May 2, 2011

What are we reading at E4C?

Working behind scenes and on the front lines of international development and humanitarian technology, the people at E4C and its partners have to be both well-traveled and well-read.

We thought it would be interesting to ask a few of them what they’re reading right now. The question was open ended. Some people chose to name the development-related articles that they’ve read recently, and others simply told us what was cracked open on their laps, desks, kitchen tables or airplane pulldown trays right then. This is what we’re reading (see if you can point out the overachievers).

I recently finished reading The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. It’s an unusual rags to riches story cleverly told in a first-person narrative. Balram Halwai, a self-made “social entrepreneur,” takes it upon himself to prepare the Chinese Premier for his trip to India by exposing the realities of the Indian elite and their stronghold on all aspects of life. Irreverent, disturbing and hilarious.

Noha El-Ghobashy, President of E4C

I’m usually knee deep in several things. But I’ll mention this one because it’s one of my personal passions and it links to the work I do putting technology growth into human terms. Here goes: The Social Animal, The hidden source of love, character, and achievement, by The New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks. Though perhaps not filled with singing prose, the book reflects the passion I have for the study of human behavior. I’m fascinated by the relevance between what motivates the human spirit, the deployment of appropriate technologies, and social change.

John Falcioni, Editor-in-Chief of ASME’s Mechanical Engineering magazine

I just finished reading a great Harvard Business Review article called “Managing Yourself: What Brain Science Tells Us About How to Excel.” The author prescribes a five-step process: 1. Select – Find the right job 2. Connect – Tap into the power of other people 3. Play – Imaginatively engage with work 4. Grapple & Grow – Conquer difficult challenges 5. Shine – Ensure that you are recognized. I think such topics matter as people are the most important resources in any corporation. My two cents…

Shekhar Chandrashekhar, Portfolio Management Director at ASME, one of E4C’s founding partners

My most recent related read was “The Blue Sweater,” by Jacqueline Novogratz, the CEO and founder of Acumen Fund.

RG’s note: The book is about our new global interconnectedness. The title derives from an amazing coincidence in charity work: The author had donated a blue sweater to GoodWill when she was a teenager, then, 10 years later when she was working in Kigali, Rwanda, she saw someone wearing the same sweater, with her name on its tag.

Peter Sobel, Global Business Development Director at IEEE, one of E4C’s founding partners

I am reading Howard Schultz’s Onward – How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul, for obvious reasons. It deals with the organizational evolutions of fast, young startups with lots of enthusiasm.

Cathy Leslie, Executive Director of Engineers Without Borders – USA, one of E4C’s founding partners

I’m reading a series of articles devoted to “The New Arab Revolt” in Foreign Affairs, my favorite thing to read in my spare time.

Michael Cowan, Public Information Director at ASME

I’ve been re-watching Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, his version of the King Lear story told in Japan. A great warlord divides his empire among three sons. One son tells him the truth: He won his empire through force and deceit, and his children would use those same tools to push him out of the way once he relinquished power. It includes many visual elements that now form the backbone of just about every war epic made over the past 30 years.

I’m reading One Palestine, Complete, by Tom Segev. It is a very balanced history of the British mandate in Palestine from just prior to the Balfour Declaration through the creation of Israel in 1948. For anyone who has already chosen sides about the fate of Israel and Palestine, this book is a real eye-opener.

I’m also taking another crack at James Joyce’s Ulysses, this time with the help of The Bloomsday Book, which provides some background for all the allusions. I have tried this book before and failed to get through the first paragraph (or the fifth page, for that matter). I have also heard the book read when National Public Radio does its “Bloomsday” special, where different actors and celebrities take turns reading the book in its entirety. After hearing how it sounded, I realized that I was not seeing the humor and playfulness in the words.

And as for music: I’ve been playing and replaying “One Way Out” by the Allman Brothers. Now that is nasty blues.

Alan Brown, Associate Editor at Mechanical Engineering Magazine and editor at E4C

I’m reading Common Wealth: Economics for a crowded planet, by Jeffrey Sachs; “Water and Sanitation to Reduce Child Mortality: The Impact and Cost of Water and Sanitation Infrastructure,” a March 2011 World Bank Development Economics Prospects Group Policy Research Working Paper; Standford Social Innovation Review; AshokaTech’s BlogInnovations, a quarterly journal published by MIT Press’ the New York Times Green BlogThe Role of the Environment in Poverty Alleviation (pdf), from the Fordham University Press; and… to help me cook when I’m not reading.

Iana Aranda, E4C’s content strategist

I’m reading The Secret Pulse of Time, Making Sense of Life’s Scarcest Commodity, by Stefan Klein. The author draws lessons from research in neuroscience and psychology to teach readers how to navigate our perceptions of time and improve our use of it. So far, it’s been one of those Malcom Gladwell-type books with lots of research anecdotes from the field.

Rob Goodier, E4C news and social media

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