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Tuesday
Nov142017

Digital Transition (and Transformation) in International Development | 1997 - 2016

 


UNDP Mongolia Communications Coordinator (1997-1999): David South

I launched this portal in 1997, in the middle of a major economic crisis in Mongolia. This award-winning and pioneering United Nations Mongolia development web portal was singled out by UN headquarters as an example of what a country office website should be like.

At this time, Mongolia was still recovering from the chaotic and turbulent transition from Communism to free markets and democracy begun at the start of the 1990s, called by some "one of the biggest peacetime economic collapses ever" (Mongolia's Economic Reforms: Background, Content and Prospects, Richard Pomfret, University of Adelaide, 1994). There was a thirst for information: access to the Internet was still limited and access to mobile phones was just the preserve of the rich. As a legacy of the past, information, especially that about the outside world and the country’s true economic and social conditions, was restricted. During the years of Communism, even simple travel from one place to the next was strictly regulated.

While today we can take it for granted that the Internet, and mobile and smart phones, deliver the world’s information in seconds, this just was not the case in the late 1990s in Mongolia.

The UN/UNDP Mongolia development web portal addressed the urgent need to communicate what was happening in the country during a major crisis, and to transparently show what the UN was doing to address the crisis. It made critical data on the country’s development easy to find, and informed the wider world about the country and its people and culture. While the Internet had only just arrived in Mongolia, from the start the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office was experimenting with this powerful new technology to reach a global audience. This included Mongolia’s first web magazine, Ger (launched in 1998).
After the www.un-mongolia.mn website launched in 1997, a media campaign began to inform readers of its presence. This ad appeared regularly in magazines, newsletters and newspapers.
Ger Magazine was launched on September 9, 1998 (Ger is the Mongolian word for both the traditional tent dwelling and home). The theme of youth in the transition was explored by a combined team of Mongolian and foreign journalists. The Ger Magazine project had basically three goals: first, raise the quality of journalism in the country, secondly, introduce the country to a wider global audience and, thirdly, by being the country’s first online magazine, prove the Internet was an effective way to communicate. 
Issue 1 of the magazine investigated what life was like for youth during the transition years (post-1989). Stories tackled the struggle to find work in the free market, the booming pop music scene and how it is leading the way in business entrepreneurship, reproductive health, the basics on Mongolian culture, and vox pop views from Mongolian youth.
Issue 2 of the magazine investigated modern life in Mongolia during transition. The team of journalists were hitting their stride by this issue. Stories probed the proliferation of bars and the problem of alcoholism, corrupt banking practices and the loss of savings, how the young were the country’s leading entrepreneurs, Mongolia’s meat and milk diet, “girl power” and the strong role played by women, the burgeoning new media, the rise and rise of Buddhism, and Mongolia’s dynamic fashion designers (this article inspired foreign fashion designers to embrace the Mongolian 'look' in the next season’s designs).
The UN/UNDP Mongolia homepage quickly became the top resource for development news on Mongolia in the late 1990s.
"A UN System site. A very nice, complete, professional site. Lots of information, easily accessible and well laid out. The information is comprehensive and up-to-date. This is a model of what a UNDP CO web site should be."
Consultant (1999-2017): David South

