depends on the field. There have been debates concerning this topic. Moreover, efforts have been made at political and institutional levels to promote women’s careers, their well-being, and work-family balance, aiming to reduce the “gender gap index”.
    However, women are still under-represented. I believe that in the future we should not focus only on women, because this may paradoxically stress their position as if they were “the problem”…
    Men can also be concerned by these issues. For example, there is no reason to believe that “family priorities” are important to women only. By focusing on such a belief, we may indirectly reinforce the “traditional female role” and consequently, the male role as the main “breadwinner” too. Where women are still under-represented, institutions should take responsibility to improve gender inequalities.

    Gender is not an “entity” belonging to people, but rather a relationship in a particular social context, that is acted, reproduced, but thus can also be transformed through practices in concrete everyday life contexts.

    Short Biography

    Maria del Rio Carral was born in Mexico City. When she was 18 she travelled to Paris to work as an au pair, where she learned the French language and attended a French Culture and Literature Course at La Sorbonne.

    This life experience awoke her curiosity and led to her moving to Switzerland, where she obtained her Bachelor and Master degree in Psychology and in Sociology.
    She has worked in different sectors involving research, project management, international relations and teaching activities (University of Fribourg, Geneva and Lausanne), as well as the media industry, where she worked as a “speaker” (French Swiss Television).
    In October 2011, she obtained her PhD in Psychology at the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland. Since January 2012, she has been working as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Louvain in Belgium.

    Concerning her professional perspectives, Maria would like to evolve her research work, but also to focus on the practical application of her findings on work and health issues in order to improve work-life conditions across different professions.

    Maria is fluent in Spanish, English and French.

    In her personal life, her favorite activities are yoga practice (and teaching), arts and cinema. Married recently, she lives with her partner and his son in Brussels.

    Contact Details: 
    Post-doctorante FNRS - boursière UCL

    Université catholique de Louvain (UCL)
    Place Montesquieu 1 bte L2.08.04
    1348 Louvain-la-Neuve
    T : +32 475.85.58.21

    Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.

  • 08 Apr 2013 23:30 | Armelle Loghmanian

     The art of asking the “right” questions 

    By Alessandra Zocca



    Nadine Montens

    Certified Business & Personal Coach, Owner at Talent2Be

    Nadine, when I read the below sentence by Margaret Wheatley in her book “Leadership and the New Science”, I started wondering how approaches and methods could be correctly applied to the different people or organisations, assuming “… everything depends on context”.

    I had the chance to meet you and to appreciate your unique multi-faceted style and competencies, so I thought that it would be great to solicit your comment on this sentence in regard to coaching.
    In a quantum world, everything depends on context, on the unique relationships available in the moment. Since relationships are different from place to place and moment to moment, why would we expect that solutions developed in one context would work the same in another?
    … We are each required to go down to the dock and begin our individual journeys. The seas need to be crowded with explorers, each of us looking for our answers. We do need to be sharing what we find, but not as models.
    ” (1)

    Yes I totally agree, Alessandra, the context and the moment makes the happening unique! I add and highlight the following: what is important is what happens in a certain context, in that moment and what happens might have a reason…. Understanding this, it can open doors.

    Going back to the above sentence, it reminds me of the book by Frédéric Lenoir <<L'âme du monde (the soul of the world)>> (2), I see a link.
    This book is a philosophic novel in which the author narrates how seven wise people from around the world – sensing an impending global cataclysm - gather in a monastery in Tibet, in order to transmit the key to the universal wisdom to two young teenagers. They are inspired by what the ancient philosophers used to call the Soul of the world: the benevolent energy that maintains harmony in the universe.
    They discuss and provide messages about the essential questions: what is the meaning of my existence? How to succeed with my life and be happy? How to harmonize the demands of my body and those of my soul? How to get to know me and realize my creative potential? How to move from fear to love and contribute to the transformation of the world?
    Also in coaching it is crucial to ask the essential questions …

    When I was younger, a ”coach” was somebody working in sport … Now we use the word coach for different disciplines (for ex. vocal coach, business or personal coach) and it happens people get confused coaching, counseling and mentoring …
    Would you like to explain to us your own views and definition of coaching?

    Coaching helps people to produce results (in their lives, private or professional). Through the process of coaching, the ‘client’ (= coachee) focuses on a predefined outcome. “Coaching is the art of facilitating the unleashing of people’s potential to reach important objectives” (Philippe Rosinski – Coaching Accros Cultures).

    The “Coach” is a non- protected, nor regulated profession yet, but it should be.
    I believe that the required parameters, competencies and qualities as well as a code of ethical conduct for the coaching profession should be specified and harmonized such as the International Coach Federation (ICF) (3) is already doing it. Some of these skills are for example: the ability to ask the right questions, the active listening, co-creative partnership, fully presence, to shield/avoid projections and to refrain from providing solutions, stimulate awareness …

    On the other hand it is a responsibility of the coachee to check the references of their potential coaches (such as certification, organizations where they render their services, references etc.).

    As a coach, I practice private and/or business related coaching with individuals.

    Besides the defined ICF coaching competencies for a coach here are some aspects that are really important to me:
    • For me, being authentic and fully present are very important in coaching. It helps to establish the trust in the relationship, and as you know, trust is a basic required pillar for the success of the coaching;
    • It’s also important to be on the same wavelength as your coachee, and listen actively, with a open mind setting.
    • As a coach, my mission is also to create awareness. So I represent a kind of ‘mirror’ for the coachee : Therefore I ask him/her a lot of open questions, assessing when to go further and when to stop the sharpness, sometimes it’s important to push, other times not.
    • I provide him/her feedback, based on unfolding observations (and not interpretations!). Of course, about the content of the obtained information (what is the resistance,…), but also about the emotional field. I noticed that it is so important to name, recognize, and acknowledge the emotions.
    • Thanks to the different certified training courses followed, I can use different tools and methodologies that suit and are comfortable to my coachees,
    • Of course, as a coach, you sometimes need to be confronting and this might not be very uncomfortable for the coachee. Therefore, it is so important to be in the benevolence (= la bienveillance).
    • As you know, coaching is initiated to achieve a predefined outcome. Therefore at the end of each session, asking what the coachee is taking home is major. (Sometimes the answers are really surprising but always so interesting!). Together we define a plan of actions related to what they have learned during the session, and what can be done as homework for the next session.
    • What about providing tips? It is not the purpose of coaching. It’s not a problem if you share some experience, specific tools, or give some tips; sometimes it really is necessary, but the focus must stay on the coachee, and what’s in for him/her. You’ve been asked to be a coach, not a trainer!
    • I really enjoy coaching, every time, I meet so interesting people, whit their own rich and diverse life experience. I love it to see those persons achieving their own goals, and get things moving. And I learn also a lot from them….
    Individual coaching” is one thing; “Relationship and Organisational System Coaching” is another fascinating type of coaching.

    Nadine, could provide us with a definition of Relationship and Organisational System Coaching?

    No person is an island… Everybody is part of a system (family, business partnership, team, communities, etc.) The systems theory views the individual as one system living within larger systems.

    The systems approach looks less at the individual behavior, but more at the interactions between individuals. Relationship Systems Coaching holds that there is more in a relationship than only individuals. Along with the people involved there is the relationship itself, considered as a separate ‘entity’ (= the system). (CRR Global ORSC™ Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching, )
    With this type of coaching, the coaching work is done on the relationship itself rather than on the individuals involved in the relationship. Of course, the individual is important, but she/he is seen here as one element of the system.
    Regardless of which person initiated the coaching, or who is identified as being ‘the problem’, the Relationship Systems Coach keeps an eye on the whole system, on all the items. He/she will make sure all voices can be heard, even the unpopular ones.
    As a relationship coach, my task/mission is to help unfold the relationship agenda, rather than the individuals’ agenda. This is a great approach for organizations, teams, couples, etc.
    You could be surprised by the results…

    You stated that motivation and beliefs might have impact on individual performance and on one’s own development potential. Would you like to comment further?

    Sure, Alessandra. Motivation makes people eager to change their own state of mind and their approach, which – if positively activated - are critical factors for self-development and performance improvement. Non-motivated people can also force themselves to do something and the result can be the same … but what an effort!

    Beliefs can bring you up or down, they can limit or push you depending on whether they are positive or negative. Additionally the same beliefs can be positive or negative according to the context or situation. For example, a manager has the true belief he is very competent, and he believes he is the best judge of the work of his team. So he needs to control the work of his team.
    In principle this control is ok, but if the manager tries 100% control of the team, then this becomes limiting and might block the other tasks the manager is responsible for, or might cause the manager to burn themselves out.

