Thursday, 20 July 2017

Bloomberg/Tom Randall: Elon Musk's Dream of a 29 Minute NY-D.C. Connection

Elon Musk Claims U.S. Approval For World’s Longest Tunnel

The White House confirms “positive conversations,” but an ultra high-speed rail line from Washington to New York?

By Tom Randall
Thu Jul 20 17:35:29 2017

Elon Musk's Dream of a 29 Minute NY-D.C. Connection

Elon Musk says he won “verbal” government approval to build the world’s longest tunnel for an ultra-high-speed train line to connect New York to Washington.

The train, known as a hyperloop, would make the 220 mile connection in 29 minutes, Musk said in a post on Twitter Thursday. He provided few details, and a spokesperson for his new digging enterprise, called the Boring Company, declined to comment on the project.

It’s not clear what Musk is doing with these announcements on Twitter. Such an ambitious project would require billions of dollars in funding and extensive approvals from federal, state, and local authorities. The tunnel would be more than twice as long as the current record holder: the Gotthard Base Tunnel, a rail line that runs through the Swiss Alps. For some urban context: a recently opened stretch of subway in New York cost $4.5 billion for less than 2 miles of rails. It was first proposed in 1919 and opened to the public in January 2017.  These things take time.
Musk's first bore hole.
Source: Boring Company

Even if the Boring Co. did receive some kind of approval to start digging a tunnel, it’s not clear how quickly the company will be able to move. Musk began digging in May on a small test tunnel using a second-hand boring machine, called Godot, which he acquired for his speculative new enterprise. Here’s how Musk described the Boring Co. at a Ted Talk in April: “This is basically interns and people doing it part time. We bought some second-hand machinery. It’s kind of puttering along, but it’s making good progress.”

Then there’s the hyperloop component of his supposed megaproject. The hyperloop is an idea for a high-speed rail system that uses magnetic levitation and near-vacuum conditions. Musk first proposed it in 2013 white paper he published for outside groups to work on (he was too busy.) Last year, he built a hyperloop test track near the headquarters of his rocket company, SpaceX, in Hawthorne, California, to host a competition for teams of students to race their vehicles. So far, no human has ridden in a hyperloop prototype.

“This is basically interns and people doing it part time. We bought some second-hand machinery. It’s kind of puttering along, but it’s making good progress.”

That said, Musk does have some lofty ambitions for the Boring Co. In February, he visited a worksite in Washington to check out a used tunneling machine he was considering purchasing, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek story. The machine, dubbed Nannie by the city’s water utility, had been used to dig a sewage overflow tunnel. 

At the time, Musk said his plan was to use an existing tunnel boring machine and modify it so that it could dig more quickly. “To make it five times better is not crazy hard,” he told Bloomberg. It’s not clear if Musk has bought a tunnel boring machine in Washington; the only tunnel the company has dug so far is in the parking lot of  SpaceX.
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Musk launched the Boring Co. in December with a series of Twitter posts, tapping veteran SpaceX engineer Steve Davis to oversee the project. In January, the company began digging in the parking lot as part of a planned network that Musk says will eventually cover all of Los Angeles. On Thursday, Musk said the East Coast tunnel will progress “in parallel” with the West Coast project. “Then prob LA-SF and a TX loop,” he wrote.

For now, the whole California endeavor is on private property, which means that Musk could break ground and start digging without any local or federal permits. Musk has had discussions with Mayor Eric Garcetti, but it’s unclear if he’s made any progress in seeking regulatory approval. “Permits [are] harder than technology,” Musk tweeted in June.

A White House spokesman confirmed that the administration has had “promising conversations to date” with Musk and Boring Company executives but would only say the administration is “committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector.” 

In Virginia, it took two years just to complete the geotechnical and environmental studies for the Chesapeake Bay tunnel project that's about to begin, said Aubrey Layne, the state's secretary of transportation. She said she doesn't know anything about Musk's plans.

“It can’t be more than just, ‘Hey, this looks like an idea we’re going to let you explore,’’’ Layne said of Musk’s tweet.

Whatever this new “verbal approval” means, the posts on Twitter are probably little more than an attempt to generate interest in future Boring Co. projects. Musk himself suggested as much Thursday. David Lee, a Silicon Valley reporter for the BBC, questioned Musk’s promises: “Verbal? Not on the dotted line? Seems premature to announce ... unless you’re drumming up support for the project?”

Musk’s response: “Support would be much appreciated!”
Read Next: We're Tracking Every One of Musk's Boring Goals

— With assistance by Max Chafkin, Jennifer Epstein, and Mark Niquette

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McKinsey & Company/Goran, LaBerge and Srinivasan: Culture for a digital age

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Article - McKinsey Quarterly - July 2017

Culture for a digital age

By Julie Goran, Laura LaBerge, and Ramesh Srinivasan

Risk aversion, weak customer focus, and siloed mind-sets have long bedeviled organizations. In a digital world, solving these cultural problems is no longer optional.

Shortcomings in organizational culture are one of the main barriers to company success in the digital age. That is a central finding from McKinsey’s recent survey of global executives (Exhibit 1), which highlighted three digital-culture deficiencies: functional and departmental silos, a fear of taking risks, and difficulty forming and acting on a single view of the customer.
Exhibit 1
Culture is the most significant self-reported barrier to digital.

Each obstacle is a long-standing difficulty that has become more costly in the digital age. When risk aversion holds sway, underinvestment in strategic opportunities and sluggidsh responses to quick-changing customer needs and market dynamics can be the result. When a unified understanding of customers is lacking, companies struggle to mobilize employees around integrated touchpoints, journeys, and consistent experiences, while often failing to discern where to best place their bets as digital broadens customer choice and the actions companies can take in response. And when silos characterize the organization, responses to rapidly evolving customer needs are often too narrow, with key signals missed or acted upon too slowly, simply because they were seen by the wrong part of the company.

Can fixes to culture be made directly? Or does cultural change emerge as a matter of course as executives work to update strategy or improve processes?1 In our experience, executives who wait for organizational cultures to change organically will move too slowly as digital penetration grows, blurs the boundaries between sectors, and boosts competitive intensity. Our research, which shows that cultural obstacles correlate clearly with negative economic performance (Exhibit 2), supports this view. So do the experiences of leading players such as BBVA, GE, and Nordstrom, which have shown what it looks like when companies support their digital strategies and investments with deliberate efforts to make their cultures more responsive to customers, more willing to take risks, and better connected across functions.
Exhibit 2
Cultural obstacles correlate clearly with negative economic performance.

Executives must be proactive in shaping and measuring culture, approaching it with the same rigor and discipline with which they tackle operational transformations. This includes changing structural and tactical elements in an organization that run counter to the culture change they are trying to achieve. The critical cultural intervention points identified by respondents to our 2016 digital survey—risk aversion, customer focus, and silos—are a valuable road map for leaders seeking to persevere in reshaping their organization’s culture. The remainder of this article discusses each of these challenges in turn, spelling out a focused set of reinforcing practices to jump-start change.
Calculated risks

Too often, management writers talk about risk in broad-brush terms, suggesting that if executives simply encourage experimentation and don’t punish failure, everything will take care of itself. But risk and failure profoundly challenge us as human beings. As Ed Catmull of Pixar said in a 2016 McKinsey Quarterly interview, “One of the things about failure is that it’s asymmetrical with respect to time. When you look back and see failure, you say, ‘It made me what I am!’ But looking forward, you think, ‘I don’t know what is going to happen and I don’t want to fail.’ The difficulty is that when you’re running an experiment, it’s forward looking. We have to try extra hard to make it safe to fail.”

The balancing act Catmull described applies to companies, perhaps even more than to individuals. Capital markets have typically been averse to investments that are hard to understand, that underperform, or that take a long time to reach fruition. And the digital era has complicated matters: On the one hand, willingness to experiment, adapt, and to invest in new, potentially risky areas has become critically important. On the other, taking risks has become more frightening because transparency is greater, competitive advantage is less durable, and the cost of failure is high, given the prevalence of winner-take-all dynamics.

