Here we talk to Alero Ayida-Otobo about her new book and projects.
Why is now the right time for people to come together to form an army of social reformers?
Several nations are facing some of the most challenging times in their history. The changing political landscapes in the United States, the United Kingdom and several countries in Africa are challenging the status quo and throwing up issues that are drawing attention to the many areas where society is broken - education, media, health systems and even government. It takes a different kind of thinking to fix broken systems. Social reformers are wired and trained to think in a way that addresses deep-seated issues. They also strive to develop the technical competence to design solutions to address these issues. Anything less than this approach leads to superficial social action with minimal impact over time.
What is your goal for Reformers Arise following publication?
I have two main goals: the first is to create an online training programme that would deepen the key learning outcomes from the book. Secondly, to create a Reformers Arise community that would facilitate the exchange of ideas and talent across nations and the execution of transformation projects.
You have worked at board level as the only and first woman in a particular FS company in Africa. What experiences and challenges did that bring?
I faced two major prejudices - gender and age. I was not just the only woman on the board, I was also the youngest. It took overturning a board decision for me to get the right attention I wanted. Now for the positive experiences - I learned that it is important to be prepared always. Do your homework, arrive at board meetings knowledgeable and prepared and know which battles to fight. Determine which board or organisational issues are important for you and learn to step back from arguments that do not impact your priority issues
Why is it important for you that your book talks to young people especially? What is it about this generation that makes them the right audience for Reformers Arise?
Young people run with vision so well - they have creative energy and the strength to build. When they are tired of a given situation, with the right motivation they are willing to take risks that older people with ‘commitments' may be unwilling to take. They are not so set in their ways and seem to be better wired to try new things - new technology, new solutions, new direction.
What is the first step to reforming a nation?
The first step is the transformation of individuals; personal transformation precedes national transformation. An un-regenerated mind-set whose thinking is un-changed cannot transform its surroundings, environment or the nation.
What sets reformers apart from the rest?
Several distinguishing qualities set them apart. I mention and discuss many of these interesting and sometimes unusual qualities in the book. Reformers are sound-shapers, a new tribe; they are bridges, risk takers and history makers.
Have you always wanted change for your homeland, Africa, or did your desire for an army of social reformers evolve over time?
It evolved over time, as I got involved with different development projects and programmes. As I worked in the private sector and served in the public sector, I found myself asking many questions - why was my nation not changing at the speed one expected and desired? Why was so much money being expended annually, yet society did not change at the rate of expenditure? In my quest to answer these questions I began to notice that certain kinds of people were more successful and more impactful than others. What made these people distinctive? What were the distinguishing qualities? The answers I discovered are unveiled in my book Reformers Arise.
Do you think the UK needs its own army of social reformers?
A Loud ‘yes’! Why? Read the book, but more seriously, the United Kingdom has several systems that are broken in society and they need to call out the ‘fixers' - the reformers to arise and repair.
If someone believes, after reading your book, that they want to reform themselves first, before working to reform their nation, what help can they get from you? Where else can they go for help and support, ideas and strategies?
Go to Reformers Academy and take the online course and delve deeper. I will also point them to nation building partners that the Reformers Arise Network has partnered with and will be partnering with such as ‘Restore7' USA and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.