    What inspired you to become a coach? What is your professional background?

    Since I was young I always have been interested in the human being and the sense of life, meaning why are we here, what is the purpose? Of course, these are existential questions, and will we one day have an answer on those?
    During my professional experience, I noticed a lot of people came to me, asking feedback, or to help them reflect on things. I realized I enjoyed it a lot, and it seemed to help them… The inner vocation to become a coach was very strong and I could perfectly recognize myself in this profession. At the same time, I wanted to work on my own. My professional HR life started in recruitment and selection, and meanwhile, it developed towards the assessment/ development centres expertise (evaluation of competencies).
    I felt that assessing only was not enough for me. I provided my client a picture about his/her strengths and points to develop, but I couldn’t help them further with it. So I thought I had an opportunity here to go for a new challenge! I started my own company. At the same time, I started my certification as a coach. I’m convinced it is important to follow a training recognized by the profession as coaching has a significant impact on people. We cannot afford to do whatever we want, it is important to have a methodology, a structure on which to rely. Finally, it is also essential as a coach to know your limits and where your job as coach ends.

    So I attended Accredited Coach Training Programs (ACTP) which includes among other, a minimum of 125 hours of coach-specific training and education, a final exam around all the Core Competencies and the Code of Ethics required by the International Coach Federation, and gained the certification,
    And the learning process never stops… the importance of the required continuous training is also what I love about being a coach.
    After my certification I worked as a coach in various organizations (Administration, Chemicals, Distribution , Luxury goods, Finance, Real Estate, Surgical world,….)
    It has not been easy to become an entrepreneur but I knew inside me it was the right way forward and now I am happy about my choice. For me it is important that I get pleasure and joy from my work, that I can share with others and that I can keep learning.

    Once you mentioned to me that you had a serious accident and you had to go through a complex rehabilitation. What helped you to overcome such a tragic event?

    Yes, I was violently hit by a truck and I ended up with a severe cerebral edema, which affected my short-term memory for a long period. This accident required hospitalization and about one year recovering time frame.
    I had also to make an important choice between two possible therapy methods, one recommending six months of full recovery and the second only three weeks and then go back to work: I chose the latter … And today I’m so happy to have made that choice. My doctor gave me a very clear image about the pro’s and contra’s about the 2 approaches. And it is not because it is difficult that is insurmountable.
    The major problem during my rehabilitation was that I had to write down everything in order to be able to remember things; this was very tiring and discouraging. I still do not remember what moved me forward every single day! I only remember that I had to swallow 16 tablets a day and one day I said to myself <<stop !>> … As you can see, I am alive and kicking!
    But it forced me to work differently, and that brought me interesting awareness...

    Did you get any positive lesson from this hard experience?

    Yes ! The fatigue, the side effects of medication, the lost of immediate and short term memory made it impossible for me to go on as I used to. I had to see life through other glasses… I started to observe things from different perspectives, and it gave me so diverse, interesting and meaningful information.

    Observing what’s happening to you, how you deal with it not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally provides you really enriching information about your own limits, but mostly, it reminds you about what’s essential for yourself.

    The other lesson I learned is acceptance. Accepting what happens helps you to get through it. Easy to say you will reply me, but trust me, when you succeed in it, it is a real bonus you get!

    Short Biography

    Nadine Montens is a Senior HR consultant/coach/trainer with almost 15 years of experience.
    Her areas of expertise include an extensive experience in Human Resources: performance appraisal, executive assessment and coaching, 360 feedback, training, and career counseling.
    She has designed and delivered assessment & development centers, and gained experience as a coach in a variety of professional environments (including the banking, the pharmaceutical and public sector).

    She provides specific assistance custom-made to the needs of the client that is aimed at achieving a specific goal and fostering ownership of the change.
    Nadine works both with individual clients and organizations to help them gain a better awareness of their skills and stretch their development potential.

    Contact Details: 
    Nadine Montens
    Certified Business & Personal Coach
    HR Expertise. Coaching. Training
    email :

    T : +32 475.85.58.21

  • 21 Jan 2013 17:23 | Armelle Loghmanian

     From a story teller to a story strategist  

    Interview by Alessandra Zocca


    Lisa Lipkin

    Story strategist

    Lisa, could you please tell us about the storyteller profession? Is it a profession that can be performed as independent or is it a job also found in a multinational?

    Well, for twenty-five years I worked as a professional storyteller, writing and performing original works on the stage, doing one-woman shows and presenting stories orally, through the spoken word. Now I have my own consultancy, helping organizations find and tell their stories more effectively. So today I would call myself a story strategist rather than a storyteller.
    There aren’t really any formal positions as a storyteller at multinationals, although marketing and communications teams often utilize storytelling techniques and skills within their work. I would say it is an independent profession, one that I seem to create and develop as I go along. Because there’s no formal demand, it’s a constant process of reinvention and improvisation, sensing where the market is going, where the needs of customers are, and how I can maintain my own integrity along the way.

    Do you envisage differences in writing and in style patterns between women and men professional story tellers?

    I think it’s important to distinguish between a writer and a storyteller. As a professional storyteller I engaged primarily in the oral tradition, or the spoken word, which is a completely different form than the written word.
    Apparently neuroscience has discovered that the human brain uses different functions to listen than to read, and that it is extremely difficult for people to listen at the same time as they are reading and vice versa. In storytelling on a stage you need to use skills that allow the audience to catch the message instantaneously because they can only listen in that moment; when you write, you need to use different skills because readers can easily go back to previous pages anytime. Ancient storytellers from pre-literate cultures understood innately how to capture attention and used those skills for transmitting their messages orally.

    I never noticed specific style patterns or differences among men and women. The real difference was in the audiences. Every female performer I knew or worked with shared the same story with me - no matter how compelling our performances were, no man ever came up to us afterward and flirted or showed interest in us as women. But every male storyteller, regardless of how good he was, had lines of women waiting to meet him. Maybe an explication lies in the fact that people feel “dominant” when they are on the stage and this male attitude might attract women, but not men.

    Why have you become a professional story teller? What has inspired you?

    It’s a funny story. I was trying to be an actress, auditioning in NYC with thousands of other hopefuls, getting nowhere. To pay the bills, I worked as a receptionist in an office in Soho, a trendy area in lower Manhattan. It was a boring job. Everyone was away for the summer - and I was stuck there answering phones. So I would read magazines waiting for the phone to ring. 
    One day I see an ad in Smithsonian Magazine for a historic cruise down the Hudson River. I think to myself, “That could be fun, I’d like to do that.” So I write to them telling them I am a Colonial American Storyteller, and I suggest that they hire me to go on the cruise with them to entertain everyone along the way. Of course, it was such a ridiculous long shot, I knew I would never hear from them and I forgot all about my letter. But three or four months later I get a call from some woman, telling me I’m hired. “You want me to go on the cruise?” I ask. “No, she says. The boat will be in New York for one night, docked at South Street Seaport. Climb aboard, tell your stories, and then leave.” They offered me some money so I couldn’t exactly say no and they only gave me one week’s notice. So I ran to the library and took out every book of New York Colonial folklore I could find and managed to put together an hour of stories. They liked it so much they hired me again a few more times. 
    But in the meantime, I became so entranced with the stories I couldn’t get enough of them. I was hooked on the power of these rich stories, which activated every aspect of my imagination and made everything in the city come to life for me. I went on to become the storyteller in residence for the Museum of the City of New York, a history museum in Manhattan, and it really started me off on my love of stories.

    Please share with us more about your production and about your autobiographical work "What mother never told me".

    What Mother Never Told Me” was my most successful show. It was also my most personal piece, based on my own experiences growing up as the child of a Holocaust survivor. I wanted to explore the issues facing the children, or as we call ourselves, the second generation. We were raised by highly traumatized parents who kept these dark secrets and “noisy silences” in the house, and you know, Alessandra, that in these cases children become hyper-sensitive, they capture “the not-said” like radar. The show is series of stories within a large story and it follows my journey towards some sort of reconciliation with my mother and with a past I wasn’t allowed access to. Because of her past my mother was over-protective with me, she had an excessive sense of responsibility towards me, and this was not making my life easier.

    Lisa, you moved from New York to Amsterdam ten years ago; what made you decide to stay in Europe?