Leaders hoping to strike the right balance have two critical priorities that are mutually reinforcing at a time when fast-follower strategies have become less safe. One is to embed a mind-set of risk taking and innovation through all ranks of the enterprise. The second is for executives themselves to act boldly once they have decided on a specific digital play—which may well require changing mind-sets about risk, and inspiring key executives and boards to think more like venture capitalists.
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An appetite for risk

Building a culture where people feel comfortable trying things that might fail starts with senior leaders’ attitudes and role modeling. They must break the status quo of hierarchical decision making, overcome a focus on optimizing rather than innovating, and celebrate learning from failure. It helps considerably when executives make it clear through actions that they trust the front lines to make meaningful decisions. ING and several other companies have tackled this imperative head-on, providing agile coaches to help management learn how to get out of the way after setting overall direction for objectives, budgets, and timing.

However, delegating authority only works if the employees have the skills, mind-sets, and information access to make good on it. Outside hires from start-ups or established digital natives can help inject disruptive thinking that is a source of innovative energy and empowerment. Starbucks, for example, has launched a digital-ventures team, hiring vice presidents from Google, Microsoft, and Razorfish to help drive outside thinking.

Also empowering for frontline workers (and risk dampening for organizations) is information itself. For example, equipping call-center employees with real-time analysis on account profiles, or data on usage and profitability, helps them take small-scale risks as they modify offers and adjust targeting in real time. In the retail and hospitality industries, companies are giving frontline employees both the information (such as segment and purchase history) and the decision authority they need to resolve customer issues on the spot, without having to escalate to management. Such information helps connect the front line to the company’s strategic vision, which provides a compass for decision making on things such as what sort of discount or incentive to offer in resolving a conflict or what “next product to buy” to tee up. Benefits include improvements in the customer experiences (due to faster resolution) and greater consistency across the business in spotting and resolving problems. This lowers cost at the same time it improves customer satisfaction. In addition, frontline risk taking enables more rapid innovation by speeding up iterations and decision making to support nimbler, test-and-learn approaches. These same dynamics prevail in manufacturing, with new algorithms enabling predictive maintenance that no longer requires sign-off from higher-level managers.

Regardless of industry, the critical question for executives concerned with their organization’s risk appetite is whether they are trusting their employees, at all levels, to make big enough bets without subjecting them to red tape. Many CFOs have decided to shift all but the largest investment decisions into the business units to speed up the process. The CFO at one global 500 consumer-goods company now signs off only on expenditures above $250,000. Until recently, any spend decision over $1,000 required the CFO’s approval.
Making bold bets

At the same time they are letting go of some decisions, senior leaders also are responsible for driving bold, decisive actions that enable the business to pivot rapidly, sometimes at very large scale. Such moves require risk taking, including aggressive goal setting and nimble resource reallocation.

A culture of digital aspirations. Goals should reflect the pace of disruption in a company’s industry. The New York Times set the aspiration to double its digital revenues within five years, enabled in part by the launch of T Brand Studio as a new business model. In the face of Amazon, Nordstrom committed more than $1.4 billion in technology capital investments to enable rich cross-channel experiences. The Irish bank AIB decided customers should be able to open an account in under ten minutes (90 percent faster than the norm prevailing at the time). AIB invested to achieve this goal and saw a 25 percent lift in accounts opened, along with a 20 percent drop in costs. In many industries facing digital disruption, this is the pace and scale at which executives need to be willing to play.

Embracing resource reallocation. Nimble resource reallocation is typically needed to back up such goals. In many incumbents, though, M&A and capital-expenditure decisions are too slow, with too many roadblocks in the way. They need to be retooled to take on more of a venture-capitalist approach to rapid sizing, testing, investing, and disinvesting. The top teams at a large global financial-services player and an IT-services company have been reevaluating all of their businesses with a five- to ten-year time horizon, determining which ones they will need to exit, where they need to invest, and where they can stay the course. Such moves tax the risk capacity of executives; but when the moves are made, they also shake things up and move the needle on a company’s risk culture.

The financial markets are double-edged swords when it comes to bold moves. While they remain preoccupied with short-term earnings, they are also cognizant of cautionary tales such as Blockbuster’s 2010 bankruptcy, just three years after the launch of Netflix’s streaming-video business. Companies like GE have nonetheless plunged ahead with long-term, digitally oriented strategies. In aggressively shedding some of its traditional business units, investing significantly to build out its Predix platform, and launching GE Digital, its first new business unit in 75 years, with more than $1 billion invested in 2016, GE’s top team has embraced disciplined risk taking while building for the future.
Customers, customers, customers

Although companies have long declared their intention to get close to their customers, the digital age is forcing them to actually do it, as well as providing them with better means to do so. Accustomed to best-in-class user experiences both on- and off-line with companies such as Amazon and Apple, customers increasingly expect companies to respond swiftly to inquiries, to customize products and services seamlessly, and to provide easy access to the information customers need, when they need it.

A customer-centric organizational culture, in other words, is more than merely a good thing—it’s becoming a matter of survival. The good news is that getting closer to your customers can help reduce the risk of experimentation (as customers help cocreate products through open innovation) and support fast-paced change. Rather than having to guess what’s working in a given product or service before launching it—and then waiting to see if your guess is right after the launch takes place—companies can now make adjustments nearly real-time by developing product and service features with direct input from end users. This is already taking place in products from Legos to aircraft engines. The process not only helps derisk product development, it tightens the relationship between companies and their customers, often providing valuable proprietary data and insights about how customers think about and use the products or services being created.
Data and tools

Underlying the new customer-centricity are diverse tools and data. Connecting the right data to the right decisions can help build a common understanding of customer needs into an organizational culture, fostering a virtuous cycle that reinforces customer-centricity. Amazon’s ability to use customers’ previous purchases to offer them additional items in which they might be interested is a significant element in its success. The virtuous circle they’ve created includes customer reviews (to reassure and reinforce other shoppers), along with the algorithms that share “what customers who looked at this item also bought.” Of course, Amazon has also invested heavily in automated warehouses and a sophisticated distribution model. But even those were tied to the customer desire to receive merchandise faster.
A unifying force

At its best, customer-centricity extends far beyond marketing and product design to become a unifying cultural element that drives all core decisions across all areas of the business. That includes operations, where in many organizations it’s often the furthest from view, and strategy, which must be regularly refreshed if it is to serve as a reliable guide in today’s rapidly changing environment. Customer-centric cultures anticipate emerging patterns in the behavior of customers and tailor relevant interactions with them by dynamically integrating structured data, such as demographics and purchase history, with unstructured data, such as social media and voice analytics.

The insurance company Progressive illustrates the unifying role played by strong customer focus. Progressive’s ability to persuade customers to install the company’s Snapshot device to monitor driving behavior is revolutionizing the insurance space, and not just as a marketing tool. Snapshot helps attract the good drivers who are the most profitable customers, since those individuals are the ones most likely to be attracted by the offer of better discounts based on driving behavior. It also gives the company’s underwriters actual data in place of models and guesswork. This new technology is one that Progressive can monetize into a business unit to serve other insurers as well.
Busting silos

Some observers might consider organizational silos—so named for parallel parts of the org chart that don’t intersect—a structural issue rather than a cultural one. But silos are more than just lines and boxes. The narrow, parochial mentality of workers who hesitate to share information or collaborate across functions and departments can be corrosive to organizational culture.

Silos are a perennial problem that have become more costly because, in the words of Cognizant CEO Francisco D’Souza, “the interdisciplinary requirement of digital continues to grow. The possibilities created by combining data science, design, and human science underscore the importance both of working cross-functionally and of driving customer-centricity into the everyday operations of the business. Many organizations have yet to unlock that potential.”2 The executives we surveyed appeared to agree, ranking siloed thinking and behavior number one among obstacles to a healthy digital culture.

