Luis Davila's Blog

sharing thoughts on life, change and innovation…

Le Anti-Cri: A comprehensive understanding of Munch’s work

One of several versions of the painting "...

Image via Wikipedia

I spent this past weekend in Paris after some work-related meetings. I decided to attend an exhibition on Eduard Munch’s work. I have been a Munch fan since a friend suggested I check out a traveling exhibit a few years back while studying abroad.

This exhibit was particularly interesting for two reasons; first it was upfront about the fact that Munch is primarily known by only one piece, the Scream. Thus, it purposely sought to look at Munch’s work beyond his masterpiece (the Scream is called “The Cri” in French, so check out the play on words in the title of the exhibit).

Secondly, the exhibit was not made up by pieces usually available to the public at the National Gallery of Oslo or the Munch Museum.
Instead, the exhibit was made up by a series of privately owned pieces, which are normally housed at collector’s homes. It really made it a unique experience!

For more information about the exhibit and for dates/times follow this link! 

Posted by davilalu on February 22, 2010 | Posted in art | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Carnival in Bonn!

I just came back from great times at the Bonn Carnival. We got to see a lot of revelers in crazy outfits and lots of candy thrown around!

We ended the night at Luxx, a bar in Alstad in Bonn. We checked out a Brazilian/World Music band called Crescenti. They rocked hard and the party was still going on by the time I left. I look forward to the Chinese New Year Party tomorrow evening!

Pictures are below!

Posted by davilalu on February 15, 2010 | Posted in carnival | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Plant for the Planet: Learning from children

Yesterday, I learned about an initiative called Plant for the Planet. It is spearheaded by an organization called the Global Marshall Plan out of Germany. Their motto is “stop talking, start planting,” and has gained significant media exposure.

ChineseMinister
The face of the campaign is a 12-year old boy named Felix Finkbeiner, who has been able to convince politicians, activists and celebrities to let him take pictures of them with his hand over their mouths, as if he was shutting them up – it’s pretty nice 馃檪

The group plans to do a big “tree planting party” at the next round of climate change negotiations in Bonn this coming May. They expect to bring thousands of children, who like Felix plan to tell the negotiators to shut up and start planting. It’ll be a sight to see!

I promise to take pictures, so stay tuned!

Posted by davilalu on February 10, 2010 | Posted in Climate Change, environmentalism, global warming, young people, youth | 4 Comments

Hyperlocal sites – Is MyBonn.com a good idea?

After spending a few months in Bonn, I’ve noticed that “hyperlocal” sites, especially in English do not really exist here. The city of Bonn offers some information both in English and German, and the Bonn English Network offers information from time to time. Rhine Online offers more information, but focusing in Cologne. Having been used to sites like EveryBlock and FreeWilliamsburg I have been craving for more information since I’ve been here.

As you can notice from stories in newspapers NY Times about hyperlocal news sites,
there is a growing movement of blogs/sites helping people find out what’s happening in their communities. I think these sites, contrary to the ones I’ve found in Bonn so far, must be comprehensive enough to include relevant news, reviews of local businesses, and a decent schedule of local entertainment and events (including
accurate schedules for movies not dubbed to German).

In Bonn, I think that a localized site may even produce enough revenue to pay for its costs and potentially hire part-time staff to profesionalize the work. However, it may also take a lot of work. Based on limited research, I found that according to Mark Potts, CEO and co-founder of GrowthSpur.com, “it takes a year or two to get critical mass on a local site.”

I’ll keep looking into this and keep posting on the subject…

Posted by davilalu on February 9, 2010 | Posted in entrepreneurship, Innovation | Tagged , , | Comment

The Innovator’s DNA

Innovation

Image by Vermin Inc via Flickr

I just finished reading an article from the Harvard Business Review on what shapes an innovator. In it, the authors focus on five key skills that define true innovation. These abilities are: associating, questioning, observing, experimenting and networking. When it comes to associating, the authors refer to the “Medici effect;” when great minds with different perspectives come together they will enrich each other work. Places like New York came to mind, where its diversity of people and ideas really promoted a sense of vibrancy and innovation that I have not really found anywhere else.