    Having been raised in a European home that happened to be in New Jersey, I always felt like an “in between”, someone who never was quite American, despite the fact my father was actually born in Brooklyn. I couldn’t relate to American manners, (or lack of them), their naiveté, lack of sophistication. I especially couldn’t identify with American Jews, who had no resemblance to my Hungarian mom and her sisters and their survivor husbands who were worldly and elegant. So when I moved here it was in many ways a homecoming and a relief for me.

    How has your profession or writing style been influenced by the European culture/environment?

    I think in America, the responsibility is always on the teller of stories. In Europe, it’s on the listener. Europeans are more willing to do the work, to interpret what you tell them. Americans want you to do all the work. So in Europe, I can employ more metaphors and complex storylines and I know audiences will try to figure it out. And I can also advise my clients who do work internationally how to alter their communication depending on their audiences.

    What have you learned from the Hungarian, American and Dutch culture and what have you let go?

    From the Hungarian culture I learned their warm manners, the old-world culture and the cuisine; from the American culture I miss here – in Holland - their progressive Judaism. . From the Dutch, a great lifestyle-- they work to live, not the other way around, like in the United States. Working in a foreign country is a non-stop learning experience, the Dutch culture is so vastly different from the American culture that every day I am learning something new. They say the longer you live in a place, the more you realize how much you don’t know. I am at that stage now, just beginning to comprehend the nuances of this culture and how I can use it in my work.

    Lisa, you have become an entrepreneur and owner of your own company; how has your profession evolved, what do you focus on now?

    These days I am focusing on work that has more personal meaning for me. With the financial crisis, many individuals want to rebrand themselves, figure out what their current story is and how they can tell it to potential employers. So I have been using many original techniques (1) to help people identity their core stories, to tap in to who they are, not what they do. And through this process of knowing oneself, my clients are in a much better position to move others and ultimately sell themselves and/or services .  It is deeply moving because you realize when people are in touch with the stories that resonate most with them, you have really helped them as individuals too.

    Do your clients ever book a series of story-telling sessions?

    Yes, I offer skype story coaching now. People can book a block of time and use it as they need it It’s so easy and it can be done from anywhere at people’s convenience. I recently coached a client while he was driving to the airport in his new jaguar: I was hired to teach him improve his presentations and I was listening to the story he wanted to put across.

    Please share with us, what are your professional and personal dreams that have not yet come true?

    I wish I could raise the money my father needs for his cancer research. He’s been at it for 40 years and has discovered an unbelievable new protein that restores the body’s natural immune system and shuts down metastases. He was way ahead of his time in treating the disease from within. He needs a little more money to get him to a place where it can be really viable (2). It would be my dream to help him with that.

    What is the best training for anyone wanting to become a story-teller? Are there University degrees in story-telling?

    There are many festivals and trainings around these days. It has become very popular. Look locally for a class and try it! Most people are so surprised how much they love the process and how much it benefits them on multiple levels.

    What would be your advice to a woman willing to start the profession of story teller?

    I think to make a living in the arts these days is next to impossible. So my advice would be don’t do it for the money, do it for the love of a good story! And marry rich.

    Short Biography

    Lisa Lipkin believes in the power of a good story. For over twenty-five years, she worked as a professional storyteller, writing and performing original works internationally, before founding Story Strategies (, a consultancy that helps organizations find and tell their authentic stories.
    She has worked with a wide variety of individuals and organizations including Shell, Aegon, the Belastingdienst, Morgan Stanley, and Rituals, showing them how to use the power of narrative to persuade and engage listeners.

    She is the author of Bringing the Story Home: the Complete Guide to Storytelliing for Parents, a columnist with Expat Journal, and the editor of five books of American poetry.

    Contact Details

    Lisa offers story coaching sessions via skype:
    Lisa Lipkin

    Amstelboulevard, 182
    1096 HL Amsterdam


    (1) The Abraham Berger Foundation, named after my grandfather who died in concentration camps. Donations can be made through wire transfer to:

    Berger Foundation for Cancer Research
    City Bank
    1 Park Avenue New York, NY 10016

    Acct 91124112
    Routing 021000089
    Swift code CITIUS33

    For more information on the research or to speak to George Lipkin directly, please contact Lisa Lipkin at

    (2) Lisa’s book, "Bringing the Story Home: The Complete Guide to Storytelling for Parents."
    Here is the link:

    Disclaimer -     
     Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of StoryStrategies, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.

  • 07 Oct 2012 02:45 | Armelle Loghmanian

     “What holds us back in life, both personally and professionally, are unresolved emotional issues"

    Interview by Alessandra Zocca

    Jeanine Crombé,
    EFT Specialist, Trainer & Mentor, 
    Founder of EFT for Life

    PWI – Jeanine, your presentation of the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) - at the event recently organized by PWI - raised a lot of appreciation and interest in the binomial business-emotions. We are organizing together an “EFT Level 1 Certificate Training Workshop” in October, so I will not ask you much about the content of EFT, but could you just provide us with a sharp definition of it?

    Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)belongs to a new class of treatments referred to as Energy Psychology. EFT evolved from Thought Field Therapy, which was created by U.S. clinical psychologist Dr. Roger Callahan. Gary Craig, who studied with Dr. Callahan, is the Founder of EFT.

    EFT is a simple process of tapping on acupressure points on the body. By tapping on these acupressure points, we can release uncomfortable emotions and negative thoughts. As a result we feel better, think better, and handle our lives with more ease, harmony, and effectiveness. EFT is an emotional version of acupuncture without the needles. Instead, we stimulate certain meridian points by tapping on them with our fingertips.
    The idea is that negative emotions are caused by imbalances in the body's subtle energy system and this tapping serves to restore that balance. Properly done, even the heaviest trauma or the most embarrassing rejection becomes "just something else that happened."
    EFT is a safe, easy-to-use, easy-to-learn self-help tool with lasting results.

    PWI - Frankly I suspect that only few years ago the association between emotions and profession or business was not considered “very managerial”; why –in your opinion – are we hearing more and more about the power and impact of emotions in each and every aspect of life, including business? Are the stress and insecurity caused by the current economic crisis contributing in breaking down some old prejudices about emotions?
    Indeed, I agree with you that it was not that long ago that expressing emotions and feelings was not considered part of our professional culture.
    We are all emotional beings whether we like it or not. If we don’t acknowledge and accept our emotions consciously, then we act them out unconsciously, and these uncontrolled outbursts are often experienced as unprofessional in the business world.

    However, recently there has been a big shift. As women, who need to keep up with the big changes that are happening in the world, we are required to bring all of who we are to the workplace, not only our logical side but also our intuitive feminine power. The world needs our compassion, empathy, nurturing, graciousness, serenity, and understanding. In addition, constructive emotions have a positive effect on our health and well-being, especially when we decide to express them in a balanced way.
    As women, we are most powerful when we balance BEing, ENJOYing, and DOing, without sacrifice.
    The biggest gift we can give to the world is our own happiness. The happier we are the more we can give from a place of emotional abundance, instead of feeling exhausted and depleted.

    We have the opportunity to be inspiring role models. Our transformational power comes from standing with and for each other, instead of following the outdated competition model. When we infuse our feminine power with love, we exude a graceful radiance that nurtures everyone we connect with.

    Embodying our full feminine power from a place of centeredness allows us to uplift others with our enthusiasm. And… did you know that ‘enthusiasm’ is the most powerful positive emotion to influence and have an inspiring impact as a leader?

    PWI – If the old prejudices about emotions are breaking down, will this help more women take on managerial roles / Board positions?
    Women who have the courage to step into their full feminine power will have an enormous advantage in the workplace just by being themselves, authentically.

    We can all feel it when someone walks their talk and is congruent emotionally, mentally, socially, and spiritually. When someone with these qualities steps into the board room, we can feel the difference clearly and immediately.

    PWI – Emotions had been considered in the past (and maybe still?) as a weakness or a peculiarity of women. What is the difference, between men and women, in how they perceive and manage emotions, if there definitely is a difference in your opinion?

    Yes, indeed there is definitely a clear difference between men and women when it comes to feelings. Men trust facts, not feelings. More so, they trust facts they gather. Men trust in themselves. They trust their values, their standards and their ethics.

    As a woman our feelings are the most important expression of who we are. For a man, his opinions are the most important expression of who he is. Men put a lot of deep thought into forming their opinions and expect us as women to listen to them and acknowledge them.
    We usually listen to men in an ‘agree/ disagree’ mode, instead of deeply listening to their opinions. If we do listen deeply, we may learn a lot about who they are and what is important to them.

