Post-event reports

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  • 24 Feb 2012 11:12 | Anonymous
    “The Global South” is a label, which represents nations from Africa, Central and Latin America, and most of Asia. This part of the world is currently experiencing political, economic, social and cultural changes and, at the same time, is offering great opportunities for modernization.
    Unfortunately, the majority of the population of this region is facing problems such hunger, poverty, diseases, human and civil right abuses, ethnic and regional conflicts, environmental degradation. Is the rest of the world ready to “give a hand” and help these nations come out of the existential agony and take direction to convert their economies into examples of modern political, economic and social models?

    Four experts in the area of international cooperation and sustainable development leaded the open panel discussion of our event held on the 23th of February in Geneva. 
    Statistics were shown representing the quickly growing populations, especially in China, and the importance of this country in the functionality of the Global Supply Chain. 
    China owns 40% of the world R&D initiatives, which together with its proved potential of being since decades a world producer # 1, represent an enormous potential and economic power.
    Different on-going international programs are focused on the economic development in the countries of the Global South, based on non-oil trade.

    The control of the use of the unique natural resources of each region prevents from environmental devastation and also assures a sustainable economic growth. 
    More over, these countries have to be prepared to respond to the strong interest coming from the North and the developed countries in the area of international trade. 
    One interesting physiological phenomenon was mentioned – in general, the world should “redraw its mental maps”, which means to think “out of the box”, out of the accepted so far as “status-quo”, and assume that the next world economic rise may come from the developed and event under- developed countries. Ready to see it?!
    Another concept was described under the logo “One future …  one planet”. This model is based on the research and establishment of tools in synergy to support strategic planning towards sustainable development. Only close cooperation and respect in considering the interest of these tree players could bring to a fair and stable base for economic, political and social advancement.
    The building of a better life is a learning process. Its time frame could take decades but if it is done in a sustainable way, the success is measurable from the very beginning. Sharing best practices is something the developing, and why not, all countries should follow to make known the good techniques in policymaking and avoid from doing similar mistakes. 
    This transformation phase is a very complex and important step of the modern human history. It should be done with respect, tact and for the wellbeing of all.
    When talking about figures, it would be a serious negligence to forget about the people. In the developing counties the hanger is not strong enough to kill the optimism of these nations in their efforts to have a decent life. This should be honored with respect, providing international cooperation in help for the sustainable growth.
    The role of the woman in the countries from the Global South is fundamental. Her strength to fight for maintaining the life, her pride in preserving the cultural and ethnical characteristics of the local society and be at the same time entrepreneur and active participants in the recently created trade and production start-ups, dedicate to her a leading place. Her voice should be listen.
    The conference was followed by a nice cocktail giving opportunity for networking and the discussions to continue.
    by Nasya Dimitrova
  • 03 Feb 2012 11:21 | Anonymous
    Our January Geneva Networking Happy Hour took place at Unimail/les Vernets and was shared with other womens' networks and two charity organisations. The "Ladies Night at GSHC" was filled with networking, nice cocktail and a real game! - what an amazing atmosphere to connect with others and to share good practices.

    Check out this short video from this fabulous night, maybe you will recognize some of the faces...
  • 03 Feb 2012 11:15 | Anonymous
    A panel discussion with four speakers led us throughout the world of personal finances.

    Many women use to work part time, are off work for a few  years or decide to set up their own business and empty drastically their savings.

    All these different situations in our careers have important consequences at the time of retirement. Better we manage our proper finances, starting on time, more secure we will be once stepped aside from of the labor market.

    Virginie Guido, Associate Partner at Microgestion made a comparison between the financial situations at the time of retirement for two different ladies. The first one was “hoping” to retire early even though she had not contributed to AVS, had a reduced LPP and insignificant savings. The second lady was contributing regularly to the two social security pillars, plus was conscious about saving. Her retirement seemed to be much more pleasant and secure. She was “assuming” and managing her financial future.
    We had also Patricia Infante from Microgestion who was so kind to reply all questions related to taxes.
    Anne Hornung-Soukup, partner at Bruellan S.A. advised that the most important behavior related to finances is to be proactive. The pension plan will not come as a life jacket but the personal finances should be managed starting as early as at the age of 30, so that once retired or when not having regular or enough income, one is ready to face possible difficulties with enough savings.

