Treat Your Project As Your Children

Last weeks Thursday featured World AIDS Day. Nine years ago I started in the Netherlands, Indonesia and South Africa, as co-founder of dance4life, to use dance and innovative campaigning to break silence and taboos around HIV and AIDS. As International CEO I was able to spread this concept around the globe supported by an ever-growing team of employees, volunteers, partners and other supporters. And today the project exists in 30 countries involving hundreds of thousands young people. Should you have missed the program on dance4life on the Dutch TV:

Dance4life is no longer dependent on me. As founder I think you should aim to make yourself replaceable within some years and constantly ask others to feel and take ownership. In 2007 I handed over my tasks to successor Eveline Aendekerk and started to travel with my family through Africa and the Middle East for two years. People ask me if this was a difficult decision all the time, but no, it wasn’t. For a certain period a missed my team and the thrill of being successful, but this journey was amazing and brought me new ideas. And you know, if you treat your ‘child’ as your possession you block its growth, it can’t overcome fragility (because what if you can’t continue for whatever reason?) and as a founder yourself you can’t use your skills to develop something new with all lessons learned.

As you know I initiated MasterPeace two years ago and it is following the same roadmap of development towards a truly international initiative. But this time it goes faster, thanks to these lessons I learned. This time I started with leadership in two (instead of one) continents; Europe (Netherlands) and Africa (Egypt). Secondly we got right from the start Founding Partners and board members who work internationally, such as Heba Ramzy – Head Corporate Affairs Microsoft Middle East & Africa - who joined two weeks ago. And materials get translated faster, such as this MasterPeace infomercial in Japanese:

But the biggest difference with nine years ago is the existence of all this new and social media spreading news way faster then ever before. Without these new tools it wouldn’t have been possible to work with MasterPeace in 20 countries already within two years after the start. Even in the north of Uganda former child soldier Moses Kyamaka found MasterPeace through the Internet and is now one of its most active supporters. Please read his great story here:

Or what about this story, emphasizing rapid (it all happened within 24 hours) and borderless growth: a Finnish woman who follows me on Twitter met a French composer during a train ride in Finland. He told her about his ‘Peace through Music’ orchestra in Congo with a lead singer out of the Central African Republic and on a mobile phone they watched his YouTube film. She showed him our Passion Statement and some hours later the composer contacted me in Spain. I directly informed my Egyptian companion Mohamed who was working on his iPad at the airport of Beirut, where Ogivly Middle East decided to support us on global PR in the coming years. Our world can be amazingly small and connected nowadays!

Talking about Beirut, one of my favorite poets (Gibran) is born in Lebanon. In ‘The Prophet’ he wrote a great poem called ‘Children’, which is very relevant for founders too. You can find it on Google. Some lines:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect MasterPeace's values.


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