How can you tell if your own organization is too siloed? Discussions with CEOs who have led old-line companies through successful digital transformations indicate two primary symptoms: inadequate information, and insufficient accountability or coordination on enterprise-wide initiatives.
Getting informed

Digital information breakdowns echo the familiar story of the blind men and the elephant. When employees lack insight into the broader context in which a business competes, they are less likely to recognize the threat of disruption or digital opportunity when they see it and to know when the rest of the organization should be alerted. They can only interpret what they encounter through the lens of their own narrow area of endeavor.

The corollary to this is that every part of the organization reaches different conclusions about their digital priorities, based on incomplete or simply different information. This contributes to breaks in strategic and operating consistency that consumers are fast to spot. There isn’t the luxury of time in today’s digital world for each division to discover the same insight; a digital attacker or more agile incumbent is likely to swoop in before the siloed organization even knows it should be mounting a response. So the first imperative for companies looking to break out of a siloed mentality is to inspire within employees a common sense of the overall direction and purpose of the company. Data and thoughtful management rotation often play a role.

Data-driven transparency. Data can help solve the blind-men-and-the-elephant problem. A social-services company, for instance, created a customer-engagement group to better understand how customers interact with the company’s products and brands across silos—and where customers were running into difficulty. Among other things, this required close examination of how the company collected, analyzed, and distributed data across silos. The team discovered, for example, that some customers were cancelling their memberships because of the deluge of marketing outreaches they were receiving from the company. To address this, the team combined customer databases and propensity models across silos to create visibility and centralized access rights with regard to who could reach out to members and when. Among other achievements, this team:

    created segment-specific trainings that offered an integrated view of each segment’s suite of needs and offerings that would meet them
    drew on information from different parts of the organization to give a more developed picture on engagement, retention, and the total number of touches associated with various segments and customers
    showed the net effect of the entire organization’s activities through the customer’s eyes
    embedded this information into key processes to ensure information was accessible in a cross-disciplinary way—breaking siloed viewpoints and narrow understandings of the overall business model

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Management rotation. Another way to achieve better alignment on the company’s direction is to rotate executives between siloed functions and business units. At the luxury retailer Nordstrom, for example, two key executives exchanged roles in 2014: Erik Nordstrom, formerly president of the company’s brick-and-mortar stores, became president of Nordstrom Direct, the company’s online store, while Jamie Nordstrom, formerly president of Nordstrom Direct, became president of the brick-and-mortar stores. This type of rotation can be done at different levels in an organization and helps create a more consistent understanding between different business units regarding the company’s aspirations and capabilities, as well as helping create informal networks as employees build relationships in different departments.
Instilling accountability

The second distinctive symptom of a siloed culture is the tendency for employees to believe a given problem or issue is someone else’s responsibility, not their own. Companies can counter this by institutionalizing mechanisms to help support cross-functional collaboration through flexibly deployed teams. That was the case at ING, which, because it identifies more as a technology company than a financial-services company, has turned to tech firms for inspiration, not banks. Spotify, in particular, has provided a much-talked-about model of multidisciplinary teams, or squads, made up of a mix of employees from diverse functions, including marketers, engineers, product developers, and commercial specialists. All are united by a shared view of the customer and a common definition of success. These squads roll up into bigger groups called tribes, which focus on end-to-end business outcomes, forcing a broader picture on all team members. The team members are also held mutually accountable for the outcome, eliminating the “not my job” mind-set that so many other organizations find themselves trapped in. While this model works best in IT functions, it is slowly making its way into other areas of the business. Key elements of the model (such as end-to-end outcome ownership) are also being mapped into more traditional teams to try to bring at least pieces of this mind-set into more traditional companies.

Start by finding mechanisms, whether digital, structural, or process, that help build a shared understanding of business priorities and why they matter. Change happens fast and from unpredictable places, and the more context you give your employees, the better they will be able to make the right decisions when it does. To achieve this, organizations must remove the barriers that keep people from collaborating, and build new mechanisms for cutting through (or eliminating altogether) the red tape and bureaucracy that many incumbents have built up over time.

Cultural changes within corporate institutions will always be slower and more complex than the technological changes that necessitate them. That makes it even more critical for executives to take a proactive stance on culture. Leaders won’t achieve the speed and agility they need unless they build organizational cultures that perform well across functions and business units, embrace risk, and focus obsessively on customers.
About the author(s)
Julie Goran is a partner in McKinsey’s New York office, where Ramesh Srinivasan is a senior partner; Laura LaBerge is a senior practice manager of Digital McKinsey and is based in the Stamford office.

The authors wish to thank Jacques Bughin, Prashant Gandhi, and Tiffany Vogel for their contributions to this article.
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© 1996-2017 McKinsey & Company Lapowsky:Trump’s Policies Are Sending Precious Startup Jobs to Canada

Trump’s Policies Are Sending Precious Startup Jobs to Canada

    Author: Issie Lapowsky
    07:00 am


Raya Bidshahri’s hands shook as she sat in her dorm room in February, reading the email that had been sent to all Boston University students.
“It was a warning letter,” she says, about a ban the Trump administration planned to institute against travelers and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Iran, where Bidshahri was born and where her family still lives.

Bidshahri had moved to the United States three years earlier to study neuroscience, and was just months away from graduation, after which she wanted to launch her online education startup in the Bay Area. She planned to take advantage of something called the International Entrepreneur Rule, which would give immigrant founders who raise at least $250,000 in funding temporary legal status in the United States while they build their businesses. For Bidshahri, the rule was perfectly timed. Finalized in the last days of President Obama's tenure in office, it was set to go into effect this July, just months after she received her diploma.

But that email from Boston University about the travel ban got Bidshahri thinking the United States might not be such a welcoming place for her or her company after all. And so, in June, she did what so many other foreign founders have done over the past year: set up shop in Toronto. Now she’s relieved she did.

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security delayed the International Entrepreneur Rule to next March, and it is currently accepting comments on plans to rescind it altogether. The agency cited logistical challenges in vetting these new visas. The news has prompted backlash from immigrant entrepreneurs like PayPal cofounder Max Levchin and leadership at the National Venture Capital Association, who argue that rolling back the rule will drive would-be job creators to other, more welcoming nations. As Bidshahri’s story illustrates, it already is.

“We’re saying no to those new jobs and that new innovation at a time when there are many places in this country that want this,” says Jeff Farrah, vice president of government affairs at the National Venture Capital Association.

Politicians like to talk about small businesses being the lifeblood of the American economy. But the truth is that it’s not small businesses but young businesses that are creating the most jobs. According to the Kauffman Foundation, which studies and promotes entrepreneurship, young companies account for almost all net new job creation and 20 percent of gross job creation in the US. The foundation has also found that roughly a quarter of tech and engineering firms are founded by immigrants, and employ an average of 21.37 people per company. It’s little wonder, then, that as the United States keeps these entrepreneurs in legal limbo, other countries, from France to Chile, are all too eager to take them in. In January, France launched its French Tech Visa, and in April Chile announced that its tech visa approval process would take just 15 days. But with its geographic proximity to well-heeled Silicon Valley investors, cultural similarities, and lack of a language barrier, Canada is emerging as an attractive option for foreign-born founders seeking a foothold in North America.

That’s not by accident. Canada began pitching itself to entrepreneurs back in 2013, when the United States Congress was in the throes of a bitter debate over a comprehensive immigration reform bill that included, among other things, a startup visa. That bill died in the House of Representatives, but America's neighbors up north took notice, piloting their own startup visa program that very year. It extends permanent residency visas to anyone who receives funding from a list of designated venture capitalists and angel investors or admission to Canadian business incubators. So far, 60 startups have launched in Canada using this visa. The pilot program ends in 2018, but the government may renew it before then.

In June, Canada also launched its Global Skills Strategy, which helps entrepreneurs secure work permits for highly skilled foreign workers within two weeks. This comes as the Trump administration vows to crack down on the use of H-1B visas for highly skilled foreign workers in the United States.