Innovators also tend to pose the right questions. They tend to break barriers and seek for ways to beat the system. Innovators tend to question the obvious, and imagine opposites. In many ways, as posed by Roger Martin’s The Opposable Mind, innovators have “the capacity to hold two diametrically opposing ideas in their head.” Sometimes this involves playing devil’s advocate, sometimes it means looking at “pushing others to justify themselves.”

I was particularly intrigued by the authors’ take on observation as a way to innovate. It sounds so simple, but this is how I personally have come up with out-of-the box ideas. By looking at something, really spending deconstructing something, one is really bound to come up with new ideas. Think about it, and start innovating it!

After thinking about what to create, or what to improve, innovators start experimenting! The authors mentioned how “whether it was intellectual exploration (Michael Lazaridis mulling over the theory of relativity in high school), physical tinkering (Jeff Bezos taking apart his crib as a toddler or Steve Jobs disassembling a Sony Walkman), or engagement in new surroundings (Starbucks founder Howard Schultz roaming Italy visiting coffee bars).” The authors also have data on how important it is to experiment other cultures. Innovators tend to live in different countries and leverage experiences to innovate in products and services.  

The authors also discussed networking as a tool for for testing new ideas, with a diverse group of people. When others network, they do to seek resources or sell more products, however innovators are looking to extend their knowledge domains. Innovators also attend events like the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conferences, where they are both inspired and energized by new ideas and different ways to tackle problems.

Above all practice, the cross-cutting theme of the article is to keep practicing. The best way to truly innovate is to learn from mistakes and sometimes build upon them. As the authors state in the article “innovative entrepreneurship is not a genetic predisposition, it is an active endeavor.”

Posted by davilalu on January 30, 2010 | Posted in entrepreneurship, Innovation | Comment

How the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts may affect a global climate deal

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 21:  U.S. Senator-elect S...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I find it particularly amazing how a fairly unexpected win by Scott Brown in Massachusetts may derail any chance of securing a legally binding treaty on climate change. Even before his election, the potential of passing a cap-and-trade bill in the US Congress seemed as a very challenging undertaking. Now, without a filibuster-majority, there is not any chance to pass a comprehensive climate change bill this year. Instead, the US Congress will likely pass a bipartisan energy bill, focusing on issues of energy security and efficiency, but without the much needed cap in carbon emissions. This would pretty much relinquish the Obama administration’s ability to cut a real global deal with legally binding provisions, and may even throw away the possibility of implementing the Copenhagen Accords.

Key developing countries such as China and India already seized the opportunity to jump ship from signing into the Copenhagen Accords, which they were responsible for putting together (China in particular was responsible for deleting any mention of mitigation targets by developed countries by 2050). One of the reasons they have claimed for not following up with their commitments was the election of Scott Brown and the unlikelihood of an improved US negotiating position.

I hope that the Obama administration is able to pull some type of miracle and convince some Republicans to sign up to a comprehensive climate bill, otherwise the whole world will be condemned by parochial politics in Massachusetts.

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Posted by davilalu on January 26, 2010 | Posted in Climate Change, environmentalism, global warming, obama, politics | Tagged , , | Comment

Conclusions from COP 15

United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009

Image via Wikipedia

After returning to Bonn, I have had a chance to reflect on the outcome of COP 15. The lack of success had a significant toll on the emotional and physical health of many of my colleagues and friends attending the Summit, but I want to focus on constructive solutions to some of the many problems that came up from COP 15.

1) Logistics: Over 40 thousand people ended up showing up in Copenhagen for COP 15, while the Bella Center only was able to hold 15 thousand people. It is incredible that the UN and the Danish government could not predict that logistical nightmare that many participants had to endure on their way in to the negotiations. It is imperative that for upcoming conferences, the UN and the host country recognize that climate change has become a top-political issue and will bring thousands of activists, government officials and media representatives interested in influencing the process. For example, passes could be mailed in advance or distributed in multiple venues throughout the host city, accreditation could reflect the venue’s size (!) and increasing efforts for video conferencing the sessions could be put in place.

