Upcoming presentations (Harvard/DC) and thoughts on what drives impact in North Korea

Upcoming Presentations Andray will speak at the Korea Economic Institute this Friday on Rason’s economic development. More details at the KEI webpage.

Geoffrey will speak at the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference this Sunday. More details at the SECON website.

Speaking at HPAIR - What Drives Impact in North Korea

Last weekend, I spoke at the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations at the Harvard campus. The hosts did a great job of putting together a great program despite their busy schedules as students. The moderators also did an amazing job of putting together a very interesting panel, and I was able to speak alongside Rainer Holl, head of Fellow development for Ashoka Germany, as well as two other very accomplished social entrepreneurs.

I am glad to have the opportunity to share our experiences shaping developments in North Korea, as well as the unique challenges of being in a very unusual (to put it mildly) environment. Most amazingly, I walked away with a great set of new ideas for our work crowd-sourced from a wonderful audience, a great panel and our wonderful moderator Grace Chung from the Kennedy School of Government.

We made the following key points on what we believe drives success in our work in North Korea. I have to qualify these statements that these are our guesses at what works. But really, who knows given that this is North Korea! Also, we have met other people running successful programs in North Korea who probably have different thoughts on this so don't take our word as the last word.

1. Social innovation is critical in North Korea – programs should not focus on “sexy” high-tech solutions, but on understanding the social structures in North Korea and how our programs add value (e.g. by providing cross-organization platforms for dialogue)

2. Finding the right people is essential – we find that the content of our programs or the quality of workshop leaders, while important, have far less of an impact than simply picking the right North Koreans to take part in those programs

3. Managing politics is key – everything in North Korea is politicized, and understanding the policy and bureaucratic processes at play is important for creating impact