"We don't have a monopoly of good ideas. We recognize that companies need access to global talent and a global talent pool," says Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science, and economic development. "We’re betting on people. We're betting on diversity."

These developments enticed German-born entrepreneur Chris Erhardt when he was looking for a home base for his company Tunedly, which helps studio musicians collaborate on music remotely. Having spent part of high school and college in Arkansas and Texas, the US was Erhardt’s first choice, not only because of its deep pool of investors but because it’s where the majority of Tunedly’s customers live. But the only visa options available to him and his French cofounder were either temporary or would have required him to hold another job to sponsor him on an H-1B visa.

“Running a startup is kind of a process,” Erhardt says. “You don’t want to have to worry if you can stay in the country where your investors and customers are too.”

So Erhardt applied to two incubators in Canada, was accepted to both, and entered one on Prince Edward Island last January. A little over a month ago, he and his cofounder became permanent residents and have since hired four people. Now, he says, they are not only secure in their visa status, they can visit their investors in the US whenever they want—and most of his investors are US-based.

That’s not altogether unusual for international entrepreneurs these days, says Farrah. Two decades ago, according to the NVCA, US companies received about 90 percent of all venture capital. Last year, they received 54 percent. Canadian companies, meanwhile, raised $3.2 billion in 2016, a 41 percent increase from 2015. The Canadian government has also set aside $400 million in its 2017 budget for investment in late-stage companies and $117.6 million to help research institutions attract international talent.

“You have other countries really rolling out the red carpet for entrepreneurs,” Farrah says. “Historically, the best founders did everything they could to come here.” Now he sees companies getting born outside the US that would once have set up shop here.

Another metric of Canada's success in recruiting overseas talent: Foreign applications to Canadian universities, including the University of Alberta, the University of Toronto, and Queen's University, have surged by more than 25 percent for the fall 2017 semester. In the US, meanwhile, a recent survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers found a 40 percent drop in international applications for the 2017 school year.

The International Entrepreneur Rule wouldn’t have been a perfect fit for all entrepreneurs. For starters, it only covered founders for 30 months, with the option to extend another 30 months if they met certain hiring and fund-raising criteria. Which is why some in the startup world won’t be completely dismayed should the rule disappear. “It’s simply an exemption, not a pathway to a green card,” says Manan Mehta, founding partner at Unshackled Ventures, a venture capital firm that supports foreign-born entrepreneurs. Mehta says starting from scratch could pave the way for “a true startup visa that enables these great graduates and strong workers to stay and build their companies that are already here.”

And yet, it’s hard to imagine such a thing coming out of this administration. That’s not for lack of bipartisan support. Among the voices advocating on behalf of the International Entrepreneur Rule were Republican Senators Orrin Hatch, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain. And yet, the ranks of the White House and United States Citizen and Immigration Services are stacked with political figures who seek not only to crack down on undocumented immigration, but on legal immigration as well.

Chief strategist Steve Bannon has lamented the number of Asian founders in Silicon Valley. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has accused Facebook and Microsoft of using H-1B visas to keep wages low. And Julie Kirchner, the new ombudsman for Citizenship and Immigration Services, formerly served as executive director to the group Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, which the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a hate group.

That’s not exactly comforting to Minnie Yuan, cofounder of Nastea, a Seattle-based coffee beverage startup that sells its product online. Yuan moved from Taiwan to the Bay Area for high school when she was 16 and lived with her 18-year-old brother, only seeing her parents sparingly over the years. On a student visa, she attended the University of Washington, where she met her three cofounders and launched Nastea during an entrepreneurship course her senior year. After graduating in May, Yuan was looking forward to focusing on the business full-time, but following last week’s news about the International Entrepreneur Rule, she and her cofounders are weighing their options.

Her cofounders could technically hire her and apply for an H-1B visa for her, but that’s no sure bet. Only 65,000 H-1B visas are issued via lottery every year, and large companies, including Silicon Valley giants and outsourcing firms, typically gobble up the majority of them. The other option: the Nastea troop could take a two-hour drive up the coast to Canada and grow their business there. “In the long run, we all want to stay here and create this company, and of course give back to the community,” Yuan says, “But we’re aware how hard it is.”

For now, she and her cofounders are still deciding. There is, of course, the ever-so-slight chance that the Trump administration could have a change of heart about the International Entrepreneur Rule during this comment period, before the new effective date rolls around next March. But some, like Bidshahri, aren't waiting around to see what the US decides. In the tech world, you've got to move fast. For more and more startup founders, that means starting up somewhere else.


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VC4A research proves founder teams are key to startup success in Africa

The 2017 release is based on data collected from 1866 ventures from 41 African countries and 111 Africa-focused investors from 39 countries around the world

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, July 20, 2017/ -- Data from VC4A’s new ‘2017 Venture Finance in Africa’ research ( proves that a strong team of founders is the key driver of startup success in Africa.

In this year’s study VC4A ( aims to better understand the critical success factors for African startups and identify the key ingredients that determine why one venture outperforms its peers. These learnings are useful for both the entrepreneurs and for the support systems they depend on to make well-informed decisions.

The 2017 release ( is based on data collected from 1866 ventures from 41 African countries and 111 Africa-focused investors from 39 countries around the world.

“We are truly entering a new stage of startup growth on the continent. Not only has the number of startups continued to grow at an impressive rate, they are increasingly successful at scaling into sustainable enterprises well-positioned for growth. With the right team in place, we are seeing a growing number of companies break rank. I’m sure we will witness many new success stories hitting the headlines as a result” – Ben White, CEO VC4A (

Key outcomes

A key outcome from this year’s research on African startups was the identification of their unique traits relative to the startups’ level of commercial performance. And although many factors go into building a company, analysis of the data makes clear that a strong team of founders is the key driver of venture success in Africa. Many investors consider this as the main thing they look for, but now the data also shows that the right team of founders makes the difference, and is the single most unique characteristic across the companies making commercial progress.

By analyzing two data samples of 100 ventures in more detail, i.e.: ‘emerging’ and ‘established’ ventures, the research team found correlations that help to understand the venture’s ability to be successful. The success of the ‘established’ ventures can be explained by the composition of the founding team based on size, education, gender and age.


As described above, gender balance can further explain venture success, as the founding teams of successful ventures are more likely to include male and female founders. It is noteworthy that 46% of these ventures include a female founder in their team. Exclusively female teams run 9% of the startups.

Among the countries with 20 or more ventures participating in the survey, Uganda and Kenya have the highest female participation. For Uganda, 57% of the ventures include a female founder where for Kenya the number is only slightly lower at 55%. South Africa has the lowest female participation rate at 33%. Nevertheless, these percentages of female founders far outpace averages recorded in more established startup hubs like New York or San Francisco. More details and other factors that differentiate a successful team of founders are included in the 2017 report.

Startup impact

The founders in the VC4A community continue to inspire. Not only has the number of startups active across the continent continued to grow at an impressive rate, the startups are increasingly successful at scaling into sustainable enterprises well-positioned for growth. Our research showed that 62% of the ventures have secured paying customers and 22% have prepared audited annual accounts. These are part of the many milestones that are often achieved before formal registration. Research shows this affects investor interest positively: 42% of these ventures have received outside funding. 29% percent of these companies have raised more than USD 50,000.

This mainstreaming of technology in traditional business sectors advances core industries. This year we found an increased amount of relevant technology applications across traditional sectors, including agribusiness, energy, healthcare and education. This relates to VC4A’s observations that there is indeed a growing number of entrepreneurs that not only have the knowledge and skills needed to contextualize, repurpose and refactor technology, but also the business skills needed to do so successfully.

Annual research among entrepreneurs and investors

The 'VC4A Venture Finance in Africa' report captures the performance of early stage, high growth ventures from Africa and the activity of early stage investors. The insights are broken down across several indicators: job creation, performance, investments, investor interest, ecosystem players and drivers of success.