    Anne Hornung-Soukup associated to the three legs of a stool the composition of the base of our financial stability – (1) the two pillars of the Swiss social system, (2) the investment in real estate and (3) the individual savings. Even investments in appropriate funds and bonds can be welcomed if we know how to manage the risk.
    As we have very different personal, social and professional situations, the best would be to, again - be proactive, including looking for professional advice and start building our future financial security in an optimal way.
    Assimina Walther, Architecture Expertise Conseil & Immobilier  showed figures and statistics about the real estate market in Switzerland from the last few years. Price fluctuations and barrier levels for accessing to financing have been and are determining the demand of properties. Since this is a serious long-term investment, it should be well synchronized with the contributions to the Pension plan and the possible personal savings
    After these briefs the participants to the event had the opportunity to sit two times for about 30 min at a roundtable to discuss directly with each speaker the specifics of these topics. The dynamic conversations and the interest in the discussions were obvious. Many questions, many doubts but also many good and professional answers.
    Since these subjects require dealing with legal data, statistics and financial modeling, we were suggested individually to take a professional consultation with an expert. How to choose it? – counting on our perception for confidence and judging by competence and experience.
    by Nasya Dimitrova
  • 18 Nov 2011 11:32 | Anonymous
    Again the Mentorship Café proved its success in evoking open and dynamic discussions between mentors and participants. Six round tables, plenty of questions, ideas, experiences to share over the 6 different topics:
    • Launching an internet-based business
    • Developing a winning business plan
    • Entrepreneurial marketing & challenges of high-tech start-up
    • Finance, legal & taxes, accounting and admin ropes
    • Social entrepreneurship – creating sustainable business models
    • The journey to a social business project
    The event started with a visual presentation about the technology used in the elaboration of high-quality hand-made guitars by the company JMC Lutherie. Music, quality, style - a perfect tonus to welcome all participants and to mark the beginning of the inspiring group discussions.
    Our mentors were ladies with outstanding experience in managing own businesses and helping other’s businesses. There were also real examples of how to be a good manager combining mothers and family duties. Especially in hard time, the support of the closest ones is fundamental. Their presence brings later the complete satisfaction from achieving the business goals.
    The participants found many answers in building-up the big and complex picture of how to become a successful entrepreneur. Many noted the extremely positive effect of exchanging knowledge. Apparently, sometimes the inner criticism and desire to be perfect, prevents from seeing that the preparation is completed and the launch should be done.
    The confidence was a feeling, which reigned over the hall. The motivation multiplied and it turned into inspiration of seeing the business plans becoming a reality. To believe in the own idea and to know how successfully to move resources between the different milestones of the projects, are the main flavors of one great realization.
    Here came the positive energy of breaking the limitations of the unknown and the questionable and opening the mind for being creative and move to action.
    A passionate discussion followed in the after event cocktail. We left with a good reserve of courage, knowing better how to prioritize, organize, build models, delegate and express ourselves in the challenging role of being a successful entrepreneur.
    by Nasya Dimitrova
  • 21 Oct 2011 11:37 | Anonymous
    When a Chinese fin shark soup is eaten, somewhere on the bottom of the ocean a real shark is dying slowly… This is the reality for about 100 million sharks per year. The polemic over the preparation of this traditional Chinese dish, a symbol of great honour to whom it is served, is controversial. The tones of killed sharks due to increased fins consumption, is shocking.

    “Our Oceans in Collapse” – was the title of the presentation given by Jim Simon, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Oceana - the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans.

    The organization deals with governments and companies giving publicity in protecting the submarine life.

    This incredible conference was about how Oceana is building bridges withtheir opponents and enemies and how it is affecting and winning policy changes.