    PWI – How can emotions condition our life? And, on the other side, how can women leverage their emotions for a better life and for professional success?
    What I have seen with thousands of my clients around the world is that what holds us back in life, both personally and professionally, are unresolved emotional issues. We are all smart beyond measure, but certain emotional states are interfering and sabotaging our hard work, and we are not getting the results we want.
    These issues drain our energy on a subconscious level and we are not even aware of the fact that this is happening. We feel out of control.

    We bring our anger, frustration, and other disappointments to the workplace and we try to hide them ‘professionally’ not knowing that other people have ‘antennas’ and pick up on our undesirable state, whether we like it or not. This emits emotional toxicity in the workplace.
    The best way to leverage our emotions for a better life and professional success is to resolve unwanted emotions on a cellular and subconscious level, so they don’t interfere anymore with what we want to accomplish in life.

    If we don’t self-sabotage unconsciously, then we can enjoy being authentically in alignment with our goals and desires.
    During the last 10 years, I have continually experienced that when our conscious mind and subconscious mind are in agreement, we access an unprecedented inner power allowing us to enjoy success easier, faster, and more gracefully than ever before.

    PWI -   
    During your presentation at PWI I was impressed by your ability to “read emotions” in people’s voice. Can you please tell us more about this skill of yours, where you learned to de-code emotions in the voice and how do people “unconsciously” reveal their emotions through their voice?     
    Being a keen listener and hearing people’s emotions in their voices is something we all can do, if we pay enough attention.

    About 15 years ago, I learned this skill in detail at Coach University, where I attended a two year professional coach training program. One of the modules was learning to listen to 250 different things in a person’s voice.
    It allows me to work very effectively over the phone with my clients, because voice technology is more precise than body language.
    We all reveal our emotions through our voice by the way we breathe, our timbre, color, speed, rhythm, what is said/unsaid, tonality, and so on. Beside this technical aspect, we can learn a lot from deep empathic listening and connecting with each other with sincere interest.

    PWI - Jeanine, why have you chosen the EFT amongst all the psychological disciplines?
    The reason why I have chosen EFT (and continue to do so) is because it is in my experience the safest and easiest tool to release unwanted emotions on a subconscious level.

    When I explain this concept to my workshop participants, I often receive the question: Where is my subconscious? And then they point everywhere outside of themselves trying to locate it. Our subconscious resides in our body, in our cells, and in our DNA.

    What we are in essence doing is deleting unwanted programming on a cellular level. Once we have made ‘space’ in our subconscious then we can re-program with EFT our own subconscious with the attitudes and emotions we DO want. This gives us independence and puts us in the driver’s seat of our own life. In addition, most people appreciate having a powerful tool to manage, self-sooth, and self-calm their own emotions privately.

    I know numerous other wonderful psychological disciplines, but nothing compares to EFT in terms of getting permanent results easily, gracefully, and effectively.

    I always tell my clients, the day I find something better than EFT, I will let you know immediately, but so far I have not found anything that is even close to what EFT can do for us.

    PWI – Have you seen a difference in the way different nationalities manage their emotions?
    By talking and working with thousands of women around the world, I have noticed that our similarities are more important than our differences.

    We all want to be appreciated and valued for who we are. We are looking for a love-filled and meaningful life. We want to know we are a priority in the lives of our loved ones, while sharing our gifts and talents generously to make this world a better place for all of us.

    And I love to contribute to this in my own way.
    When I go to sleep at night and I know there is at least one person today that has less pain and more hope for a better life, then I go to sleep peacefully, content, and with gratitude…

     Intrigued by EFT?

    Want to know more? A unique opportunity is offered to you by PWI: 
    Register to the PWI workshop  " EFT Level 1 Certificate Training Workshop" on October 27th - 10:00-17:00

    Short Biography

    Jeanine Crombé has worked full-time with Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) since 2002.
    She specializes in EFT exclusively and practices EFT full-time as a Personal Performance & Life Coach and EQ Consultant.
    She teaches EFT Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 Workshops. She hosts EFT Teleclass Series, conducts EFT Retreats, leads EFT Specialty Workshops, offers EFT Audio Programs, and her latest project... recording and producing her own EFT Videos!
    In her private practice (over the phone and via video Skype) she specializes in complex and difficult cases.

    She is the Owner and President of Crombé J Life Coaching Inc., a private corporation, formed in 1995.
    Jeanine is a former member of the Canadian Association for Professional Speakers, a Founding member of Coachville, a member of Coach University, and former member of the International Coach Federation.
    She received extensive and Advanced Live Training, including Mastering EFT for Serious Diseases in Seattle and Stamford from Gary H. Craig, Founder of EFT. Most recently, she attended the EFT Masters Boot Camp in Denver, conducted by Gary H. Craig.
    Jeanine is one of the first people in North America to hold an Advanced Certificate in Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).
    Jeanine is a Graduate of Coach University in Colorado, one of the leading coach training organizations in the world. As a member of the International Coach Federation, Jeanine's professional work ethics are guided by the Standards, Procedures, and Policies of this organization.
    Before moving to Canada, Jeanine enjoyed a 21-year successful and fulfilling teaching career in Belgium. She received her Bachelor Degree in Education in Antwerp, Belgium.

  • 24 Jun 2012 01:44 | Deleted user

    “A woman who makes the difference” 
    An interview of Paolo Patruno
    by Alessandra Zocca & Beverley Sinton


    Paolo Patruno is a photographer focusing on humanitarian issues and social-documentary

    PWI - 
    Paolo, you told us about an English midwife in Malawi, who is doing a fantastic job to help local women and care for them during their pregnancy; please tell us more about this story and how you got involved in this experience
    Rachel MacLeod is an English midwife I met in Malawi in 2011 while I was in the country working for an Italian NGO. I’ve seen her working in the maternity ward, that’s why I decided to tell her story using my pictures.

    She told me her story: she practiced for nearly 14 years in Spain before moving to Malawi; where she’s worked since 2008 as a clinical midwife in the labor ward of the Bwaila Hospital, in the capital Lilongwe.

    Because of her capabilities and experience Rachel is a point of reference for all the other midwives, especially the youngest ones, she is a daily trainer, through her actions constantly teaching and motivating the other midwives, ensuring that all women and their babies are getting the highest possible standard of care.

    Rachel works with intensity, energy and enthusiasm facing the emergency situations at Bwaila.

    Please have a look at Rachel MacLeod’s website “Birthing a Dream”:

     Rachel with the local hospital team  Rachel MacLeod with her own child Lucas and a Malawi baby

    PWI – How have you become a humanitarian photographer?
    I started traveling in Africa in 2004 and from that day I never stopped. I always travelled with my camera, portraying people I met, places I visited. Coming back home I used to show parents and friends the images I’ve taken, and every time they were so surprised, even shocked, about situations which have become “normal” to me after I have seen them in Africa.
    So I realized that probably I could have used my images not only for my personal memories, but to show and share stories with people who have never heard about the problems I have seen.

    In the meantime I started traveling with some small non-profit organizations, to visit their aid projects, giving them some of my photographs, in order that they can tell their stories and communicate with their supporters and donors about their projects and activities.

    In that moment I decided to become a humanitarian photographer, focused on humanitarian issues and social-documentary, working with NGOs, Aid and Non-Profit Organizations, to create evocative and compelling images which could promote action and change for the sake of the most vulnerable people in the world.

    PWI - What are your plans for the future, Paolo?
    I will continue working with NGOs, Aid and Non-Profit Organizations about their projects.
    I will also continue working; whenever possible, on my personal project for safe pregnancy in Africa
    Every year, just in Sub-Saharan Africa 280.000 mothers die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth; and for every woman who dies, many others suffer injury, infection or disability. 
    Every year 1,5 million African children are left without a mother. 

    A mother's death is a human tragedy, affecting families and communities. Her death endangers the lives of a surviving newborn and any other young children; a mother's death makes it harder for the family to obtain life's necessities and escape the crush of poverty. 

    A great many of these deaths are preventable, when women have access to quality health care services, diagnostic, and treatment services. Most maternal death and morbidity can be prevented when pregnancy and childbirth are attended by skilled health professionals (nurses, midwives or doctors, but women in poor and remote communities are far from the health services. Moreover, reproductive health issues affect most of all young women and girls: in many communities girls still marry when very young and contraceptive advice is poor or non-existent. 

