Karen Zheng, Associate Professor of Operations Management
From Next Billion
Agriculture plays a major role in the economy of most developing countries, yet many farmers live in poverty. World Bank data shows that 78% of the world’s poorest people are farmers. A critical challenge for these farmers is the lack of infrastructure in rural areas to improve their market access, price transparency and competitive position, as compared to the more powerful downstream buyers (e.g., traders and processors).
Several governments have led reforms to address these issues with digital agricultural platforms. The idea is to connect geographically distant markets through a single platform. Most of these platforms are within one country (if the country is relatively small), or within a region in a country (as in the case I’ll discuss below, in India). The goal is to enable farmers who traditionally sold in one physical market to possibly sell to buyers in multiple markets/locations through the digital platform. By providing a common platform, these initiatives can increase market competition and enhance price transparency – ultimately improving smallholder farmers’ revenues and lifting them out of poverty.
Feeding and educating the 7.1 million school-age children in refugee camps around the world is an enormous challenge. More than half don’t go to school. The problem is even more critical for girls, as fewer than eight refugee girls attend primary school for every 10 refugee boys, according to The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Those numbers are even worse for girls in secondary school.
Refugee camp staff know that one of the best ways to improve the lives of students and encourage their attendance in school is to provide them with the most basic necessity that many children struggle to secure for themselves: food. If schools can consistently provide school meals for children, then families will support their children’s education even more. This is particularly helpful for raising the attendance rate for girls, who often are kept home to help with chores. Once children are in school, teachers and child protection staff can contribute to efforts to reduce other barriers to education like child marriage and access to uniforms, sanitary pads, and clean water.
Deborah Ancona, Professor and Founder of the MIT Leadership Center, MIT Sloan School of Management
Kate Isaacs, Research Affiliate, MIT Sloan School of Management
From The Hill
We know a lot about how leaders can launch a nimble response to a fast-moving crisis. They need to do rapid sense-making by convening the best experts to collect and digest emerging data and information. They must be frank and transparent about what they know and don’t know about the situation and communicate clearly and continuously about what they are doing to respond. The best leaders also convey empathy for what their people are experiencing, and extend care and reassurance in uncertain times.
Most of all, leaders need to encourage and steer rapid scale innovation. Crises are fast-moving and laden with uncertainty. Decisions must often be made without full information and strategies have to be adapted to quickly changing circumstances. To mount a nimble crisis response, leaders must create the conditions to empower many people everywhere to help solve the problems at hand and push the best ideas forward to execute at scale.
In nimble organizations, the people who generate new ideas are entrepreneurial leaders, while the people who help them do what needs to be done are the enabling leaders, and the people responsible for high-level vision, strategy and resource allocation, as well as for collecting and disseminating information about the situation, are the architecting leaders.
As 100 million people in Europe are in lockdown, the US seems to be completely unprepared for the tsunami that is about to hit. “We’re about to experience the worst public health disaster since polio,” says Dr Martin Makary, professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Don’t believe the numbers when you see, even on our Johns Hopkins website, that 1,600 Americans have the virus. No, that means 1,600 got the test, tested positive. There are probably 25 to 50 people who have the virus for every one person who is confirmed. I think we have between 50,000 and half a million cases right now walking around in the United States.”
Having returned to the US from Europe on the last plane before the travel ban kicked in two days ago, I feel as if I have traveled backwards in time. Which is exactly what people report when they arrive in Europe from East Asia now. You feel as if you’re moving backward in time, back into an earlier state of awareness, which the country of departure had already moved past. Here are my eight takeaways.
Erin Kelly, MIT Sloan Distinguished Professor of Work and Organization Studies
The coronavirus is a terrible public health threat, but there is a hidden upside: It gives us a chance to rethink how work is organized and bring our policies into the 21st century.
To protect their workforce, firms are asking people to work at home. Our new research shows that more flexible work policies that give workers more control over when, where, and how they work don’t hurt business performance. Instead, such policies can lead to less stressed, more satisfied employees who are less likely to quit.