2) Consensus vs. majority-based decision-making: One thing that was demonstrated at COP 15 was that the consensus-based model for decision making within the UNFCCC process is dated. The Copenhagen Accord was by no means the perfect outcome, but it still provided a good first step for on-going negotiations. The role of certain countries in bringing their national ideological struggles to the Summit, while denying the international community of some progress in its attempt to deal with climate change was regrettable. I hope that Parties to the UNFCCC reconsider this process, otherwise climate change issues may end up being discussed in a smaller, less democratic setting. 

3) The role of the media: For the first time in its history, a COP meeting attracted a level of media attention reserved for high-level meetings for (controversial) organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO). On one hand this demonstrates the level of political relevance that climate change has been able to achieve, but it also contributes to the circus atmosphere felt in Copenhagen. A colleague told me that when you have over 5 thousand journalists all seeking for the juiciest story, it is only inevitable for tensions to rise as politicians try to look good for audiences back home. For example, the media pressure may have led President Obama to rush an agreement with a limited amount of countries. I was particularly surprised to see journalists holding negotiating text before government officials did!  

4) The role of the United Nations: As I mentioned before, there is a serious risk for the negotiation process on climate change issues to be taken out of the UNFCCC context. This is indeed a very dangerous prospect! Not just for the obvious personal reasons, but because the UN, with all of its imperfections, still remains the only inclusive global forum. I do think that the process needs to be reformed (see point 2), but government officials, especially those from small developing countries should discourage any attempts to move the negotiation setting to grouping such as the G7 or G20.

I’ll make sure to keep sharing my thoughts on the UNFCCC process on this blog! I remain hopeful that COP 16 in Mexico will help us get back on track to save humanity from irreversible climate change.

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Posted by davilalu on January 25, 2010 | Posted in Climate Change, environmentalism, global warming, international development, obama, politics | 1 Comment

COP 15 – What to expect?

Dear friends,
I travel to Copenhagen this Saturday to attend the COP 15 negotiations. Developing and developed countries are still far away in many key issues, so I expect a lot of last minute wrangling, especially during the last week. I hope to maintain this blog throughout the meetings and share some of my personal views related to the negotiation process. You can also follow me on twitter at twitter.com/davilalu
If any of you are attending the COP 15 negotiations, make sure to let me know!
Hope to see some of you soon!

Posted by davilalu on December 2, 2009 | Posted in Climate Change, environmentalism | Comment

