WHT’s chairman André Hoffmann generously invited the WHT to join him in his Sustainability tent at the World Economic Forum 2019, in Davos. A group of our scholars and alumni travelled to Switzerland for the event where they presented the following panel:
Young Voices of Hope: perspectives from the latest wave of emerging leaders
The following alumni made brief presentations about their development work in the fields of Innovation, Business and Sustainability. Click their names to watch their full presentation:
That question stayed
with us unanswered, hanging in the air as we hopped on the Oxford-London train,
buzzed through busy London streets on to Aubrey House, which awaited us in all
its splendour and peace.
Quick look around
the gardens, practice pitches and stock up on sugar for the business panel
grilling – the baklava, strawberries and brownies were delicious!
And we roll:
“DocLink is a private messaging platform for doctors and their patients that provides out-of-hours communication on urgent medical matters.”
“Project Dastaan brings India/Pakistan Partition to life through Virtual Reality.”
The business panel grills us:
“How did you calculate the initial customer uptake?”
“Who will develop the messaging platform and why don’t you partner with the existing ones?”
“What is the upfront investment in the VR technology?”
After the sweat, the
treat. Intriguing conversations with fascinating people, their stories boggling
“I reduce the number of maternal and infant deaths at birth in India.” “I publish books.” “I pioneered University IT systems.” “I invest in sustainable development projects.” “I’ve advised on the Rohingya refugee crisis.” “I’m making diagnosing Ebola more efficient.” “I’ve designed an online education platform to bring access to information for all.”
And the speeches: “The leadership programme taught me how to fight negative narratives in the Global South,” says June, our brilliant Kenyan water engineer.
“Education is a game changer for every human being, it is what sets us free,” chimes in Antonio, Argentina’s rising political star. “We have a moral duty to those who weren’t given the opportunity.”
more impressive deeds to be inspired by, more aha moments.
The night is winding
down and the scholars are slowly moving to the pub – ties are loosened, heels are
lost. Here we are again for one last time, just the 27 of us, to share laughter
and each other’s company. Nothing has changed, no bonds have been lost, despite
the busyness of Trinity term and exams.
We gift the last
birthday photographs, ignore Nik’s calls for prolonged philosophising in pubs, hop
on buses and miss them, and in the dim light of late-night London coaches we continue
What do WE want this community to mean? What is our role in it in 30 years’ time?
In its commitment to foster public-service oriented leaders, the Leadership Programme encourages first-year WHT Scholars to undertake a pro-bono project of their choice. Scholars are permitted to do this in Oxford, their home country or elsewhere, with the only requirement being that it involves engagement in unpaid public service. Many of our scholars embark on dynamic public service projects across the globe. Antonio Beun (Argentina, MPP, Louis Dreyfus Weidenfeld-Hoffmann) shares his experience below:
Mentoring Korean youth in the Diaspora – a WHT probono project by Antonio K Beun
The Korean community in
Argentina is roughly 30.000.
The first Koreans arrived with nothing but their shirts on their backs 55 years
ago. They were poor but struggled mightily and achieved upward social mobility
through the textile industry. What they have done is formidable. As a close
example, my parents arrived in Argentina with only $20 and yet they managed to
provide me and my brothers the best education available.
Nevertheless, revenues within the
textile industry create a phenomenon similar to the one known as the ‘oil
curse’, applicable to several nations with plenty of natural resources. Specifically,
textile businesses created disproportionate wealth. While they allowed many
Korean families to achieve upward social mobility, they also suffocated other
In addition, ‘behavioural barriers’
prevented subsequent generations from leaving this comfort zone and innovating.
The community is now facing stagnation and lack of diversification, since new
generations choose to continue with their family businesses instead of pursuing
higher education and other economic activities. This is not harmful in itself however;
it leaves the community’s full potential unfulfilled. This same pattern
replicates in many Korean diasporas throughout Latin America.