    "Birth is a dream" I named my photography project about maternity in Africa. 
    What is a mothers dream? How far away for African mothers is the dream of a safe birth?
    Photography is a great and strong way of communication and change: through images I wish to raise awareness about maternity in Africa.

    PWI – For our readership would you like to share a couple of little secrets? What are the ingredients and the features that make a picture "unforgettable"?
    What I learnt through experience. To get a good picture I can summarize in two main pieces of advice: first, look at images, photographs of other people, not necessarily professional photographers, because you can get a lot of inspiration for your news photos. 
    Second, and I consider it the real secret to make an unforgettable picture, is to get “close” to the subject you want to portray. “Close” from both the physical and emotional point of view. If you are able to build a relationship with the subject, to approach it with respect and humanity, you will be able to portray the real essence of the mood, atmosphere, feelings you are looking at with your camera.

    And now, Paolo, show us the magic of your pictures, a gallery dedicated to PWI Magazine readers! 

    Click Here

     Short Biography
    Paolo Patruno is a photographer focusing on humanitarian issues and social-documentary, working with NGOs, Aid and Non-Profit Organizations, creating evocative and compelling images which promote action and change for the sake of the most vulnerable people in the world.

    He is interested in documenting global topics, including health care, education, human rights, sustainable development and poverty.
    His special interaction with people, his understanding of their living conditions, is his key to tell and portray stories, because it allows him to approach people and situations with respect and humanity.

    He is working on his personal long term project about Maternity in Africa.


  • 25 Feb 2012 20:33 | Armelle Loghmanian

    When “away” is here …
    An interview by Alessandra Zocca


    Elena Bucciero, Publisher, (A)Way Publishing House

    PWI – Elena, how did you become the publisher of (A)WAY? How long ago? What inspired you?
    It was a decision I made eight years ago after I finished my MBA and Publisher’s course in London.  I was a young mother at the time and, I was looking for a new job. Confident in my professional qualifications and in my previous experience of a few years work for a non-profit magazine in Belgium, I wondered whether I could start my own business. 
    Even though I had a small start-up budget and my revenues were only advertising sales based, I was fortunate to start the publication with a very professional team, who, as everyone knows, is the key to a successful business. 
    (A)WAY is a bimonthly lifestyle magazine in English for international families, it is produced by expats for expats away from home: I was inspired to create the (A)WAYmagazine after noticing that there were a lot of expatriate families in Belgium who were struggling to find information in English, written in a simple way for people like me, whose native language was not English. 

    My initial business idea was to offer interesting and current information to a readership composed of expatriate families, well-educated, willing to explore their new country, curious to familiarise themselves with the local culture, be informed on cultural events and where to visit. I wanted to create a virtual community of like-minded people. My aim was also to “package” all this with a human touch as these people were living far from their home country.  The area I did not wish to deal with was news and politics, as they were not in my field of expertise.

    PWI - Do you feel that your readership and their interests have changed since you started editing (A)WAYmagazine? Which are the most difficult professional challenges? 

    One of the main challenges for the (A)WAY Magazine is keeping its content always innovative, useful and interesting for the expatriatecommunity. It is continuously changing, not only because people are constantly moving in and out of Belgium, but also because it needs to reflect the changes in society. For example, we have observed an increasing number of singles with different interests from families. In other words, it is necessary to be creative at all times and understand your readership. For this reason we organize focus groups every year to get feedback and input from our readership.
    When (A)WAY Magazine was created, there was a lack of information in English for expatriate families. Now with the internet and social media expansion and with a vast quantity of sources the effort is, on the contrary, to help the readership easily find what relevant for them. Internet should# not to be considered an enemy of the paper magazine and, therefore, we have created an on-line version ( and a Facebook page (
      An e-newsletter to update our readers on ‘not to miss’ community events and the most interesting events in Belgium is also available.
    As for many magazines nowadays, another challenge is to keep the right balance between the content and advertising. We follow a traditional 40 (advertising) to 60 (editorial) percent ratio, including free pages for non-profit organizations to support good causes and give our readers a sense of community. 

    Last but not least, is our attention to nature: the format of the (A)WAY Magazine is ecologically friendly. 
    Its size allows us to utilize the entire sheet used for printing with no paper wasted. This format also makes the (A)WAY Magazine very handy and reader-friendly.

    PWI – Elena, what do you like most about your profession?

    I feel very fortunate to do a job I enjoy. I am the founder and the owner of this publishing house specializing in expatriate media, which involves my editor and a team of around 30 freelance journalists, a graphics studio, a web designer, an agency who sells advertising space and many supporters of the publication. 
    I love the incredible feeling of creating something, even with the added anxiety of delivering something that people might question. I love the creativity and the diversity of my job, the possibility to meet and communicate with people.

    PWI – Have you noticed different competencies between women and men in your type of job?

    I think that there is no gender difference in professionalism and I completely disagree about fixing women quotas in management positions: the people who are most capable should be fairly chosen and appointed.

    PWI - How do you cope with the workload of your profession and your family?

    Combining work with family is not easy for women and also might not be easy for children too, but it is possible. You can have different scenarios, but I honestly think the “children should be interviewed” about how they feel about their mothers working crazy hours… We need to respect them.

    I explained to my children that my life is as important as their life. I have chosen to have my three children in specific periods of my life when I was ready, because having children is very demanding. I have a 22-year-old daughter who is studying medicine in London, a 9 year old daughter and a 2 year old son. I also strongly believe that an unhappy mother cannot bring up a happy child. 

    PWI – What would you recommend, Elena, to a woman that would like to start a business like yours?

    My three main pieces of advice are:
                  • Get support - This is a very demanding business and therefore it is necessary that your spouse and family understand this and are behind you. 
                  • Make a clear business plan – In this sector it is easy to fail: 5 out of 6 magazines usually don’t survive more than one year. It is critical to build a solid business plan for the short, intermediate and long term.
                 • Be aware of the technology evolution – We are facing a revolution in publishing, papers struggle and will need to evolve to fit the needs of readers. Advertisers are not yet totally convinced to use publications which are only online, but the new generation is becoming increasingly used to digital support, which is becoming more and more powerful. 

      Short Biography
    Elena Bucciero, born in Russia, has gained a degree in Russian literature and Russian from the University of Moscow and a degree in French literature and French from the Free University of Brussels. 
    She has completed the MBA from the International Management Institute in Brussels and a Publisher’s course in London. 
    Elena’s areas of expertise are public relations and publishing. Elena founded (A)WAY magazine in 2005. 
    She is married and is the proud mother of three children.
    Elena Bucciero, publisher
    (A)WAY Publishing House, Avenue des Saisons 100-102, b.30, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
    Tel: + 32 (0)477 787 125, Fax: + 32 (0)2 639 39 50 

      Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of (A)WAY Publishing House, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.
  • 10 Dec 2011 17:56 | Deleted user

    Back to PWI Magazine - Autumn 2011

    Dear All,
    We will try to include an article about a non-profit organization in each edition of the PWI Magazine (we had one in the Spring edition). This is a way to build a bridge between the profit and non-profit worlds and share best practices.


    Action for Girls: “When we support the rights of girls, we create a better world for everyone”
    An interview by Alessandra Zocca

    Ms. Karen Schroh, Head of EU Office at Plan International

    In PWI we foster the professional progress of women, but we cannot ignore the "little women” that have little or no chance to realise themselves.
    Please tell me more about the PLAN campaign "Because I am a girl", it touches me very much.

    Ms. Schroh – The goal of the campaign is basically to help millions of girls realize their full potential. How? By raising money for programmes that benefit girls, but also by doing advocacy to raise awareness.

    All know the problems girls face: girls around the world still suffer from the double discrimination of being young and being female *(please see the Appendix below). They are more prone to being victims of violence, they suffer from malnutrition more frequently than boys, and they get pulled out of school earlier. When you look at why girls aren’t in school, part of it has to do with stereotypes in their countries – such as “boys are more important” - part of it has to do with the violence in schools that keeps girls out. One of the main reason why girls are dropping out is early  and forced marriage, 15.000 girls a day under the age of eighteen are married according to their traditions. Enforced marriage is very common, for instance based on a study in Zambia and our talks to local communities by 15 years old 75 % of girls are married and by 18 years old 100% of all people are married. We asked these young people whether they regretted being married so young and 99% of them – both girls and boys – regretted having being married so early.
    We know that around the world the biggest killer of girls between 11 and 15 years old is pregnancy, about 70.0000 girls between 15 and 19 years old die annually as a result of complications during pregnancy or childbirth.