In 2000, the Kiev-based UN Ukraine team had to improve the design and capability of the mission website to handle new content and online services. There was a strong demand for information on country conditions and how to support the UN’s work (for example, on HIV/AIDS). It was a dangerous time to be involved in any online communications and the media and online communicators were routinely threatened with violence and even death.
Whilst with a UK-based international development consultancy, I worked on the drafting and online launch in 2000 of the World Bank’s Task Force on Higher Education and Society report, Higher Education in Developing Countries: Peril and Promise. At the time, it was still rare to see report’s made user friendly for the world’s web audience. As a survey in 2014 discovered, a shocking third of the Bank’s publications are never downloaded, 40 per cent were downloaded just 100 times, and only 13 per cent were downloaded more than 250 times in their lifetime (The Washington Post).
As the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were being communicated, the link between the powerful new digital and mobile/information technologies and development goals became explicit in information materials. The cleaner and more modern design introduced with Mongolia’s first human development report in 1997, continued in future publications and online, as can be seen in this screen grab from 2003 and that year’s human development report. The first use of infographics was also introduced in a report on the MDGs for UNDP Mongolia in 2005. Importantly, a country that had been isolated from the non-Communist world for decades, was now routinely using the Internet to tell its stories and post development data.
Human Development Infographics: Infographics have proven a useful visual aid for communicating human development concepts. This example was created for a UNDP Mongolia report during missions undertaken in 2005.
Five years from the MDGs deadline in 2015, the David South Consulting website went live (2010). Featuring a new branding and design, it signaled a new design phase more comfortable with developments in social media and online and mobile content sharing. Designed by Solveig Rolfsdottir, one of Iceland’s top graphic designers and illustrators, the website’s design was intentially made compatible with the new global magazine, Southern Innovator (also designed by Solveig Rolfsdottir).
The online story archive for Southern Innovator was launched by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) in 2011. Organized by theme, the stories were cited in blogs, books and reports around the world.
The new template for the United Nations e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched in 2011 and designed by Solveig Rolfsdottir. It included a QR code for mobile and smartphone users to connect to the Southern Innovator website.
In 2016 the mobile-friendly version of the David South Consulting website was launched.
© David South Consulting 2017
Friday
Sep152017

Past Clients + Publications | 1991 - 2016

 

 



The first business card for David South Consulting. Inspired by the Dutch post office's (PTT Post) corporate identity developed by Studio Dumbar, the card was designed by Brian Cartwright of Toronto's Rocket Design. Work at this time included investigative journalism for Canada's top magazines and newspapers, magazine and newsletter editing, and communications for a prestigious medical history funder. From the very beginning, we were inspired by Dutch design for the public sector and the importance placed on this in The Netherlands. The work of Hein van Haaren, former head of the PTT's Aesthetics Department, and graphic design pioneers Wim Crouwel and Gert Dumbar, still remain key influences to this day.

As a reporter for two Financial Times newsletters, New Media Markets and Screen Finance, I covered the rapidly growing UK (and Scandinavian) television and new media markets and the expanding film-financing sector in Europe.

This Canadian alternative bi-weekly magazine broke new ground with its investigative journalism and online journalism. It gathered together highly talented, young contributors, many of whom are leading figures in journalism, the arts and technology today.

As the UN's head of communications in Mongolia (1997-1999), I founded the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office and oversaw a two-year communications programme to respond to the biggest post-WWII peacetime economic collapse. Award-winning and influential, the Office pioneered the use of the Internet in international development crisis response and was called a "role model" for the rest of the United Nations.

Following on from the success of the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office, I worked with the head of the UN Ukraine mission to strategically relaunch the mission web portal, incorporating the newly launched UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Drawing on my extensive experience strategically using the Internet to achieve communications goals, I was hired to head a two-year project to launch the GOSH Child Health Web Portal. Award-winning, it was called a "role model" for the wider National Health Service (NHS) and one of the most admired websites in the UK public and charity sectors. The website was cited as contributing to the hospital's high rating and attracted additional funding for its research.

As part of an assessment of Mongolia's media capabilities to communicate the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), infographics were introduced for the first time to the mission.

With the Global Financial Crisis erupting, I was retained by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) to research and write a monthly e-newsletter and develop a new magazine to offer solutions and raise the profile of South-South cooperation as a development response to the crisis. Both publications proved highly influential, leading to the wider adoption of South-South cooperation and to national governments picking up the innovation agenda being brought about by the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology. The magazine Southern Innovator was called "a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space...".

In 2010, David South Consulting was relaunched with a new logo and branding for the 21st century. It represented a new phase, as work became global and very high-profile and influential. The foundations have been laid for future growth and expansion.

Watch Magazine

Watch Magazine was launched in 1994 and quickly became the authentic 1990s voice of Toronto's youth. As one of Toronto's first youth start-ups, Youth Culture became a successful youth communications brand and expanded to national distribution by the late 1990s. Launched during the economic austerity years in Canada, it was one of the contributors to Toronto's economic resurgence and renewed business vitality.