Situaci贸n en Honduras / Situation in Honduras

(see English version at the bottom)
Estimad@s amig@s,
Saludos! Ya han pasado varios meses desde la ultima vez que escrib铆 una nota en este blog. He estado repleto de trabajo y he participado activamente como voluntario en ONGs amigas, y en unas iniciativas personales las cuales compartir茅 muy pronto.聽 De cualquier forma, me sent铆 obligado a compartir unas l铆neas sobre la situaci贸n actual en Honduras.
Casi una docena de amig@s de toda la regi贸n, incluyendo activistas de derechos humanos en Honduras me han escrito compartiendo su indignaci贸n y preocupaci贸n por la situaci贸n pol铆tica de ese pa铆s. Todos se han demostrado en contra del golpe de estado; algunos por razones netamente jur铆dicas (el golpe fue un acto ilegal) y otros por razones ideol贸gicas (como activistas de derechos humanos la mayor铆a tiende a ser izquierdista). Mis amig@s y familiares venezolanos muestran una opini贸n totalmente opuesta. Ellos se manifiestan en apoyo del golpe de estado (al cual se refieren como vac铆o de poder), enfatizan que todos los poderes p煤blicos est谩n a favor del nuevo estatus quo (porque Zelaya quebrant贸 las leyes al convocar la encuesta) y demuestran alegr铆a con la idea de que las actividades expansionistas del venezolano Hugo Ch谩vez han sido detenidas. 隆Estas por supuesto son apreciaciones totalmente distintas de un mismo hecho! 驴C贸mo es esto posible? Lo tratar茅 de explicar鈥
Despu茅s de varios d铆as de observaci贸n, mi an谩lisis es el siguiente: se llevo a cabo un golpe de estado ilegal en Honduras, el cual es muy dif铆cil de justificar. Los poderes p煤blicos debieron haber empezado un proceso jur铆dico que pudiera separar al presidente de su cargo, si en realidad hab铆a cometido infracciones en contra de su naci贸n. Esto hubiese mantenido el hilo institucional de Honduras y fortalecido sus instituciones. Pero, como analista de pol铆ticas internacionales tambi茅n tengo que entender la realidad pol铆tica e institucional actual en America Latina. El continente vive en un mundo de paradojas y realismo m谩gico que es dif铆cil de comprender. Sea creado una moda mediante la cual gobernantes como Hugo Ch谩vez, Evo Morales y Rafael Correa han usado el disfraz de la institucionalidad para consolidar su poder como presidentes, dejando al resto de los poderes p煤blicos como sirvientes leales de sus proyectos pol铆ticos, en vez de veh铆culos de contrapeso dentro de un sistema verdaderamente democr谩tico. O sea, no existen m茅todos legales ni elecciones confiables, que permitan una alternabilidad democr谩tica en estos pa铆ses (esto sirve de aclaratoria para mis amig@s que mencionan las elecciones como medio viable para la alternabilidad pol铆tica en el continente). De una manera novedosa, para llamarlo de alguna forma, han logrado utilizar el sistema para disfrazar sus regimenes autoritarios bajo la manta de la democracia. Lo que existe, como exist铆a en la Argentina de Per贸n y recientemente auspiciado por hombres como Norberto Ceresole (mentor de Ch谩vez), es una relaci贸n pueblo-caudillo, que no deja espacios para otras instituciones democr谩ticas. La gente se relaciona directamente con el l铆der, y los dem谩s actores pol铆ticos solamente est谩n como parte de un reparto de segunda que apoya lo que diga el l铆der en su momento (claro hay que notar que todos son hombres鈥 este neo-caudillismo no dejo por fuera el machismo que nos caracteriza a los latinoamericanos, pero eso es para otro post鈥).
Dentro del marco de las relaciones internacionales, tambi茅n se esta dando a lugar otra cosa fuera de lo com煤n, en el que espacios como la OEA se est谩n utilizando como herramientas para perpetuar el circulo vicioso en el que se encuentran los gobiernos de la denominada Alternativa Bolivariana para las Am茅ricas (ALBA). Se esta convirtiendo en un grupo de apoyo, alimentado mediante el uso de los petrod贸lares, mediante se defiende cualquier agresi贸n en contra de los dirigentes narcisistas (como los llama Andr茅s Oppenheimer), en vez de defender a las instituciones democr谩ticas en dichos pa铆ses. Como dir铆a el mismo Sr. Oppenheimer en una columna reciente, 隆la OEA se ha convertido en un espacio donde permiten que un dictador militar como Ra煤l Castro despotrique en contra de los ataques anti-democr谩ticos del gobierno en聽 Honduras! (WTF?!?)
En fin, espero que mis amig@s hondure帽os puedan decidir el futuro de su pa铆s de una manera que refuerce su derecho a su autodeterminaci贸n como pueblo. De igual forma, creo que si el gobierno actual en Honduras se mantiene, crear铆a un precedente pol铆tico fuera de lo com煤n en el continente; si desconoces las leyes y la constituci贸n te arriesgas a ser destituido por el Congreso y la Corte Suprema y puesto en un avi贸n a un pa铆s vecino as铆 seas el presidente del pa铆s. Por algo seria que ya Hugo Ch谩vez empez贸 a decir que hab铆a que hacer hasta lo imposible para evitar que los partidos pol铆ticos que lo antagonizan obtengan cuotas de representaci贸n en la Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela鈥
Dear friends,
Greetings! It has been months since I posted to this blog, but I have been full of work and been actively volunteering with some NGOs. I also have started working on some other initiatives that I鈥檒l share soon. However, I wanted to write a few lines about the current situation in Honduras.