    Facts were presented showing the gravity of the problems in the ocean ecosystem. Some of them are:
    • Since 1950, 90% of the big fish in the oceans is gone.
    • There is a biomass composition shift in proportion between fishing predators/low-level carnivores/herbivores of 0/49/48 percent at present, which fifty years ago was 54/18/27. This is a critical distortion of the natural life balance in the oceans. The power in kW/day consumed by the fishing boats increased from 2.8 to 4.2. As a consequence, from 1974 to 2008, the overfished worldwide territory increased from 10 to 32%.
    • It is a responsibility of each country to take care of its waters up to 2 miles off shore but in Europe, only 10% of the European Exclusive Zone is protected.
    We heard the expressions “Hunting for rats with bulldozers”.  This is happening when huge driftnets are used in fishing, called as well “ walls of death”, trapping thousands of whales, dolphins, sharks, turtlesand many others, plus devastating the corals reefs.

    Oceana is earning credibility showing real facts, giving publicity on the fatal ecosystem consequences, trying to make the human practices a national concern and provoke a policy change.

    A lobbying, publicity and advocacy are the main instruments in achievingpolitical awareness. Despite of an individual concern, it is the political outcome, which is triggering the most changes in the legacy system. This is due to the power of voice of the political supporters.

    Publicity and negotiation were used in pushing the management of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, sending enormous ships to the most beautiful places in the oceans, to start controlling the discharge of gallons of sewage and the contamination of the waters. It was the opinion of the proper employees who influenced the company because it was considered that the excellence of the service is very much depending on the satisfaction of the staff.

    If the oceans are saved, many people will eat and have jobs, because more we preserve the submarine life, more fish and more healthy the waters will be, more compromised we will be to the sustainable development and the future of our planet.

    Oceana is using five approaches to achieve its goals: law, science, press, people organization and lobbying.

    To be successful and efficient requires settling short-term goals, making them measurable, delegating who and what, and be clear. Use imagination, give opportunity to different talents, and innovate trying to create awareness.

    Since 2001 Oceana has protected 1,2 million square miles of oceans and innumerable sea creatures. More than 500,000 members and e-activists support Oceana. In some environmental projects Oceana is collaborating with other organizations like WWF and National Geographic.

    More information about Oceana.

    by Nasya Dimitrova
  • 06 Sep 2011 11:59 | Anonymous
    The EPFL Rolex Learning Center attracts with its unique design and construction complexity. It is an unforgettable experience to see from inside the charming style of this building.

    Created by the Japanese Company SANAA, this advanced architectural creature provides in a very natural way space for studying and for having relaxing breaks. It’s modern and multifunctional.

    Even being out of the standard engineering, it gives the impression to have been built offering comfort and enough space for individual and group use. It is cozy, fluid and sensual.
    The corridors do not have limits as in the standard constructions. They are a kind of end-less passages, but at the same time, their curves form  “bubbles” used for studying. The space between them is left as a convenient direct connection between the different points.

    The Rolex Learning Center is a pilot project in every sense as it is unique in its kind. It is not just a library but a multifunctional building created for social and knowledge experimentation. Its unique design and spaces dynamise the platform of what can be designated the library of the future, while creating at the same time an architectural icon.
    The Swiss Federal Institute wanted to have something unique able to stand out to the academic and architectural society. By doing so, EPFL expected to compete with the highest international worldwide standards similar to those of MIT or Cambridge campus.

    Excellence is intended not only with laboratory or academic production and recognition but also by its infrastructure facilities. By providing top class architectural and engineering facilities the institute expects to attract also world top class staff and alumni.

    With these goals in the horizon and with its first built achievement open to the public since may 2010, EPFL and this building entered very quickly in the “mouth” of the worldwide medias.
    Through an International competition made in 2005, SANAA won the commission of the Rolex Learning Center. The project will take 4 years to fully develop and the construction approximately 2 years. It represents a hard work not only because of its engineering complexity, but also because of the clash of two very strong cultures – the Japanese and the Swiss ones.