This is the fourth consecutive time VC4A has endeavored in this annual research. As of September 2015 the data collection takes place continuously via the portal. As the community continues to grow, it is expected the report will generate insights into what is happening across the larger startup space.

For more information about the 'Venture Finance in Africa' research, visit:

Distributed by APO on behalf of Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A).

View multimedia content

Note to press:
- To learn more about the 2017 Venture Finance in Africa Report contact Thomas van Halen via or +31(0)20 233 63 25;
- Register a FREE VC4A account to access the summary version or upgrade to access the full results for only $79,99:

About Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A):
The mission of VC4A is to support the African startup community. VC4A is a network-building organization that started in 2007 and has grown organically over the years. The VC4A community has over 50,000 members in 159 countries, including 1.000+ investors. More than 8.000 entrepreneurs in Africa present their companies on the platform: early stage ventures that require investments of above USD 10K, but less than USD 2 million.

Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A)99

Wall Street Journal/Rob Williams: Robots Are Replacing Workers at many Stores

Robots Are Replacing Workers at Many Stores

By Rob Williams   |   Wednesday, 19 Jul 2017 12:28

Self-checkout machines were only the beginning of replacing human workers with machines at retail stores.

The U.S. economy has lost about 71,000 retail jobs since the beginning of the year as routine tasks become automated and thousands of stores close because of competition from e-commerce companies like Amazon. Nearly 16 million people, or 11 percent of non-farm U.S. jobs, are in the retail industry, making it bigger than the factory sector, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


One Wal-Mart worker profiled by the newspaper learned last year that her $13-an-hour job of counting cash would be replaced by a machine. The Cash360 machine would count eight bills a second, 3,000 coins a minute and digitally deposit money at the bank to earn interest faster. The worker, a 10-year Wal-Mart veteran, was reassigned to a store greeter job for the same pay.

“The role of service and customer-facing associates will always be there,” Judith McKenna, Wal-Mart’s U.S. chief operating officer, told the WSJ. But “there are interesting developments in technology that mean those roles shift and change over time.”

Home Depot Inc. has self-checkouts in most stores and is testing scanner guns that shoppers can use to buy bulky items like lumber and drywall.

“We want to simplify the stores so that we can free up our associates…so they can focus on selling,” Carol Tomé, Home Depot’s chief financial officer, said to the WSJ.

Between 6 million and 7.5 million retail industry jobs are vulnerable to automation within 10 years, according to a May study by Cornerstone Capital Group.

The report forecast that the jobs of as many as 47 percent of the 16 million Americans currently working in retail could be lost to e-commerce and automation. In-store roles most vulnerable to being replaced by machine include cashiers and order clerks while salespeople and freight handlers are slightly less exposed.
inRead invented by Teads

Jobs that require a human touch like store greeters would be more insulated from direct replacement by robots or apps, but rising wage costs could make those jobs too expensive for stores to justify, Fortune magazine reported.

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Investopedia: What is a Stop-Loss Order'?

Stop-Loss Order
What is a 'Stop-Loss Order'

An order placed with a broker to sell a security when it reaches a certain price. A stop-loss order is designed to limit an investor’s loss on a position in a security. Although most investors associate a stop-loss order only with a long position, it can also be used for a short position, in which case the security would be bought if it trades above a defined price. A stop-loss order takes the emotion out of trading decisions and can be especially handy when one is on vacation or cannot watch his/her position. However, execution is not guaranteed, particularly in situations where trading in the stock is halted or gaps down (or up) in price. Also known as a “stop order” or “stop-market order.”

BREAKING DOWN 'Stop-Loss Order'

With a stop-loss order for a long position, a market order to sell is triggered when the stock trades below a certain price, and it will be sold at the next available price. This type of order works well if the stock or market is declining in an orderly manner, but not if the decline is disorderly or sharp.

For example, if you own shares of ABC Co., which is currently trading at $50, and want to hedge against a big decline, you could enter a stop-loss order to sell your ABC holdings at $48. This type of stop-loss order is also called a sell-stop order. If ABC trades below $48, your stop-loss order is triggered and converts into a market order to sell ABC at the next available price. If the next price if $47.90, your ABC shares would be sold at $47.90.

But what if ABC closes at $48.50 one day, and then reports weak quarterly earnings after market close? If the stock gaps down, and opens at $44.90 the next day, your stop-loss order would be automatically triggered and your shares sold at the next available price, say $45. In this case, your stop-loss order did not work out as you expected, since your loss on ABC is 10% rather than the 4% you had expected when you placed the stop-loss order.

This is a major drawback of stop-loss orders, and is a reason why experienced investors use stop-limit orders instead of stop-market orders. Stop-limit orders seek to sell the stock at a specified limit price – rather than the market price – once a specified price level is breached. Although stop-limit orders will also not work if the stock is halted down or has a price gap, the risk of the long position being sold at a significantly lower price than the specified stop price is lower than with a stop-market order.

Note that these orders can also be used to protect unrealized gains, although in this case it would be more accurate to refer to them as stop orders rather than stop-loss orders.

Go deeper by reading our article on The Stop-Loss Order - Make Sure You Use It.
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Stopped Out

The execution of a stop-loss order. Stopped out refers to when an investor predetermines a price at which they want to sell if the stock's price falls, they place a stop-loss order. If they purchase a stock for $35 a share and doesn't want to continue holding the stock if it falls to $30 a share, they would place a stop-loss order for $30. If the stock did in fact fall to $30 a share, the investor's stop-loss order would be executed and the investor would be stopped out.

While stop-loss orders are an effective strategy for limiting potential losses, they will sometimes be executed because market conditions are volatile or because the stock itself is volatile and not because the stock has experienced a lasting drop in price. The aforementioned $35 stock might fluctuate throughout the day and drop as low as $27 only to close back up at $36. The investor who placed a stop-loss order at $30 would no longer own the stock at the end of the day because they would have been stopped out, but this result could be undesirable since the stock ended up rising again rather than continuing to fall.

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Virgin Future Visions: Meet Our Experts

"Fantasising about the future is one of my favourite pastimes," admits Richard Branson. "And I like to dream big. If your dreams don’t scare you, they are too small."

To help us all dream big the Virgin Group founder has convened six of the world’s sharpest minds - who are adept at successfully predicting change - to share their unique insights into the future of the workplace in 20 years’ time.

Across the next 12 weeks we'll hear from cognitive neuroscientist Araceli Camargo, futures analyst Dr James Bellini, entrepreneur Cindy Gallop, author and speaker Ben Hammersley, futurist Tracey Follows and Blockchain co-founder Peter Smith on how they think our lives will play out across the next two decades.

Each expert brings with them their own unique vision of the future, as we touch on every from flying cars to the fate of the office and the dangers of hyper-reality to the opportunities that will be afforded to us by the rise of the 'anywhere economy'.
Image credit:
Our experts: Araceli Camargo, Ben Hammersley, Cindy Gallop, Dr James Bellini, Tracey Follows and Peter Smith

Let's find out a little more about each of them...

    Dr James Bellini is a respected TV broadcaster, futures analyst, writer and speaker. James is also a qualified Executive Coach with extensive experience working across multiple industries. 
    Araceli Camargo is a cognitive neuroscientist, with a specialisation on perception. She is the co-founder of THECUBE London and INPUT Lofts in NYC, which are co-working spaces. As a science communicator she has worked with companies like Lloyds TSB, NHS, Bumpass and Parr, and Communicator Group.  Recently she co-founded The Centric Lab, which is in partnership with UCL. It is a lab focused on research on how people experience the built environment.
    Cindy Gallop has had a celebrated career in advertising, marketing, branding and future thinking. He continuous pursuit to challenge and disrupt the status quo has  seen her become a voice and contributor to many big debates around hard, topical and challenging topics.
    Ben Hammersley is a British internet technologist, journalist, author, broadcaster and futurist. He is a frequent contributor to many publications including Wired Magazine and BBC.
    Tracey Follows is an award-winning futurist and works with client such as Google and Diageo. She speaks and writes regularly on the future of AI, gender, work and culture.
    Peter Smith is the CEO& Co-Founder of Blockchain, a financial technology and data company. He is a regular contributor and speaker on new pioneering technology in the FinTech space.

