JN: UNDP AFIM is advancing inclusive business and market development in Africa. We bridge partnerships between public and private sectors and develop capacity along target value chains contributing to sustainable development and inclusive growth, especially through job creation and income generation.
For instance, we have undertaken regional Project Facilitation Platforms in East, West and Southern Africa advancing several key agri-food value chains such as sorghum, dairy, onion, mango, ground nuts and soy beans benefitting thousands of farmers and all value chain actors in each project.
Personally I focus on partnership building, communication, innovation and project coordination. AFIM has released several knowledge products including the major report “Realizing Africa’s Wealth – Building Inclusive Businesses for Shared Prosperity”.
BFP: What is the best part about your job?
JN: I love working within the United Nations with people from all nations to advance universal goals. Considering myself a ‘bridge-builder’, it’s a privilege to connect different stakeholder groups, learn from them and facilitate knowledge exchange.
This also allows me to be part of the paradigm shift in development approaches towards greater engagement of the private sector and enlightened business leaders to realize UN goals which links to my own work experiences from the business, NGO and UN worlds.
As UNDP is consulting with people from all over the world about the post-2015 development agenda, I am also very grateful to broaden my own development knowledge and philosophy. For instance, the UN General Assembly clearly recognized the need to go beyond measuring GDP as an indicator for a country’s wealth and calling “happiness” a more holistic approach to development.
BFP: What have been your greatest challenges?
JN: Scope of demands and financial resource pressures have been the biggest challenges so far. As UNDP has a very broad global human development mandate it attracts very high expectations and demands from the widest set of stakeholders. Moreover, as some countries shifted focus on reviving their own economies UNDP has experienced challenging financial resource limitations.
BFP: How have you overcome these challenges?/ What advice, would you give to others?/ What is the secret of your success?
JN: A shared vision and positive attitude have helped me to overcome challenging times and to grow from self-employed entrepreneur to business manager and from UN intern to UNDP staff. My advice, even if it may sound philosophically, is to follow your heart and succeed in what one loves doing and is passionate about. Then one is able to work and lead not only hard but smart achieving transformative results.
For instance, I honorary also co-facilitate the UN Transformation Network which is a close to 300 members strong group of like-minded UN innovators, change-makers and thought leaders that are interested in advancing collaboration, innovation and transformation within the UN system and its work, hopefully leading to a future-ready UN 2.0.
Personally, I also see the importance of development happening “inside-out”, therefore inner work plays an important role in my life which includes personal development practices such as meditation. In many instances have I positively experienced that a shift in my inner attitude to a problem lead to an outer transformation - from a negative problem to a neutral challenge to a positive lesson learned.
BFP: If someone wants to do what you do, where should they start?
JN: There are many different ways to work at the cross-roads of business and advancing UN goals. For several years I have been sharing relevant stories and insights on my blog at www.business4good.org.
Companies increasingly shift from philanthropy and CSR to the next level, may it be called inclusive business, creating shared value or whatever the name. Leading firms join the UN Global Compact or the Business Call to Action, so these are good sources of inspiration.
NGOs also play an important role to bridge the ambitions of lead firms with realities on the ground, e.g. by mobilizing and building capacity of youth, women and farmers in rural areas which have been previously been out of reach for most companies.
The UN is a highly competitive place to enter and there is no substitute to the right education and experience. Internships and consultancies provide ways to gain UN experiences and to expose oneself to the organization and its work. There are also national recruitment assessments for some countries and it is key to monitor for suitable positions to apply online, e.g. directly at the relevant UN agency websites or through specific search engines such as unjobslist.org.
BFP: Finally: what do you hope to get out of being part of the BFP community?
JN: I appreciate the platform for sharing knowledge and experiences, not only to fight poverty but to advance shared prosperity and sustainability. Therefore, it’s great to connect with like-minded people, share stories and together bridge the power of business for the greater good.
Thank you to Jurgen Nagler for taking the time to do this interview.
Read previous Member of the Week interviews here.