    A Japanese compromise in combination with a feminine and sensual woman’s approach, as one of the leading architects of SANAA is a woman, is put in collaboration with the “Swiss made”. The result is a building comparable to no other.
    The Japanese project is the most futuristic one. In its original plan, at the time of the competition, the shells slabs were considered as a mix of natural highly compressed glued fibers to provide a strong and yet light structure, something so unusual that had to be reconsidered to something more realistic to the Swiss highly demanding norms and standards. Architram, the Swiss local architect firm provided the Swiss know how and helped SANAA redesign the whole project changing the core material of the slabs to a special kind of gel-concrete.
    The work for the project development is very complex and intense, leaving few times for the architectural team to sleep. The enormous difficulty in building the curved slabs and the logistics involved lead also to a documentary that testifies the whole challenge from the start until its end.
    The shells by themselves - the gel-concrete slab arches, with up to 70 meters spans, are not responding to the engineering principals of the stand-alone arch. And the multi 3D directional geometry is so complex that thousands and thousands of hours of parametric 3D design software are needed to masterise these curved slabs only.
    During the construction of the biggest shell, a non-stop process that lasted 3 nights and days, a concrete truck arrives on average every 15-20 minutes to deliver the special concrete-gel. To make it more challenging, as if the task is already not complex enough, the weather offer nothing better than heavy rain and the chilly Bise.
    Hundreds of workers are involved in continuous shifts. And the volume of pure manual work is very high. The formwork that shapes the future slab is made of unique boxes that were cut out from plywood using laser cut processes and placed on site by machinery   equipped with GPS. The precision is extremely high with tolerances of up to 1 cm. In a building of approximately 165 long per 135 meters wide.
    Considering its size and slopes and the fact that it consists of a unique continuous surface, the building is often submitted to very significant deformations. The solution to these is to provide moveable welding pieces in its most parts, particularly the windows and courtyards. These are not fix as in most common buildings, but moveable like on a bridge.
    Due to its complexity, the cost of this project is above standard public building cost and its construction was only possible thanks to the sponsorship of institutions like Rolex, Sicpa, Nestle, Logitech, Credit Suisse, among others.
    The building can take up to 860 student working places and its main floor surface covers approximately 19'000 m2. The library counts approximately 500'000 publications and its open to the public.

    Cited as being the only library that can be seen from the space, due to its size, it is conceived to supply the contemporary academic demand of information, not only in its printed form but also electronically. When it was concluded, the Japanese firm was awarded the Pritzker prize 2010, the Nobel of architecture.

    The Rolex Learning Center visit finished with a cocktail enjoying the elegant atmosphere of the south west side bathed with a beautiful sunset light.

    Authors: Nasya Dimitrova & Hugo Duarte
  • 20 Jun 2011 10:42 | Anonymous
    "It’s a bit of science and a bit of art”, we do it up to 15 times a day, throughout our lives, and according to a USA study, men are more keen to do it than women.

    Negotiation, whether it’s haggling over the price of a Turkish carpet, supervising children’s playtime, buying a new car, or asking for a pay increase, can be improved with a knowledge of the techniques and lots of practice. Giuseppe Conti has had plenty of practice, he is currently in charge of Services Procurement at Merck Serono Global HQ in Geneva, with extensive international experience in procurement leadership roles (P&G, Novartis, Firmenich), and is a lecturer in the fields of negotiation and change management at leading European business schools.

    Giuseppe Conti treated his audience to a lively presentation based on his four-point guide to negotiation. His professionalism and passion shone throughout, as he combined academic research findings with his personal experience and insight. He shared some techniques and reflections in his 4 point plan.

    When we negotiate, is it a ‘confrontational showdown, reminiscent of a shoot out’ or a ‘harmonious waltz’? Part 1 of Giuseppe Conti’s guide was about our attitude. Our attitude affects our behavior, and that of the person we are negotiating with.
    If it is our own request for a raise, we need to be convinced that we deserve that increase, in order to be convincing to others. An effective negotiator sees both parties’ perspective, so much so that she/he can present the other party’s argument as well as their own.

    The second part of the guide discussed the importance of preparation, relevant to many aspects of business and indeed private life. Mr Conti shared results from an Accenture study showing that a prepared non-expert negotiator enjoyed a 60% chance of success, whereas for an unprepared expert negotiator the chance of success was only 40%.
    An example was given of steps we could take to prepare for buying a car:
    • We can consider expert reports,
    • comparing different models/manufacturers,
    • talking to users,
    • visiting different garages,
    • looking at sales statistics, and
    • finding out what the typical margin is.
    What we find out helps us negotiate the best deal.