Our Future Visions podcast series, which launches this week, will bring to life the thoughts of our experts. While here on you will find in-depth features and animations that delve into the key points raised by each vision of the future.

Heading things up on the podcast, and the star of the Future Visions artwork, is award-winning businesswoman, broadcaster and author Natalie Campbell.

Natalie is the co-founder of A Very Good Company (AVGC), a global social innovation agency, that works with consumer brands to deliver public benefit and social impact.
Image credit: Pixiu

Natalie also recently launched 'Badass Women's Hour', a weekly radio show on talkRADIO, part of the News UK group and a spin-off 'The Badass Principle' – a workout for the mind and soul'. As a non-executive director, she chairs the Nominet Trust and has governance oversight of over £1billion in public funding through her roles on the board of the Big Lottery Fund, UnLtd, the foundation for social entrepreneurs and the Mayor’s London economic strategy board (LEAP).

You can listen to the first episode right here, alternatively, head over to iTunes to subscribe.
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Call for Nominations: 2017 Dubai International Award for Best Practices

1. Calling for Nominations: 2017 Dubai International Award for Best Practices

Subject: Calling for Nominations: 2017 Dubai International Award for Best Practices
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2017 05:44:25 -0500
X-Message-Number: 1

Don’t miss the opportunity to nominate or apply for a Dubai International A:-) :-) ward. Recognizing the best efforts in improving the lives of urban residents around the globe starts with YOU! There are initiatives that inspire through their vision, their innovation or their impact – yours could be one of them. The Dubai International Award for Best Practices seeks to recognize outstanding initiatives that are making valuable contribution to the sustainability agenda in the urban arena.

The Dubai Municipality and UN-Habitat invite submissions to the 2017 Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment.

The 2017 award comes at a critical time:  with the New Urban Agenda having been signed in October last year, this is a distinct opportunity to highlight effective interventions that are in line with the New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 11 – to make cities and communities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.  The award is open to the all the different actors to show case their most effective interventions.
The Dubai International Award recognizes significant contributions which:
• Have a demonstrable and tangible impact on improving people’s quality of life
• Are the result of effective partnerships between the public, private and civic sectors of society
• Are socially, culturally, economically and environmentally sustainable

The August 31, 2017 deadline is right around the corner! To register and submit an application, please visit To learn more about the Dubai International Award visit our webpage All applications must be submitted online. If you have questions, please contact

Award Categories

The award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in developing innovative ways of dealing with social, economic, and environmental challenges in a sustainable manner. There are five (5) categories of entries available:
1. Best Practices- USD 30,000 each + a Trophy + a Commemorative Certificate
• Best Practice Award for National Urban Policies - 1 Winner
• Best Practice Award for Participatory Slum Upgrading - 1 Winner

2. Best Practices Transfers - USD 30,000 each + a Trophy + a Commemorative Certificate
• Best Practice Transfer Award in Local Implementation – Urban redevelopment, and redesign of Urban Spaces - 1 Winner
• Best Practice Transfer Award in Monitoring Mechanisms for the New Urban Agenda and the Urban SDGs - 1 Winner

3. Personal awards - USD 30,000 each + a Trophy + a Commemorative Certificate
• Personal Award for contribution to urban economy and municipal finance – 2 Winners

4. Private sector award - USD 30,000 each + a Trophy + a Commemorative Certificate
• Private Sector Award for contribution to territorial planning, urban planning and design – 2 Winners

5. University Research Award USD 15,000 each + a Trophy + a Commemorative Certificate
• University Research Award on Legislation, Rules, Regulations & Governance Systems – 2 Winners

More detailed description can be found on our webpage We also encourage you to circulate the information in the flyer attached among your networks, to reach as many potential applicants as possible.



What At All Is The Matter With Our Hidebound Ruling Elites?

If we are to eradicate abject poverty and create a more equitable society in Ghana, the more responsible sections of the media,  must ensure that  the UN Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs) underpin the governing of our country and the  management of our national economy.

The question then is: What are the UN SDGs? The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), officially known as Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a set of 17 "Global Goals" with 169 targets between them. ... The proposal contained 17 goals with 169 targets covering a broad range of sustainable development issues.
"UN Sustainable Development Goals target number 8.4, under the Goal on “sustainable economic growth,” is focused on improving resource efficiency in consumption and production and decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation."

Those wise words are observations from notes of a speech given by  Charles Arden-Clark, Head of Secretariat, Ten Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP), UN Environment - that subsequently appeared in a blog post.

He goes on further to say: "The positioning of this target in this Goal has broad implications for economic policy making, for overall development objectives and within key economic sectors."

Those SDGs are the justification for those of us who argue that if Thailand could earn U.S.$71 billion from 31 million visitors (in 2016), then it makes far better sense to focus on ecotourism anchored on what is left of our nation's natural heritage as the driver for sustainable development in the Ghanaian countryside - than to allow our natural environment to be trashed by a powerful and greedy few at society's cost.

With respect, it is shortsighted in the extreme, to give mining companies from China carte blanche to come and destroy what is left of our nation's priceless natural heritage, mining sundry minerals, in exchange for U.S.$19 billion, and then turn around to clap for ourselves and pat each other's backs for being brilliant and creative thinkers who have come up with a "new paradigm" for raising money to develop Ghana with. Some joke.

With respect, such an atrocious deal, which will end up destroying our country's priceless forests as sure as day follows night, is not a "new paradigm" to raise funds for developing our country with. Vice-President Dr. Bawumia & Co need to bone up on the ideas being propagated by the Positive Money advocay groups in the UK and New Zealand as well as the International Movement for Monetary Reform (IMMR).

A much more sensible option, in the humble view of this blog, is to simply ban the export of unrefined gold and encourage private-sector entities - and the state-owned Precious Minerals Marketing Company (PMMC) - to seek joint-venture partners to build gold refineries in Ghana and produce credit-card-sized gold bars and gold coins with Adinkra symbols on them, for sale to the world.

By so doing,  could we not turn Ghana into a global gold marketing centre, and thus create an outbound ecotourism market here for tens of millions of tourists from China and the rest of Asia - who will doubtless travel here regularly to purchase those selfsame credit-card-sized gold bars and Adinkra gold coins: and  enable our country to earn billions of dollars that stays in Ghana instead of flowing out of it - and create millions of jobs and micro-entrepreneurial opportunities for our younger generations? Haaba.

Some of us are getting fed up with such calcified thinking. Our leaders must put their thinking caps on for a change.

Not too long ago our ruling elites  were criss-crossing Ghana selling the idea of a 40-year national development plan for our nation- that all governing political parties apparently would have to adhere to  -  in an age when disruption by the advances in digital technology is resulting in  changes in the way we live and work exponentially. Incredible.

After the absurd 40-year national development plan has been quietly shelved, thank goodness, now - in the age of 3-D printing - we are busy yet again setting about implementing a 1-factory-1-district initiative as the basis for the  industrialisation of our homeland Ghana:  at precisely the  point in time when the astonishing advances in 3-D printing technology is poised to decimate factories around the globe: as artificial intelligence and machine learning inexorably lead to an era when  robots take over all manner of jobs. Amazing.

The question is : What at all is the matter with our hidebound vampire-elites - can't they do any original thinking that benefits ordinary Ghanaians at all? Ebeeii.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

SDG Knowledge Hub/Charles Arden-Clark: Leveraging Interlinkages for Effective Implementation of SDGs

SDG Knowledge Hub
A project by IISD

Leveraging Interlinkages for Effective Implementation of SDGs

By Charles Arden-Clarke
Head, 10YFP Secretariat, UN Environment
19 July 2017

  story highlights

At least 49 of the 169 targets included in the SDG framework are dependent on the shift to sustainable consumption and production, with implications for key economic sectors as well as systemic implications for policy making, investments and other decisions taken by all stakeholders engaged in consumption and production.