Identifying the right problem
Behavioural and social barriers
According to behavioural and psychology literature, social factors can drive patterns of behaviour. We adopt behaviours through social learning. In other words, we adopt behaviour by observing our environment and reinforcing what we have picked up through social networks (Bandura, 1977). This theory casts some light on what happens to the Korean community in Argentina and other parts of Latin America: the vast majority is dedicated to the textile business and this is a salient characteristic that defines the community in terms of behaviour and identity.
Identity shapes choice
According to Tajfel, we also
adopt identity by belonging to a certain social group. And this is important
because a person’s identity affects behaviour and choices (Akerlof, 2000). ‘Belonging’
or feeling associated to a certain social group has a great influence in how we
choose occupations and where we draw the limits of our aspirations. This also
explains why the second generation does not pursue higher education: identity
economics shows that even if individuals have easy access to education, they
might choose not to, in order to keep on belonging to a social group. As such,
pursuing higher education within some groups would disrupt the routine they
maintain within their social networks – from which they derive their sense of
Preference for the familiar
Finally there is a
familiarity bias. Individuals tend to prefer things that they already know and
understand, compared to things they do not. The positive side is a constructed
feeling of foreseeability. The downside is the path dependency to what is
familiar. In the case Korean communities, teenagers often choose a job related to
the community’s textile business over education, despite the seemingly obvious
gains of formal qualifications.
“a one sided story is nothing more than a monologue. In other words, one-sided stories highlight not the presence of discrimination, but the lack of dialogue about what a community wants to be in a certain country. “
Antonio K Beun (Argentina, MPP, Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann)
Theory of Change
I believe that the social
and behavioural barrier regarding aspirations and social preferences of every
Korean community in Latin America can be overcome. My idea is simple: I
leverage on social influence to address the problem. I sustain my argument in
many research papers that show how social influence through mentors can improve
aspirations (Beaman – Duflo, 2012; Breda 2017). Interventions which seek to
address aspirations should have a knock on effect if successful. In this
light, I have been
volunteering through different organisations, activities and programs as a
mentor for younger generations of the Korean community and diasporas in Latin
America. I have been working closely with the diaspora in Argentina, but an
opportunity to visit Guatemala arose thanks to the invitation of the Korean
Embassy to work with the Korean community there.
Launching the project in Argentina
In Argentina, I designed a mentorship program
with the Overseas Korean Traders Association, the Korean Embassy and other
NGOs. We searched for talented young leaders within the community and provided
them with a week-long workshop inspiring them into taking leading roles and
guiding them with practical tools of leadership.
We worked on identity crisis and built
strong bonds between mentors and participants. The program was divided into:
personal development and identity, negotiation and communication skills, basic
knowledge about the public, private and non-profit sector of Argentina.
Our goal was to bridge the gap between Asia
and Latin America through young, multicultural and diverse Korean-Argentine
leaders who would facilitate communication and exchange from relevant positions
in the public, private and non-profit sector. We had two sets of customers:
Korean parents interested in the education of their children and Korean or
Korean descendant students between the ages of 16 and 22. Since 2015, we have
mentored more than 100 students per year.
the project in Guatemala
It was not possible to replicate the
same experience in Guatemala due to time constraints. However, I was able to
work for a long-day workshop with more than fifty participants between parents
and students. In this opportunity, I opened with an
initial talk stressing on the similar origin I shared with them, because
perceived similarity is fundamental for trust-building. I then highlighted the
idea with examples (that I frequented the same type of Korean restaurants as
them, the church, etc.). Finally, I showed them that I progressed in my career
because of hard work rather than because I was gifted.
In the second part of the day, I worked individually with students addressing their concerns. Something that surprised me was that these were students that needed much more than social catapults, such as resources or money. In fact, their biggest demands and questions were not around a lack of access to good education, but a lack of role models to follow or consult. A second problem that was common among all students was the lack of integration with the Guatemalan society and the resulting prejudice against Asian communities. I argued that the community should stop regarding the issue as a consequence of discrimination. Instead, think of it as a consequence of a lack of conversation.
