Lessons in Change-making (IFC ’19)

I was at the just concluded International Fundraisers Congress (IFC 2019) in Noordwijk, Netherlands as a closing plenary speaker. This was my first time in Noordwijk but my second time in the Netherlands. Chifundo – my public speaking coach, manager and wife- sat in the audience to hear me speak for the first time since my regular public speaking engagements. I felt very well supported and excited to have her around but for the first time in my recent memory, I was under significant pressure to be excellent. I also realized that the last time I felt this way was a year ago on a United airline flight from London to Washington DC to ask Chifundo to marry me. Suddenly, the expected audience of one thousand people paled in comparison to the excellence this one lady embodies. I was over the moon when she had glowing words for me after my session. Beyond my excitement, here are my top 3 reflections on my IFC experience.

 The art of storytelling: A story well told inspires action. During our three-day stay, while Chifundo oscillated between endless working and well-deserved naps, I joined the storytelling masterclass at the conference (initially out of interest) where I had an eye-opening experience on the dimensions of the old art.

At its basics, I learnt to never forget to tell the story of self (my story), the story of us (shared values with the target audience) and story of now (current action).

I also learnt that most of our stories have the same structures that keeps them relatable consisting of an initial picture of a broken world, a hero (main change-maker), the mentor (offers the gift), the gift (transformative tool/action used by changemaker), the monster (the villain) and the picture of a better world.

The science of change-making: The conference came off to a flying start as William Kamkwamba – the fantastic innovator and author recently portrayed in the Netflix original ‘the boy who harnessed the wind’ – shared his incredible story of determination to find practical solutions. Speaking to him during the conference, I realised the rare magic mix self-starting with little fear of failure is essential for success.

The conference was beautifully laced with exchange of ideas between awesome people taking action to engineer positive change.


At the closing plenary, I was wowed by Srishti Bakshi’s 3800km through the length of India, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, raising awareness on the soul-piercing issues of rape and domestic violence. We were also taken on an incredible journey by Joanna Sustento of Greenpeace on her life-changing experience of personal loss from typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines to leading the charge for Climate Justice. I was honoured to have shared the stage with these great people and humbled by the price of justice.

The science of rest: This is definitely not much of a science. There is almost always something more to do with endless competing priorities. I now understand that the choice is between not resting to recharge or retiring from burnout. After my time in Noordwijk, I am grateful to have had a weekend break in Amsterdam with my lady talking windmills, walking through coffee shops and the red-light district, playing scrabble and taking pictures.IMG_0815.jpg

My next stop was a trip to Abuja, Nigeria with the relentless Malaria No More UK, a charity quietly making a huge difference in the fight to end malaria.