We must collectively define these and other inter-linkages, and then the policies, actions and investments that put them to most effective use.

The Ten-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP) focuses on this task, but broader action by many actors will be required.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 focuses on “ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns” (SCP). This objective is transversal to the SDGs, with the targets for this Goal and twelve others clearly depending on a shift to more sustainable consumption and production patterns. At least 49 of the 169 targets included in the SDG framework are dependent on this shift, with implications for key economic sectors as well as systemic implications for policy making, investments and other decisions taken by all stakeholders engaged in consumption and production.

A brief examination of a range of these individual targets illustrates these interlinkages and leverage points.

Target 8.4, under the Goal on “sustainable economic growth,” is focused on improving resource efficiency in consumption and production and decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation. The positioning of this target in this Goal has broad implications for economic policy making, for overall development objectives and within key economic sectors.

This target clearly links to target 1.5, under the Goal on ending poverty, which focuses on building the resilience of the poor to economic, social and environmental shocks, including extreme climate-related events. The greater the efficiency of resource use, the less the depletion of natural stocks, and the more economic and welfare gain can be generated from a given input and use of resources. Greater resource efficiency thus increases resilience for all, which is critically important for the poor who generally have lower access to resources.

Both these targets are in turn served by actions and policies to achieve target 12.2, on the “sustainable management and efficient use of resources.” This is a more technical and “granular” target, with a strong focus on better physical management of the individual resources (both renewable and non-renewable) that underpin most economic activity and support human life and welfare. The conjunction, interaction and co-dependence of these three targets across these three SDGs is central to achieving sustainable development. The interlinkages have implications for policies and actions extending from the physical management of individual resources to the design and implementation of macroeconomic policies, which governments and other stakeholders will need to understand and act upon.

Set against the backdrop of these three targets, we find other critical SCP targets in sectoral Goals. Target 2.4, in the Goal on ending hunger and achieving food security, is on “ensuring sustainable food production systems.” Not only does this target echo Goal 12 on SCP, but it also links back to target 1.5 on building resilience of the poor, by contributing to more resilient and productive agricultural practices. With its focus on maintaining ecosystems and improving land and soil quality, target 2.4 also feeds into targets 15.1, on sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems and their services, and 15.3, on restoring degraded land and soil.

Target 6.4, on increasing water-use efficiency, and target 7.3, on doubling the global rate of improvement of energy efficiency, are clearly relevant for greater resilience, productivity and sustainability in most economic sectors. These targets underline how a focus on more sustainable use of key resources can provide additional entry and leverage points for establishing more sustainable and resilient local, national and global economies.

The range of SCP targets, distributed transversally across the SDGs, offers opportunities for integrated and synergistic responses to many of the inter-linked challenges of sustainable development. However, designing policies that leverage action towards more than one target will require more coherence, coordination and integration across government departments than we have seen to date. It will also require the knowledge and engagement of other key stakeholders in civil society and business.

Sustainable consumption and production is an essential requirement for sustainable development, as recognized in Johannesburg, at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, and in Rio, at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), but it will be not be achieved by policy-making or business as usual. We must collectively define these and other inter-linkages, and then the policies, actions and investments that put them to most effective use. The Ten-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP), which was adopted at Rio+20, focuses on this task, in the context of its six progammes with their 520 partners and beyond, but broader action by many actors will be required to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

This article is based on comments by Charles Arden-Clarke, Head of Secretariat, Ten Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP), during the HLPF interlinkages session on 14 July 2017.

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Washington Post/Joe Davidson: Report calls for new civil service system with more power to agencies

The Washington Post
Federal Insider
Report calls for new civil service system with more power to agencies

By Joe Davidson

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) building in Washington in a 2015 photo. EPA/SHAWN THEW

In the boiling debate over the federal civil service system, a congressionally chartered think tank offers this stark assessment:

“The federal civil service system is broken. This breakdown undermines the federal government’s ability to meet the needs of its citizens.”

The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) rejects moderate fixes and recommends a fundamentally new approach — a federated personnel system giving each agency more power. The report says its title, “No Time to Wait,” was chosen to reflect a “profound sense of urgency.”

“So much of the conversation around the civil service right now is focused on the small pieces … the rules and the regulations and the processes,” said Teresa Gerton, NAPA’s president and CEO, in advance of the report’s release on Tuesday.

NAPA looked at the big picture and found it is not pretty.

Bill Valdez, president of the Senior Executives Association, agreed with the report’s findings. “The civil service system is badly in need of updating, as might be expected of any personnel system that is nearing 40 years of age,” he said. “Today’s system is a cumbersome patchwork that more resembles a Frankenstein monster than a well-thought-out 21st century workforce system.”

Rank-and-file union leaders rebut the notion of a broken system, while calling for better-trained managers.

In the current environment, the civil service discussion has largely focused on efforts to fire feds faster. NAPA rejects the notion that accountability just means dismissals, taking a structural approach to civil service reform.

Under NAPA’s design, agencies would have substantial latitude in developing personnel systems specific to their individual missions.

“This includes flexibilities for staffing, pay, promotion, employee engagement, employee assessment, career paths and motivation for high fliers, and strategies for dealing with poor performers,” according to the report. Yet, this does not mean, the report adds, “that the federal government should have an infinite number of personnel systems sailing in only loose formation.”

Under a federated system, NAPA envisions agencies would “compete effectively to hire, motivate, and retain the mission-specific talent they need.”  With this decentralization, the role of the Office of Personnel Management likely would diminish.

Mission first does not mean agencies could abandon the merit principles that are at the core of the civil service system, but the report says that “agencies should be able to tailor these principles to their missions.”

That sounds okay in theory, but in practice it would result in one boss, Uncle Sam, having many different systems for his employees. At some point, if NAPA’s recommendations were adopted, some reformer surely would say we need a centralized system with greater coordination. Inevitably, some agencies would have better systems than others, meaning that employees, and ultimately taxpayers, would be treated inconsistently because the quality of agency personnel systems would differ.

NAPA officials recognize this, but believe the successful agencies could act as innovative laboratories providing direction and best practices for others.

There already are “wild differences” among agencies, but without a mechanism that allows them to learn from each other, said Donald Kettl, a University of Maryland public policy professor and chairman of the NAPA panel that issued the report.  Using “more reliance on data with a focus on outcomes, we’re much more likely to figure out who is doing a better job and why and how,” he added, “and then how other agencies can learn from that.”

Union leaders echo Lee Stone, a vice president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, whose email said “there are many meaningful reforms that could also be instituted (e.g. increased/better supervisor training, promotion reforms, better accountability using existing authorities),” but argued that “flexibility” is a “common dog-whistle for at-will employment.”

The authors insist the merit principles that guard against at-will employment “remain sound bedrock for a federated federal human capital system,” but say that “agencies should be able to tailor these principles to their missions.” Just as a personnel system “ought to promote mission first,” the report continued, “it needs to uphold principles always. And no principles are more important or fundamental than the principles of the merit system. By recruiting, hiring, and managing its workforce in accord with these principles, the federal government can be a model employer that sets a positive example to which other employers can and should aspire.”

NAPA also proposes a system in which “accountability” centers on results, not the number of employees fired as seems to be the focus with many Republicans on Capitol Hill.

“This is not a time for modest, incremental tinkering,” the report says. “The current system’s breakdown is irremediable, to the point that any agency that can escape the system’s shackles has done so.”

Despite NAPA’s rejection of incremental tinkering, Valdez said its recommendations are too modest.

“If anything, I would argue that the NAPA study does not go far enough,” he said. “We must completely rethink all elements of the civil service system, and while this study is a great start, we should devote much more thought and effort to fixing a broken system that, despite its many flaws, has been a major contributor to the U.S. innovation economy.”