Almost a dozen friends from across Latin America, including human rights activists in Honduras, have written heartfelt notes regarding the current political situation in this Central American country. They are all against the coup; some of them for legal reasons (the coup was completely illegal) and others for ideological reasons (as human rights activists they tend to be leftists for the most part). My friends and family members in Venezuela have a completely opposite point of view. They fully support the coup (they say that democratic institutions responded to a power vacuum), stress that all branches of government are in favor of maintaining the current status quo (given that Zelaya broke the laws by organizing a referendum) and are actually happy about stopping Chavez鈥檚 expansionist activities. These are obviously completely different observations of the same event! How is this possible? I鈥檒l try to explain鈥
After paying attention to the situation for a few days, I think that the coup in Honduras was illegal and it is very hard to justify. All branches of government should have started a legal process against the president if he was really breaking Honduras鈥 laws. This would have maintained the rule of law and strengthened the country鈥檚 institutions. However, as an international relations analyst I also have to acknowledge the current political reality in Latin America. The continent lives in a really convoluted state of paradoxes and magical realism that is hard to explain. Regional leaders like Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa have started to use their electoral victories as a way to legitimize their power grab, whereas other branches of government no longer provide a system of check and balances. There are not any real legal methods or trustworthy electoral processes to provide a true sense of democracy with alternating political parties (I write this as a warning to my friends who claim that electoral processes can guarantee democratic institutions in these countries 鈥 Chavez, Morales and Correa control the entities that run the elections!). Today, these countries practice what used to be the norm in Peron鈥檚 Argentina and encouraged by men like Norberto Ceresole; a direct relationship between the people and their leader. This type of relationship does not allow other branches of government to hold real power, and are relinquished to satisfy the leader鈥檚 wishes (it is important to note that all these leaders are men, not women 鈥 this 鈥渘eo-caudillismo鈥 has not left out the chauvinism that characterizes Latin American societies, but I could discuss this in another post鈥).
Something very strange is also playing out within the world of international relations; the members of the so-called Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) are now using institutions such as the OAS as tools to perpetuate their authoritarian regimes. It is essentially becoming a support group for the leaders of these countries as they strengthen their internal positions, instead of a promoter of democratic institutions across the region. As Andres Oppenheimer recently wrote, the OAS has become a place where a military dictator such as Raul Castro attacks the new Honduras government for its lack of democratic credentials! (WTF?!?)
I hope that my Honduran friends are able to decide their fate in their own terms. I also think that if the current government is able to hold on to power, it will create a huge political precedent in the region; if a president disregards the constitution, he/she is risking a coup supported by all other branches of government. No wonder Hugo Chavez recently expressed his concern about potential gains by political enemies within the Venezuelan National Assembly鈥

Posted by davilalu on July 5, 2009 | Posted in international development, politics | Comment

Shareholder Activism in Current Economic Times

Dear friends,

It has been a long time! Lately I have been doing a lot of work on moving assets to socially responsible investments and practices. I think this is a timely issue given the current聽uncertainty聽in the financial markets. University and foundation聽endowment聽managers have especially moved to strategies such as proxy voting, shareholder activism, and mission and program-related investments. There has been a significant movement to “green” mutual funds and pensions. The climate crisis has definitely played a role in all of this, but great investment opportunities in green tech industries also encouraged investors to put money in these sectors.
Lately, I have been looking for ways to become a more active shareholder, thus getting more involved with my investment portfolio. One of the things I did was to move certain funds to a retail brokerage account. I decided to use Scottrade.com as my broker, and thus far things have been going great. They even offer a referral program for new customers (you get 7 free trades – worth $7 each). My referral code is:聽VTXS2895. I encourage you think about getting into the market, and start advocating for strong regulation within corporations (especially banks) to avoid future meltdowns. If you do, don’t forget to use the code!!
Cheers,
Luis

Posted by davilalu on October 15, 2008 | Posted in corporate social responsibility | 3 Comments