Happy 2012


You may have noticed that I took it slow for most of December. This picture that I received in an e-mail joke probably best describes my December holiday. I am at the moment trying to figure out what the best way would be to start 2012.

Early on during our December holiday our family stayed over at a beautiful Hole in the Wall holiday resort at the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape province. The scenery and landscape was breathtaking, and I cherished the time spent with my family.



However, my mind could not rest due to the visible poverty all around us. The people live in small huts, scattered over the country side. The environment shows the strains of poverty. The animal rescue centre nearby has collected more than 8000 illegal snares and traps in the last 2 years, and the locals trade in undersized lobsters and fish in order to stay alive. How do you build market systems in such a place where there seems to be little scale of anything?

A small hut and a kraal for sheep
Cattle and people mix on the beach










I decided not to write any blog posts in that state of mind.


Reflecting on 2011, I made 23 blog posts, and had about 6000 visitors on the blog site (excluding visits to my Linkedin page). Seems like it is worth the effort to continue investing time reflecting here. If you have any ideas, requests or comments that will help me improve this personal reflection space then please let me know!

I wish all my readers, friends and fellow adventurers a prosperous 2012!

Shawn Cunningham

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Shawn Cunningham

I am passionate about how organisations and institutions change in developing and transitioning countries. I essentially work between organisations, communities, industries and experts.

0 thoughts on “Happy 2012”

  1. Hey Shawn. Thanks for the thoughtful post. But, be warned, you have opened a Pandora’s Box with your question: ‘How do you build market systems in such a place where there seems to be little scale of anything?’. Let me counter with another question: is building market systems the first thing we need to do in such an environment? I don’t know. What is your take?

  2. I like Markus’s comment.
    From a systemic viewpoint I propose an additional question:
    Who is really interested in change in such place?
    Easily we as external visitors, independently if we get to know a place accidentally during our holiday or purposeful having been send by a development project, we look for upgrading and develop the place.
    But what is about the locals? Who is happy or benefits from the current situation? Who never tried o thought about change? How is really interested to change the situation?
    Probably, it is our job as externals to contribute with our viewpoint and know how. The energy of the change itself has to come from the stakeholders themselves.

  3. Hello,
    Thank you for your comments. I start with Marcus. I wondered about market systems because I could notice that people do not have much to trade with, despite their own needs for food, building materials, and the obvious need from 100s of tourists visiting the area every week. They were often just going about trying to survive, collecting food and firewood. According to Beinhocker, societies evolve when three streams co-evolve (social, economical and technological). One of the evolutions that must take place is economical (trading, markets, transactions and its supporting institutions) while the other is technological and the 3rd is social.

    In my blog I expressed a concern about markets because people here are waiting for the government. Yet, the region provided several natural assets that was only exploited successfully by a few external investors who build a holiday resort. The local people where mainly employed directly and indirectly by this one hotel. Despite the need expressed by our family and other people for little shops, artwork, food, etc, none emerged from the locals. Perhaps this is the link to the remark by Ullrich (Chuelrico). I was not looking at the place as an interventionist, but I could not help notice that as in many other cases, the people that will most likely respond to the unmet local demand would be outside that combined insight (of the opportunity) with access to capital and an understanding of how to exploit it (management technology). How do we get the locals involved in the potential markets still remains at the back of my head?

    I acknowledge that markets is not the starting point, perhaps education or other public services are. But I was thinking of ways to improve my own work and training, and this often involves markets.

    1. Wow Shawn, impressive. How can you think about all that at 6.33 in the morning? Surely you are now used up for the rest of the day. Interesting comments though. I presume that you were talking about Hole in the Wali?

      1. Dear Ian,
        Yes, you are right. I am thinking of Hole in the Wall, and also the route we traveled there via Port Edward.
        It is a beautiful part of our country!

        Best wishes,
        Shawn Cunningham

  4. Hi Shawn, thanks for the stimulating holiday reflection. I agree with the comments from Ulrich and Marcus in regard to the importance of increasing education in these places. The reality is that most of the persons with the potential to become change drivers, often leave these places if they can. With higher education they would leave these places also. That is the reality we can observe also in many regions that do not provide real longer-term development opportunities for young persons. It is true that in these places often ideas need to come from outside, but these ideas need to find a backing in the local communities.

    My first 2 thoughts would be to first look for innovation models with local small drivers, who take over small ideas and become small innovators in their non-innovative environment. Secondly, I experienced in some places that it makes sense to identify drivers from outside, who once were born in these places, interested to support the development of their home area. This I experienced in Uganda, where a successful entrepreneur, who once left the village, started to identify opportunities to create linkages with his local friends and to promote small innovations and to attract other investments with other outside living friends who also came from this village. These persons understand the local culture, bring in new perspectives and have at the same time a certain social entrepreneurial interest in the development of these places. They can also link with the locals much better than outside consultants and donor representatives. In Uganda they became agents to support a change process in these marginalized places.

    In general I think we need to reflect more about inclusive development opportunities in such different places like we define them in our tool “Matrix of regions”. In such marginalized places new dynamic comes rarely from the persons who are bound to local behaviours and traditions. Rather these would be persons who rather act differently and out of the box of traditional behaviour.

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