Stone’s take: “The Civil Service system is not broken, it remains a vital and necessary American institution. It is the people’s last line of defense against the corrosive influence of politics in the delivery of government goods and services.”

The debate continues.

Read more:

[Federal employee civil service protections outdated? The experts speak.]

[New VA law sets stage for government-wide cut in civil-service protections]

[VA fires more than 500 feds under Trump, even before new accountability law]

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UNDESA/Irge Olga Aujouannet: The SDGs: far-sighted business leaders’ roadmap for success

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Sustainable development knowledge platform
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The theme of the 2017 High-level Political Forum on sustainable development will be “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world”, which is also a central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In the lead-up to the 2017 HLPF, weekly blogs by representatives of Member States, UN system, and major groups and other stakeholders will be featured in this series to present various perspectives on this theme. The role of SDGs 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 14, and 17 will also be highlighted, as these goals will be in focus at the 2017 HLPF discussions.

Click here to see all the HLPF 2017 blog entries

The SDGs: far-sighted business leaders’ roadmap for success
Week 19 - Irge Olga Aujouannet, Director, Global Policy Affairs WBCSD
Irge Olga Aujouannet

Irge Olga Aujouannet, Director, Global Policy Affairs WBCSD

18 July 2017

The world has an ambitious agenda: delivering prosperity and eradicating poverty by 2030 while leaving no one behind. An integrated and actionable framework embodied in 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed to put the world on a development track that is beneficial for people and the planet.

The world, however, also has its challenges. Past months have put globalisation to the test. Across the world, many communities share a growing concern that the system isn’t working for them. The Better Business, Better World report, issued by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission earlier this year, points to flaws in our current economic model, which stand to significantly undermine long-term stability and growth. Devising an effective response to this challenge will be critical and the key lies with the SDGs.

As a source of innovation, finance, economic growth and employment, business has a critical role to play in achieving the SDGs. At the same time, the SDGs provide business with a new lens through which to translate global needs and ambitions into business solutions. These solutions will enable companies to better manage their risks, anticipate consumer demand, build positions in growth markets, secure access to needed resources, and strengthen their supply chains, while putting the world on a sustainable and inclusive growth path. It’s a win-win - for business and the world. As the Better Business, Better World report puts it, the market opportunities represented by the SDGs could yield at least US$12 trillion in business value by 2030 while generating up to 380 million new jobs.

Across the world, forward-looking business leaders are stepping up to incorporate sustainability at the core of their business strategy and decision-making. They are working to understand how their business activities translate into economic, environmental and social impacts in the context of the SDGs. Yet, driving the transition at the pace and scale that is needed will require a new course for entire sectors and industries. This is beyond the reach of a group of pioneers and even business alone. Good governance, economic incentives, appropriate and robust legal and institutional frameworks as well as public-private partnerships are essential to reaching a tipping point.

At the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), we use our extensive network to bring companies together within and across sectors to address the most pressing sustainability challenges. We raise awareness and work with our member companies to set SDG-related targets, build roadmaps, explore solutions and advocate for finance and policy enablers that will enable a massive transformation towards the SDGs. A concrete example of this collaboration is our programme for Food Reform for Sustainability and Health (FReSH). The programme involves 45 of the world’s leading food companies working together to deliver food security and improved nutrition, as well as good health and well-being, while unlocking new business opportunities and creating employment.

The United Nations is in a unique position to encourage and facilitate dialogue and partnerships across societal sectors. This is why the High-level Political Forum is such a key moment for business to engage and exchange on the SDGs. We look forward to our strong engagement at this year’s Forum to foster further collaboration and strong leadership for better business and a better world.
Division for Sustainable Development, UN-DESA

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Solar Street Lights Illuminate Bujumbura, Burundi

Solar Pioneer Gigawatt Global Expands its Green Energy Offerings in Africa

BUJUMBURA, Burundi, July 19, 2017/ --

    “By expanding our investments from commercial scale projects to include off-grid additionally, we are positively impacting the lives of millions of people in Burundi and throughout Africa” - Yosef I. Abramowitz, CEO, Gigawatt Global

Downtown Bujumbura just got a little brighter, thanks to an innovative partnership between Mayor Freddy MBONIMPA and Gigawatt Global (, a founding member of United States Power Africa's Beyond the Grid program.

This week solar-powered ‘light islands’ began appearing in the heavily-trafficked central bus station and nearby marketplace, extending commercial hours and personal safety. 

“The city of Bujumbura is very pleased to be working with Gigawatt Global on this important solar street lighting project,” said Mayor Freddy MBONIMPA. “This project will enhance security as well as provide opportunities for economic development to the citizens of Bujumbura. It is the hope and wish of all involved that this project can spread throughout the city, as well as expand to other cities in Burundi within the near future.”

Gigawatt Global is now in discussions to scale the solar-powered ‘light islands’ program throughout the city and in other major Burundian towns. “We are grateful and pleased to work with the city of Bujumbura, and the Honorable Mayor Freddy MBONIMPA to realise this important first step of the solar street lighting project,” said Michael Fichtenberg, Managing Director of Gigawatt Global Burundi. “We intend to expand throughout the capital and to other locations as part of our larger program of green electrification in Burundi, with 40 'light islands' planned in the first phase of the program,” Fichtenberg continued. “Every country in which we develop commercial scale solar fields will receive additional benefits like these ‘light islands’ and rural electrification with mini-grids.”

Gigawatt Global, which provides 100% financing for its projects, pioneered commercial scale solar power plants in sub-Sahara Africa, launching the first one in Rwanda in 2014, which is currently supplying 6% of the country's generation capacity. Gigawatt Global will complete a 7.5 Mw solar field in the Gitega region of Burundi in the next six months, which will supply 15% of the East African country's generation capacity. Similar projects are currently being developed in 10 African countries, including Liberia and South Sudan, among many others. 

“Over 95% of Burundi's 11 million people lack access to electricity. Gigawatt Global is honoured to play a role in advancing economic and social development through green power in the country,” says Josef Abramowitz, CEO of Gigawatt Global. “By expanding our investments from commercial scale projects to include off-grid installations, we are positively impacting the lives of millions of people in Burundi and throughout Africa, and are becoming a leading force in green energy projects across the continent.”

The ‘light islands’ project in Bujumbura is produced by a team that includes local members Patrick NZINTUNGA, Gigawatt Global Regional Coordinator, and Deo HUGERE, Gigawatt Global Engineer. The engineering, procurement, and construction components of this project are being carried out by Asantys System. The pilot program is supported by the Energy & Environmental Partnership (EEP), an initiative of the governments of the United Kingdom, Austria and Finland, and with an impact investment from entrepreneur Alex Goldberg.

“God bless the people of Burundi,” says Goldberg. “In Bujumbura, we found a place ripe for innovation and open to economic development.”

As part of Gigawatt Global's commitment to additional Corporate Social Responsibility, one of its investors, Mark Gelfand, funded and built the STEM Centre (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) at the Université Polytechnique de Gitega.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Gigawatt Global.

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Media contact:
Michael Fichtenberg
Gigawatt Global
+972 54 976 0092

Starting in Rwanda and Burundi, Gigawatt Global is a solar and social development enterprise, concerned with empowering Africans.

About Gigawatt Global:
Gigawatt Global is a multinational renewable energy company bringing new sources of green power and social development to Africa. Led by a team of seasoned project developers, financiers, impact investors and solar energy experts, the American-owned Dutch company develops, finances, owns and operates renewable energy installations (solar, wind and hydro) across the African continent.

About Power Africa's Beyond the Grid:
The USAID Power Africa Initiative’s goal is to enable electricity access by adding 60 million new electricity connections and 30,000 MW of new and cleaner power generation. Power Africa works to bring together technical and legal experts, the private sectors, and governments from around the world to work in partnership to increase the number of people with access to power.

Gigawatt Global