I explained that a one sided
story is nothing more than a monologue. In other words, one-sided stories
highlight not the presence of discrimination, but the lack of dialogue about
what a community wants to be in a certain country. An immigrant community that
talks with the host country can negotiate the limits of its identity,
accommodate its integration and contribute to the future of that society. In
contrast, the community that does not attempt to generate this conversation,
contributes passively, to feed prejudices and, thus, stereotypes. The result of
the workshop was satisfactory and it was especially helpful that I could work
with students and their parents at the same time.
Asserting Africa’s Relevance; locally, continentally, globally – a reflection by Sarah Michieka
The 2019 Oxford Africa Conference was centered around the theme of asserting Africa’s Relevance: Locally, Continentally and Globally. The conference began with several satellite events leading up to the main conference events at the end of the week.
the Roundtable on Continent and Diaspora Collaborations for African Development
event, we heard from several presenters and discussants including Ambassador
Johanna Svanikier and Oxford Alumni and former Africa Society President Hugh
Quarshie before beginning our discussion on the potential for collaboration and
impact on the continent. As this was the 60th year of the Oxford University
Africa Society, we took time to reflect on the previous accomplishments in
government, business, and arts of previous alumni from the continent and
discussed our generation’s potential impact. It is often easy to speak about the challenges facing the
continent, from youth unemployment to government, but as Hugh Quarshie reminded
us, “We may have got it wrong, but it’s
not too late to correct.”
that inspirational roundtable, the main conference scheduling began on Friday
with an opening speech and Q&A with Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Founder And Chairman of
the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Dr. Ibrahim spoke about his career and how experiences
guided him to build the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Dr. Ibrahim urged us to take on
the challenges of public affairs with the same passion and determination that
we bring to our pursuit of of academic and professional success. And finally
Dr. Ibrahim offered guidance and reflection on how we can be intentional and
thoughtful about our purpose and impact as Oxford students and future Oxford
next day was filled with panels, debates, interesting addresses, and an
innovation fair. We covered wide ranging topics including the Utilization of
Africa’s Cultural Capital for Social and Economic Development, Challenging the
Status Quo for Good Governance, and Leveraging Innovations in Agritech and
Agribusiness on the Continent.
The 2019 Oxford Africa Conference was an exhibition of the great potential of the continent as well as a poignant reminder of the responsibility and the privilege we have in contributing to the realization of that potential. It is easy to get caught up in my time at Oxford especially during exam season. However, events like the 2019 Africa Conference allow me to pause, reflect on my purpose, and consider how I can best utilize this opportunity to study at Oxford as a Weidenfeld-Hoffmann scholar. I was able to reflect on how to prepare for a life of service; As Dr. Ibrahim noted, “we cannot succeed if society around us is failing;” success is not only about accolades and degrees, it’s about making an impact on the society around us.
In Colombia, more than 11000 lawyers graduate annually from the 137 programs in the Country that are recognized by the Ministry of Education. The rate of lawyers per one hundred thousand inhabitants is 438 in Colombia, whereas it is 72 in France and 23 in Japan. On the other hand, the population does not know its fundamental rights and the existing knowledge is not homogeneous among its different groups. From the general population, 65% expresses knowing their rights, but this decreases drastically as one reaches the population living in extreme poverty (28%). In spite of the initiatives developed in Colombia to empower people in matters of law, there is no continuity nor clear policy. In addition, it could be determined that, of the population in the middle of a conflict, most decide not to do anything and, from those who decide to do something (43%), only 10% come to the attention of the judges, which might be an indicator of access barriers.
Access to justice for poor people is not recognized by the population as a right but as a privilege and it is only guaranteed by the Public Ministry and by the Consultorios Jurídicos (mandatory social work for law students). This leads to the fact that citizens who most need a lawyer, leave their cases in hands of the most inexperienced people.
When I was studying law I decided, taking a first step towards these
identified needs, to do legal consulting brigades for people with low income. While
working in field, this project enabled me to test and validate the hypothesis I
had, that low-income populations are not aware of all their rights.