    The point is that it’s not just that girls have rights that have been abused and we want to protect them, but investing in girls is a smart investment, because it contributes to solving the root causes: investing in girls and young women has a disproportionately beneficial effect in alleviating poverty for everyone; not only the girls themselves but their families, communities and entire countries.  Everyone benefits, including boys and men.

    Click here to see the video: because I am a girl so what about boys.

    We also know that by investing in girls we will help future generations: for instance: children of women who completed primary school are 40% less likely to die before the age of five, and when a girl receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.5 fewer children.
    We want to get more girls into school; we know that if a girl is educated, she will earn more income and spend that money on her children, there are so many reasons why we know that education is really the key. Therefore, we want to focus on girls’ education, primary and secondary. Additionally girls need to gain negotiation, finance and economic skills, to build self-confidence to help them make the transition from being a school pupil into joining the workforce and succeeding in life; these are also issues we are taking care of.

    You should see, Alessandra, girls are so excited about these programmes that they tell other girls, they are so happy when they know they have the right to stay in school and they are not supposed to get married!  We have stories about girls showing great solidarity, for instance when a girl disappears from school in Bangladesh, all the other girls go and get her birth certificate to prove she is too young to be married and they go to the mayor and convince him to order her back into school.

    Can you please introduce Plan and highlight the differences compared to other similar NGOs?

    Ms. Schroh – Plan is one of the largest children’s rights organizations. We work in 60 countries around the world and in Europe we are in 10 countries.

    Our vision is of a world in which all children realize their full potential in societies that respect people’s rights and dignity. Alessandra, just consider that one third of the world’s population are children.
    We work primarily through children’s sponsorship, meaning that people sponsor a child; in Europe we have about 700.000 sponsors supporting the organization. We work on health and education, water and sanitation, on sexual/ reproductive health and HIV prevention/care and of course child rights.

    We work at the community level, it is a child-centred development approach, in which children, families and communities are active and leading participants in their own development. This approach is based on six principles:

    1.    Our programmes focus on children because they are disproportionately affected by poverty, abuse and exploitation.
    2.    Our programmes are guided by international human rights principles and regional conventions.
    3.    We work for, and on behalf of, children in order to enable them to claim their rights. We also support those with a duty towards children to deliver on their obligations, and hold these duty bearers to account.
    4.    Our programmes promote an environment of social inclusion, and protect children from discrimination, particularly children living in extreme poverty, children with disabilities and those from isolated communities.
    5.    Our programmes promote gender equality. Gender-based discrimination within society undermines individuals’ power to create change.
    6.    Our programmes maximise the free and meaningful participation of children in the decisions that affect their lives, bearing in mind their evolving capacity to understand and contribute.

    We go to villages/communities for long periods (20-25 years) working with local partners and we seek to identify children’s priorities, to prioritize the most critical issues, it could be water sanitation or education or health. We give them money to realize their objectives and we lobby government to do what they are supposed to be doing.

    What makes us different from other NGOs is that we are much more child centred, so children are at the centre of everything we do. In the communities where we operate children are about 50% to 75% of the people living there, so we talk to them, others don’t, because child participation is one of the pillars of the UN Convention on the rights of the child. We ask children what they want to become, maybe someone says “teacher”, but generally they don’t really know; we need to help them have ambitions.

    ; Another reason why we talk to children is to know their fears; for example if you ask adults what it is needed for a new school that Plan intends to build, they will reply teachers or training for teachers; but if you ask children, they normally tell you stories about being victims of violence at school and they stopped going.
    We build schools and we want girls in particular to go to school, but girls wouldn’t go and we started wondering about the problem and then it turned out to be very simple – but very common across all different regions of the world – which way the toilets are facing; if the door of the toilet is facing the school, then it makes girls feel safe, if they face the other way, then girls do not feel safe because they are afraid of being attacked. This is why we really need to take the time to speak with girls and find out what they think, what their priorities are.

    I have another example, after the big earthquake in Central America we are rebuilding all the houses and we sat down and asked the children how the houses should look. They consistently said that the house should have two rooms, and we thought “why not bigger”? And by asking further questions we discovered that the girls wanted house layouts that could protect them from sexual aggression. We would never have found out what happens in houses there, if we hadn’t taken the time to sit down and talk to children.

    How is the current economic situation impacting Plan? Which are Plan’s targets for the future? Expansion?

    Ms. Schroh – I have to say that due to the economic crisis all NGOs have suffered a bit, especially the ones that get grants from national governments, who cut their funding. We get more of our funding from individual donors, mostly through this child sponsorship model, donors cut other expenses but they do not cut the support to a child they have a relationship with. Our donors have been very loyal. We also have also very good corporate sponsors like Nivea; they are really committed and do huge fundraising.

    Regarding Plan targets, there is a strategy till 2015, including growth and improvement of the quality of our programmes. We also have an important on-going action; it is the petition to the UN to establish the International day of the girl on the 22nd September.

    Sign Plan’s petition to make 22 September International Day of the Girl:
    Click here to sign it

    In your view how do the careers of people working in NGOs differ from those working for commercial companies seeking a profit?

    Ms. Schroh – Here people are dedicated to the issue of children’s rights, they believe it, they live it and breath it, they know that working for NGOs is not the highest paid career path that you could choose, people belong to a bigger purpose.
    Regarding the “development sector” people often think about charity and do not consider it is a broad professional sector in its own right: this ranges from programme management in the field, to advocacy in public relations, to marketing etc. There are also degrees in the field of non-profit management.
    Within the sector there is a lot of mobility, there is a possibility to come into the sector as well, but people need to realize you need to have skills that are relevant to the development sector and get the relevant training.
    Another difference is motivation, for NGOs it’s not profit, but change; it’s about people and this is a big shift: you are not only accountable to the board and donors, but also accountable to the people that need your help.

    What do you think about the “quotae” resolution?

    Ms. Schroh – That’s a discussion that has going on for years, I think that discriminations of any kind sometimes need some kind of “positive discrimination” over a short term. I support quotas, but I think they should be a short term action to address a specific discrimination, while what has to be solved are the root causes. I give the example of Norway where it is a “good practice” not to book meetings after 16.00 in order to allow parents to go home and look after their children. Quotas for me are an indicator of success, not the objective, because the real objective is to reach gender equality.

    In Plan we have a very good policy that includes quotas (we do not call them quotas, but targets) to reach gender parity, but they are just part of a comprehensive gender equality policy.

    The intention to eliminate discrimination is so important to Plan that the new Policy on Gender Equality is applied to all Plan’s activity, to any programme**and all staff members across Plan are accountable for the implementation of the commitments outlined in the policy.


    * Examples of discriminations against girls from the Plan website:

    •    They are 3 times more likely to be malnourished, because families feed them last.
    •    They are less likely to go to school: 62,000,000 girls are out of primary school
    •    They are more likely to get HIV: two thirds of young people newly infected with HIV are female
    •    The leading cause of death of teenage girls is complications from pregnancy
    •    70,000 teenage girls are married each day
    •    Millions of girls are exploited, abused, trafficked or sold into the sex trade
    •    Girls are much more likely than boys to be poor when they are grown up. Of the 1.5 billion people living on less than a dollar a day, 70% are female

    ** Plan’s Policy on Gender Equality:

    Click here to see the publications from Plan





     Short Biography
    Karen set up the EU Office for Plan International in 2003 and has since held various roles in Plan.  As the Head of EU Office she is responsible for managing a team working on advocacy and campaigning to influence EU policy, EC fundraising, and communications.  
    Before joining Plan, Karen was a Canadian Foreign Service Officer at the Canadian Mission to the EU responsible for development policy.  
    Karen holds a Master Degree in International Affairs from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and a BA from Trinity College, University of Toronto.

    Karen SCHROH
    Head of EU Office at Plan
    Galerie Ravenstein 27/4
    1000 Brussels Belgium
    T 32 2 504 60 51

     Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Plan, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.

    Back to PWI Magazine - Autumn 2011

  • 14 Aug 2011 17:07 | Deleted user
    Lobbying is a matter of “how” …
    An interview of Francisca Melia by Alessandra Zocca, PWI

    Mrs. Francisca Melia- EU-Relations Manager at European Petroleum Association, EUROPIA- was interviewed by Alessandra Zocca (PWI).

    The term “lobbyist” has been traced to the mid-seventeenth century, when citizens would gather in a large lobby near the English House of Commons to express their views to members of Parliament. Can you please define - for people who are unfamiliar with the term - what is “lobbying” nowadays?

