A day in the life of a Yangonite on CNY

First time celebrating CNY back in my hometown in years! Kind of a big deal for me. I’m after all a Chinese Burmese.

But first, a quick stop at an interfaith-dialog-cum-fundraiser

But first, a quick stop at an interfaith-dialog-cum-fundraiser

Sunset picnic at Independence Plaza

Sunset picnic at Independence Plaza

Yangon's City Hall

Yangon’s City Hall

Crowding out in a small plaza, Yangonites are starved for public spaces

Crowding out in a small plaza, Yangonites are starved for public spaces

How to drink wine in public without getting caught

How to drink wine in public without getting caught

Chinatown

Chinatown

Annual Dragon Dance Competition on Sint-Oo-Dan Lan

Annual Dragon Dance Competition on Sint-Oo-Dan Lan

This will be a good year

This will be a good year

Of course this is my opinion. This whole blog is a heap of my personal opinions. Newsflash. So here is another one: it’s seriously wrong that the Independence Park closes at 6PM. It’s wrong that it’s currently operating as a Park and not an open Plaza, which is what the original design has intended it to be. An open plaza for the people, with a reflection pool and 24-hour access. It’s wrong to lock it up with a fence installed much later. 

Though I normally do not post self-pictures on this blog, here is me liberating the Independence Monument at night. Breaking in is totally fun. Oh and my employer would probably want me to state here that they got nothin’ to do with this.

58167_10151614898767457_390327492_n

Ultra wealth: Capitalizing the conspicuous consumption in Myanmar

Wealth-X World Ultra Wealth Report 2012-13

Last month, Wealth-X, a firm that gathers data on rich families for the use of fundraisers, financial advisers and luxury brand marketers released this year’s World Ultra Wealth Report.

In it, Wealth-X estimates that there are over 40 families from Myanmar that make the cut, and forecasts that this number is only likely to grow drastically in this country – to 307 families by 2022. As reported in Irrawaddy, the new rich will grow from such sectors as tourism, financial services and commodities (lumber).

To make it to the list, one will have to be valued in purely financial terms at minimum USD 30 million, also known as “High Net Worth Individuals.” This is a term people often throw around in the fundraising world where I worked in New York City. But it is also a deeply patronizing term, reducing a person down to a financial category. Equally patronizing as “aspirational consumers” as marketers like to say. For those that don’t make the cut to the HNWI list, the X-Wealth report also has another category for the masses that make only USD 200,000 per year, “Mass Affluent.”

Now, what does all this mean for Myanmar? Three things stand out.

Continue reading

Inspiration business

20130219-171012.jpg

My bosses gave me a Ken Burnett book for last Xmas. It’s essentially a fundraiser’s why and why not book (as opposed to a how-to). Why do we raise fund? What is involved here? Why is it so? The book had been sitting on my desk for a number of weeks and I got around to reading it only last week during my vacation away from deadlines, emails tagged “TASK,” the office, funding organizations and their program officers.

If there is one thing I learned from this book, it is that fundraising is an inspiration business, the point that Burnett keeps getting back to throughout the book.  Fundraisers are not marketers. They are not brand managers. They are not always there to ‘sell’ and donors do not like to be sold to and manipulated by professionals to open their purses and checkbooks. Rather, fundraising is about good customer service and the role of fundraisers is to inspire people into supporting causes that are well-meaning and impactful.

All of this explains why I have been in an inspiration fatigue lately, and desperately needed a week off. Working in an emerging market is not easy. It is flexible but also extremely messy. The roles are not clearly defined, an arrangement with both pros and cons. Everyone reports to the top bosses. Deadlines among different teams are not strictly adhered to in a poly-chronic culture, so you need to constantly push/remind your inter-departmental colleagues in collaborative projects. Add the expat/local dynamics + language barriers, and you don’t know which communication route to pursue. Should I send another reminder? Or would that be considered inappropriate and even insulting? Beats me. The Burmese work environment is markedly different from the 120 Wall Street office where I first learned my ABCs.

I had been warned of all of this well before I signed onto this path. This pattern is present in not just my org but in many other institutions, both businesses and NGOs. At the end of the day, life is a marathon and not a sprint. Sit back, reflect and get inspired. Especially if you are in fundraising business.

Oh and no, I have nothing to do with the foundation. Just needed a beach tote.

Integrated person

I loved that she gave her kids homegrown vegetables and big glasses of sugary processed Kool-Aid right alongside. That is my favorite kind of integrated person. Some of each thing and not too much of any one.

– Gabrielle Hamilton, Blood, Bones & Butter

Murals at the Garden

With a profession that capitalizes on human relationships called fundraising, I at times think about the many layers of self that come out and project onto different people as different images, depending on circumstances, contexts, and the other person’s beliefs and expectations of the whole me. How does one remain professional and authentic?

Continue reading