    Included in the preparation is an assessment of the balance of power. This is affected by:
    • How many alternatives are available, should the negotiation fail, (known as the Best alternative to a Negotiated Agreement or BATNA).
    • How strongly we desire or need the item under negotiation.
    • What risks are we are prepared to take-the more risk we are willing to take, the more powerful we are.
    • The superior charisma or authority of one party.
    • How urgently we need the item and
    • What the relationship is between the parties.
    The last aspect of preparation is to negotiate the right deal. If, for example we are negotiating pay rates for a nanny, is negotiating the lowest pay rate the best deal if what we are looking for is a person who will offer the child a good education, be reliable and flexible? There are creative ways, in the terms offered, to obtain a ‘win-win’ result, for example: offer further education, or more holidays but with less flexibility.

    The third part of the guide concerned what to do at the negotiating table. The person who asks the questions leads the negotiation. Open-ended questions, especially if they encourage the other party to reconsider their thinking are important.

    A question, which shows that we have listened to the other party, works well. And, after the good question, keep silent for the reply.

    Timing is important, consider, for example, end of quarter, end of replacement cycle, and when might be time to make a new proposal or change the offer.

    Active listening (including non-verbal behaviour), shows respect for the other person’s opinions, and enables us to focus on the content.

    If questions lead the negotiation, emotions shape them.  Despite the preparation, adopting the right attitude and listening actively, the discussion can still become emotional. At this point the active listening becomes empathetic listening, and includes listening with our eyes, our ears and our heart.  We suspend our own thoughts and judgment, and feed back what the other party is saying, to show our empathy. Giuseppe Conti suggested we practice establishing rapport and being empathetic, and that we manage our emotions. Both rational and emotional messages have a place at the table.

    Just how good are we at recognizing emotions? Interestingly, studies have shown that there are six emotions which are globally recognized. And Giuseppe Conti tested us to see if our recognition supported the studies. By and large they did, with a few people hesitating between fear and surprise!

    What is the difference between a win-win and a win-lose attitude? Quite simply, the win-win attitude (creating value) is about relationship building, using objective arguments, exploring creative options (like the Nanny scenario).
    The win-lose attitude (claiming value) is the ‘Turkish carpet trader’ scenario, when the first offer is aggressive to establish an entry position. Here we do not give anything away, we learn as much about the other partner and their BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) and we manage the concessions.

    The last point of Giuseppe Conti’s plan concerned personal standards and ethical behavior. On a personal note, his words do not just relate to purchasing, but equally to many areas of business, including marketing. People do business with people they trust, and ethical behavior builds credibility over time. We should keep our promises, become partners once the deal is reached, and refrain from any activity which will betray that hard-earned trust.

    He finished by repeating that negotiating is a skill, and practice is the key to success.

    Questions from the audience:

    We were able to get more wisdom from our speaker during question time:

    We learnt that written negotiation is less effective than sitting around the same table, since we cannot see non-verbal or emotional behavior.

    Procurement is a 7-step process, and negotiation is step 6, so there are many more facets to procurement than we heard about during the evening.

    What about cultural differences?
    This is a minefield. Clearly respecting etiquette is important, and we should find out about that before the negotiation. Stereotyping should be avoided, and stereotypes go beyond nationalities and cultures in the usual sense of the word, companies may have a very specific culture as well. One large difference, for example, is whether the party looks at the big picture or focuses on detail.

    And what about the difference between men and women at the negotiation table?

    The biggest difference is that most of the time, men tend to negotiate and women don’t, (found in a US survey).  And the reasons can be found in our upbringing and culture. Women tend to be more modest, and are expected to be compliant and to conform to policies. So Mr Conti’s advise for us is to go into negotiation more readily, and to take a firm position. We are better at win-win situations and need to improve in win-lose ones.  And that was where we lost the negotiation in favour of networking over a glass of wine!

    Submitted by: Jane Rowsell
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