    I would say that “lobbying” is a specific trade, which allows you to position your messages, influence decision-makers and maximize your impact. Lobbying puts you in a position to advocate a defined interest that is affected, actually or potentially, by the decisions of governments and, in the case of Brussels, the European institutions. The end-aim of lobbying is, therefore, to influence and advance the messages on your agenda.

    In other words, lobbying is not so much about the “what”, which can be very different (for ex. defending the environment, limiting emissions, advancing the fight against climate change, more competitive industries, better legislation, etc) but lobbying is about the “how”: Its added-value is supporting you in how to exercise influence, tracing a plan for your to position your views and messages powerfully and effectively.

    Lobbying includes envisioning your desired outcome, planning, coordinating, implementing, building consensus, identifying potential allies, using synergies, the strength of numbers and collective actions: it is a real team work exercise!

    I believe that lobbying is good for democracy. I feel that people and stakeholders’ participation should always be encouraged. In order to participate you need to be aware of your possibilities and potential you have to shape and influence decision making, such as lobbying. You are more powerful, if you gather together and take action.

    Lobbying is also about the “where”, if we talk about European legislation, the “where” is Brussels because it is where most of the European institutions, European Commission, Council and the European Parliament are located.

    So, Francisca, lobbying is a profession that has strong geographical implications, meaning predominantly close to political institutions?

    Brussels indeed hosts a huge concentration of lobbyists … it might look very funny, Alessandra, but the number of people working for the European Institutions in Brussels is about 30.000 more or less, and the number of lobbyists - trying to influence them – is growing from 15.000 to 20.000! Obviously the reason why there are so many people engaged and doing lobbying in Brussels is that it makes a lot of sense. It is a good investment!

    What are the core skills and qualities of a lobbyist?

    Lobbyists are networkers and connectors. Lobbyist connect people, identify and use the inter-linkages and connections between issues …Therefore the ability to connect very quickly with people, to develop trust, to develop and nourish good, long-term relationships is important: everything is based on confidence and reliability. Flexibility and adaptability are also crucial skills to cope with the “tempo” of lobbying, meaning that for some issues you are under a tight calendar with lots of time pressure while at the same time other dossiers are dragging on and you have to show resilience and work for the long-term. I would also add the ability of juggling with several subjects at the same time.  As a lobbyist in Brussels, it is also very useful if you speak several languages so as to facilitate connecting with as many nationalities as possible and - ça va sans dire – you must master oral and written communication. Good lobbyists also value and use the huge diversity in the EU, must understand and anticipate counterparts positions and also manage “egos” … In a nutshell the top ability is to know how to develop good strategies and reach consensus and then navigate through the lobbying process, anticipate, create momentum and take the key people with you.

    Francisca, have you noticed significant differences in lobbying style between women and men?

    Alessandra, you know, lobbying is very much about process. Women are great at that. You have to have the determination, the resilience and focus. You must keep the process and the relationships going, you have to quickly notice the windows of opportunity available along the way, use, coordinate and implement necessary actions, build bridges and, very much in Brussels, where you have so many stakeholders involved, it is all about finding win-win solutions. As a woman, I feel that many of those skills are natural to us. We must exploit those natural strengths. Women do have very many of those qualities, which make for a good lobbyist!

    Do universities support the preparation for the lobbyist profession?

    Actually, until recently “lobbying” was a “metier”, a craft which was mainly acquired through “learning by doing”…
    Often people have landed in lobbying by chance, rather than as planned career choice.
    Fortunately now more and more there are new education opportunities being offered to learn the lobbying practice and relevant tools.

    For example? Any best-practice?

    The IE Higher Education “Lobbying & Advocacy” program is a brand-new master which started in March this year. It is offered by IE, a leading international Business School located in Madrid, dedicated to educating business leaders through programs based on the core values of global focus, entrepreneurial spirit and a humanistic approach.
    The “Lobbying & Advocacy” program is a real novelty European-wide: it is actually the first time that there is a Master purely dedicated to lobbying. There was indeed a lack of education for lobbying and it is good to have a choice now. It is great to offer the possibility to learn the skills of “lobbying” in a systematic, professional way in a leading Business School. Frankly, I am very happy to teach classes in this program!


    Francisca Melia giving classes on lobbying in the Higher Education program “Lobbying & Advocacy” at the IE Business School, see more

    IE is a leading international Business School located in Madrid. Click here for more information

     Short Biography
    Francisca’s education comprises: a Law degree at the University of Navarra and a European Law degree at the Universität des Saarlandes (Germany) and Karl-Franzens Universität (Austria), Francisca has more than a decade of experience in „lobbying“in Brussels in different functions.

    At present, she is the
    « EU- Relations Manager » at the European Petroleum Federation (EUROPIA); she worked previously as a « Senior Adviser » with the European Enginneering Federation (ORGALIME); as Secretary General with the European Fire and Security Council (EFSAC); as expert for the « European Economic and Social Committee» (CESE); and as an external adviser for the European Commission in cooperation assessment projects.
    Before starting her „lobbying career“ in Brussels, Francisca Melia worked for a number of years as a trade and investment adviser in Germany for the Spanish Regional Development Agency IVEX and as a consultant and a European lawyer for the German law firm «Feddersen, Laule, Scherzberg & Ohle, Hansen, Ewerwahn“.
    In parallel, since 2009 Francisca is Adviser in European issues to the Spanish Engineering Institute and has been a member of the Executive Committee in PWI during the period 2008-2009.
    Francisca is the mother of two sons,and further to her Spanish mother tonge, speaks four other languages, German, English, Dutch and French

    Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of European Petroleum Association -EUROPIA, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.

  • 31 Jul 2011 16:01 | Deleted user
    Crowdsourcing in action:
    How to get 200 proposals in 10 days

    By Corina Ciechanow, IT professional with a scientific background

    Mrs. Corina Ciechanow- IT professional with a scientific background.>

    Crowdsourcing is a new term that literally means ‘outsourcing tasks to a crowd’. A crowd is a large and diverse group of people, which converges to a website to offer their services, or to participate in a collective enterprise. You will tap into that collectivity to request that they achieve a certain goal. The participants will expect a reward: it can be paying for the work or a prize where only the best wins the award.  Participants may even do it for free, just for the recognition. 

    Having established my company not long ago, and still needing a good logo for it, I contacted Iamasource, one of those crowdsourcing sites specialised in graphic design. This company allows you to post a request for a logo, a website design and other image branding work a company may need.  They suggest a minimum prize for each type of work, and you can decide to offer more if you want to attract more participants. 

    I opted for the proposed amount, and requested a ‘logo & stationery’ for 300€.  I described the purpose of my company, what I wanted to convey as an image through the logo, and all the characteristics I could think of, such as my preferences in colors and styles (did I want something traditional, modern, funny, classy?).  This website acts as escrow for the designer, so it requests you to pay the prize and their fee in advance. They keep the money until you decide who's the winner.  And if they fail to provide you with at least 10 proposals to choose from, they give you your money back.  

    So there I was, trying to describe what I would like the logo to convey. I can tell you it is not an easy task when your company has not a clear product to sell, or when you are selling yourself, with all your different facets …

    So after an afternoon of projecting yourself and your company into the future, you think that's it, you have done your job. Then you have to rest during the 10 days of the contest, waiting for great proposals to be presented to you....At least that’s what I would have loved.  Having a busy life, I hoped that crowdsourcing this task would take the burden away from me... If you’ve ever had an entrepreneur doing some work in your house, you know what I'm talking about, and you know it's never like that!
    The next day, I was happily browsing through 20 proposals, but sometimes wondering after all my effort in defining what I liked, if any of the designers took the time to read it, if I could redo it in a clearer way...Some were potentially good, so I wrote excitedly to the designers, asking them to change the typography in some cases, colour in others, giving feedback for them to improve it. 

    Busy with my other activities, 3 days were gone before I checked the site again.  To my surprise, there where 173 designs to evaluate! And to make it worse, the designers had posted questions that needed a decision, fighting for getting it right.  You have to be there; they need your feedback, and get anxious if you don't answer them.  Finally they are working for you! But dealing with a 100 designers at the same time plus your normal activities like work and family, takes time. 