On these brigades, we went once every 3 months (more formally
since June 2015) with two other lawyers, to forgotten and underprivileged
neighborhoods and spent whole afternoons with members of the communities in
order to help solve their concerns.
As part of my Weidenfeld Hoffmann programme, I continued to
develop these legal brigades, where some cases that can be worked online were
sent to me on a monthly basis. Since I started my MBA at Oxford, I have
personally worked in 21 cases of a pool of more than 135 cases. Topics went
from family (32%), criminal (28%) and labor law (19%), to simpler requests such
as understanding how to process paperwork in public entities in Colombia (21%).
As a result, from
these brigades, first as a group and then as an individual, and since June
2015, we have helped 412 people than under regular conditions would have never
reached a lawyer to solve their inquiries or cases, while saving them more than
30.000 USD in legal fees, employing more than 20 graduated lawyers for about 15
dollars per inquiry. Today, we have 412 additional Colombians that understand
their rights and are able to get access to justice through the help of a group
of young lawyers that are starting their careers as practitioners.
Working on those
cases from Oxford has been a rewarding experience where I has been able to also
help some of my users with personal budgeting and entrepreneurship online consultations
(taking advantage of the skills I’ve acquired during my MBA).
Also, I’ve been able to map
the system of access barriers to justice in Colombia (Infographic below) to
understand better the environment I’m working on to think about viable solutions
to eliminate the barriers in the system and to build sustainable solutions in
“What is Home”? This was one of the questions being grappled with at the United Diaspora 2019 conference organised by Common Purpose. Common Purpose organises leadership events focusing on developing countries. They connect business leaders across different sectors and use the host city in a very creative way to facilitate learning (e.g. you go for walks with your fellow programme participants). For some at the conference, “home” was a shifting category. They lived in the UK, but identified as Nigerian, Indian, or Lebanese. For some, “home” was wherever they were happy. For another few, “home” was the planet – they aspired to be global citizens. Ultimately, there was no resounding agreement on what “home” is but we did agree on the practical implications of this ‘place’ – for right to work and travel, immigration laws and pursuit of well-being and happiness.
This year’s event was the first edition of United Diaspora. As Alison Coburn, the Chief Executive of Common Purpose International explained, their organisation was already working in countries with a significant diaspora population, and therefore they recognised the common challenges different diasporas in the UK face. From 30th April to 1st May, we had two lovely venues for our discussions: on the first day, we had the privilege to spend our day on the top floor of City Hall in London, overlooking the Tower Bridge and the City. On the second day, we were in the beautiful building of Bank of America. During the morning of the first day, we got to know as many people of our group (of roughly 90 leaders) as we could by introducing ourselves and switching tables frequently. In the afternoon, Julia Middleton, the Founder and Innovation Head of Common Purpose gave a talk and participated in a panel discussion about Cultural Intelligence, as a tool to understand one’s own and others’ core values. According to Julia, these values are “stable and unshakeable, and can be contrasted to our flexible values. Giving them an equal space in our interactions with people, and interacting with other keeping in mind the framework of flex vs core, can help up navigate and understand values of people we wold not understand if we had too many unchangeable core values”.
Estzer Kabos, a Hungarian WHT scholar had the opportunity to discuss her work to bring people back to Hungary; to reverse the country’s ‘brain-drain’, with an Armenian expert in the field who has been successfully working on such an initiative for more than 20 years. I was delighted to talk about my own project in defining ‘home’ – Project Dastaan. The project aims to film stories of the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 in virtual reality. Both of these projects are in areas that require the input and support of the diasporas of our home countries. For this reason, we found the event to be extremely helpful. It was impressive to see 90 young and mid-career professionals take time off for two days from their demanding professional careers to be at the event.
By the end of the conference, we all realised what Common Purpose knew already: that we are much more similar than we think. However, when confronted with real problems, or migration, asylum and employment, our core values take over, and have created a world where we are not being flexible enough to find common ground.