    After that, they began competing amongst themselves: there is a system through which they can denounce one of the proposals as a copycat; you have to check this for yourself the accuracy of the allegation.  You also have to deal with the intellectual property registration in your country.  They also have a peer-voting system for the best design, giving you the chance to have their professional opinion.  And that helped. At the end of the contest I got over 248 proposals, 10 which I really liked.  It was difficult deciding between them.  

    All in all, I got such a great variety of proposals from crowdsourcing without moving from home, much more than  I could have expected if I had pursued the ‘usual way’ of doing it.  My problems were basically related to my lack of time, doing it after work, late at night when you have no more courage after putting the children to sleep, but all those problems would have been the same had I contacted a classical graphics company.

    After having tested it, I’m more than convinced that crowdsourcing is a business model that is here to stay.  As I got more than 200 logo proposals in 10 days, you can use it to reach talent from everywhere in no time and at a low or more than reasonable cost.  In particular, it is suitable for mass or collaborative work.  Like the Galaxay Zoo project, where they requested the crowd to analyze Hubble images to help them classify galaxies.  If you have a repetitive or big task to be done on documents, go to Microtask or CloudCrowd website, they have a crowd ready to do simple editing and translation tasks.  For more complex problems, try Innocentive, it is another crowdsourcing site where the crowd generally has more expertise, they are good at  problem solving.  Many other websites have since emerged, allowing people to reach millions of designers as I did, testers, writers, and even getting funding (fansNextDoor, microVentures)!

    This use of crowdsourcing is just the visible part of the iceberg: having access to a large number of people, why would they only be suppliers? They could also be targeted as consumers. Lays asked for their consumer’s best flavour and got a million answers from across India… Look how cost effective it is: on the one hand the cost of the contest plus the prize and on the other identifying (usually tested by sampling) what the users want, plus the cost of the promotion campaign, plus the risk of failing to find what their consumers wanted?

    But wait, there is still another twist that will benefit all of us!  If you are interested, you are kindly invited to my crowdsourcing presentation event organized by PWI Brussels after the summer holidays!

    Corina Ciechanow was a professor and researcher in Machine Learning, a field of Artificial Intelligence, and worked as IT consultant for international organizations as EU and PNUD. She runs now her own company, Waterloo Hills, where she provides expertise in project management and information discovery.  

    She writes at about Internet and data-related emerging issues to create awareness of their implication in our businesses or just in our lives.
  • 03 Apr 2011 01:03 | Deleted user

    Back to PWI Magazine - Spring 2011

    Today's careers? More like rollercoasters… Maybe scary, but fun!
    An interview by Alessandra Zocca

    Roberto Carlini

    Mr. Wim Claessen- Senior Consultant at DBM Brussels Office

    PWI – How is the current labour market evolving?

    Mr. Claasen – According to recent career change statistics (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) the average person will be making a career change approximately 5-7 times during their working life. For example, Americans average 3-5 career/employer changes by the age of 38. For the youngster, the forecast is to change employer even 10 times, meaning approximately every 3 years!
    This is quite different from the past, just think that one third of people retiring now had only one employer in their whole working life…
    Career change might be a voluntary decision, but in these past few years we have witnessed in the market a number of companies opting for collective dismissals; as a result of which, we need to seriously consider the trend that outplacement will become part of a career.
    When I joined DBM around ten years ago, most people interpreted the word “outplacement” as a sort of outsourcing. Now if you ask people, at least 8 out 10 of them confirm they have heard of it and some have already gone through an outplacement experience.

    PWI – Wim, could you provide a definition of outplacement and highlight the difference from coaching?

    Mr. Claasen – Coaching is more about providing people with the tools and the means to find answers themselves to the problems they face - it is about facilitating and making sure they find their own answers. Of course, there is an element of coaching in outplacement, but the latter is more directive. In other words, in an outplacement situation you give direction, you help people by telling them what to do in their situation.
    Let me take as an example my personal experience when I lost my job ten years ago: it was the first time in my twentyyear career that I had to look for a job, I really did not know what to do. I had not written a CV for myself for years.

    PWI – Based on your seasoned experience, what are the key suggestions you would give to people who have lost their job?

    Mr. Claasen – There is not a unique recipe, but for sure my three strong recommendations are:  be positive, stay focused and be visible.
    Fired employees are emotionally hurt, they become defensive and negative, they think they are too old/too young and so on, they struggle to revert to a positive mindset, which is extremely important. The main issue here is that today employees feel they are fired or made redundant without a valid reason …
    Staying focused means defining the search scope: either you want to stay in the same type of job or you want a career shift; it means creating your own plan and following it, not going all over the place from one direction to another. Being visible is essential and includes developing your own network, travelling, getting introduced to people, not hiding yourself behind your pc…

    PWI – Can you confirm that – if well managed – being fired can turn into a golden opportunity?  How?

    Mr. Claasen – At the beginning of the outplacement program, most people think they would search for the same type of job, which is not always based on the fact that they enjoyed it. In this case – if affordable financially and psychologically - it is important to step back, to take some distance and understand which direction they really want to take, to assess how they have changed along the career path. It is the opportunity to invest in themselves and look for the job they really want.

    PWI – In the ten years you have been doing consultations for people on outplacement programs, have you noticed any significant differences in behavior between women and men? How do they react to the shock of having been made redundant?

    Mr. Claasen – Generally speaking women cope better with job redundancy than men, they switch more quickly and move on even if they still have to prove more, to perform more than men in the market.
    Men’s egos are extremely hurt and they tend to blame everybody else, they feel they have been pushed off the pedestal.

    PWI – Coming back to the evolution of the labour market, let’s assume that the forecast for changing career/employer every 3 to 5 years turns out to be correct. Don’t you think, Wim, that people, after a couple of changes/dismissals, will know perfectly well what to do and will not need guidance?

    Mr. Claasen – You are right, but don’t forget that, when they are in a job, a lot of people neglect these kind of activities such as nurturing their network, updating their CV, looking at job advertisements; they get confronted with it only afterwards, when they are losing or have lost their job.
    Therefore the real value of outplacement in the current climate – and more in the coming years – will be to help employees, who have lost their job, to find their way in the labour market, which has become a sort of “jungle”. Outplacement will probably consist of responding to the following needs: how can I contact companies, how can I get in, how can I evolve my network around those types of companies?

    PWI – I guess that gaining knowledge of the different labour markets will be even more critical particularly for expatriates.
    Mr. Claasen – Exactly, you are an expatriate, you work from seven in the morning to eight in the evening, how do you build your network, what do you know about all those different companies in a foreign market, you simply don’t.
    Honestly, Alessandra, what is the labour market nowadays? In the past, the market for somebody living in Brussels was Brussels, then the market became Belgium and then Benelux and then Europe! And what is the labour market today? China, Brazil, all kind of places… Imagine you are interested in India, how do you enter that market?

    PWI – Do you mean that the core value of outplacement companies lies with their international network and database? According to you, which are the main competencies of a valuable outplacement consultant?

    Mr. Claasen – – My personal opinion is that there are a number of outplacement consultants, who are possibly less involved in the actual market, but they are extremely good for instance in the assessment part, in writing CVs.  However how do you get into action mode, in other words into the search, where do you get info, contacts?
    Here is how the outplacement program should bring value, providing information and personalised contacts which people normally cannot find, even in LinkedIn.
    There are other outplacement consultants that come from a business background, that know the market and have the contacts.
    Ideally, outplacement companies need all these mentioned capabilities, a solid international/national network and to stay abreast of the latest developments in the market. Global outplacement companies are able to provide support in international career transitions because they have experts in various countries.

    PWI – What are the main triggers of outplacement, the evolution or the practice?

    Mr. Claasen – If loyalty to firms is diminishing (according to statistics) and if companies have to fire people, but  are willing to assist them through outplacement to find another opportunity, hopefully these employees will still talk positively about their former employer and the image of the company will remain positive. As you know a company’s image is very important in attracting and retaining talent.
    The outplacement sector is growing and will probably end up being composed of a number of big players with very professional people on board and an extended international network. There will also be local players, who are professionals in their local domain.


    Mr. Wim CLAASEN is a Senior Consultant at DBM Brussels Office. Wim is a certified coach in I-LeadTM ( ), which allows him to carry out coaching assignments for Executives and Managers. In parallel he is a visiting lecturer in a business school in Belgium.
    Wim has 19 years of experience in various Sales & Marketing functions within Philip Morris International, covering Management positions across various countries in Europe and North Africa.
    Wim was born in the Netherlands and has being living in Belgium since 1991.

    Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of DBM, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.


    Back to PWI Magazine - Spring 2011

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