New Media Markets

As a reporter for two Financial Times newsletters, New Media Markets and Screen Finance, I covered the rapidly growing UK (and Scandinavian) television and new media markets and the expanding film-financing sector in Europe.

A Partnership for Progress: The United Nations Development Programme in Mongolia

The Partnership for Progress brochure raised the curtain on the UN's response to Mongolia's economic and social crisis in the late 1990s. It celebrated Mongolia's independence and its flourishing media scene and free expression after the long years of Communism and state repression.

Human Development Report Mongolia 1997

The first human development report for Mongolia captured in data and stories the damage done by the harsh transition from Communism and the imposition of austerity during the 1990s. It found high levels of poverty in the country and a heavy toll taken on people's health, communities and families. The report was received with great enthusiasm and had two print runs.

Blue Sky Bulletin

The Blue Sky Bulletin newsletter broke with the usual approach taken by UN newsletters of offering up 'grip n' grin' pictures of men in suits and instead offered actual stories and data on how Mongolia's transition crisis was faring. It was distributed within Mongolia and by post and email outside the country to help raise awareness of the country and its development challenges.

Mongolian Rock-Pop Book

Researched and written by ethnomusicologist Dr. Peter Marsh, this book on the impact of Mongolian rock and pop on the country's business and entrepreneurship culture, shone a spotlight on a lively modern music scene.

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 1: Mobile Phones and Information Technology

The first issue of Southern Innovator was called "a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space... " and a "Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation."

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 2: Youth and Entrepreneurship

Issue 2 of Southern Innovator drew praise for painting a positive picture of how the world's development challenges could be taken on: "Thank you David - Your insight into the issues facing us a[s] [a] 'global Village' is made real in the detail of your article - 10 out of 10 from the moladi team."

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 3: Agribusiness and Food Security

Issue 3 was on the theme of agribusiness and food security.

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 4: Cities and Urbanization

Issue 4 on cities and urbanization saw Southern Innovator visit innovative new cities across Asia. Readers said "The magazine looks fantastic, great content and a beautiful design!" It is designed by Icelandic graphic designer and illustrator Solveig Rolfsdottir.

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 5: Waste and Recycling

By this point, the Southern Innovator brand was drawing praise for being "one of the best sources out there for news and info on #solutions to #SouthSouth challenges.” Readers also said they "really enjoyed reading them [Southern Innovator], impressive work & a great resource. Looking forward to Issue 6. My best wishes to you & your team at SI."

© David South Consulting 2017

Friday
Sep152017

Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine | 1992 - 1994

 


Publisher: Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine

Location: Toronto, Canada

Editor and Writer: David South

I worked as Editor and Writer for the newsletter of the Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine (under the direction of the Editor-in-Chief and Hannah Executive Director Dr. J.T. H. Connor) in the early 1990s. Located close to the University of Toronto and within a neighbourhood claiming a long association with medical and scientific discovery (Sir Frederick Banting, co-developer of insulin for the treatment of diabetes, lived at 46 Bedford Road,), the goal was to better connect Canada’s medical history community of scholars and raise the profile of the funding resources available to further the study of medical history in Canada.

I also revamped the application process for awards, scholarships and grants to make them user-friendly and compatible with word processing software packages of the time. 

At the time I also worked as an investigative journalist and medical reporter. Some health and medical stories I wrote at the time are below: 

Taking Medicine to the People: Four Innovators in Community Health

Take Two Big Doses of Humanity and Call Me in the Morning

 


© David South Consulting 2017

Tuesday
Sep122017

Vision + Strategy | 1991 - 2014

 


From experience, the importance of crafting a vision prior to the execution of a strategy is key to success and inspiring others. If done well, the vision can do much of the work for you. An inspiring vision will bring others on board, aligning them to your strategy. Some examples of vision leading to strategic success can be found in the following Case Studies from David South Consulting: 

Crisis Recovery

Case Study 4: UN + UNDP Mongolia | 1997 - 1999

Case Study 7: UNOSSC + UNDP | 2007 - 2016

Digital Transformation

Global Transformation

Media Start-up


 

© David South Consulting 2017
Tuesday
Sep122017

Memoranda of Understanding and Negotiator | 1997 - 2014

 


Astute negotiation skills have been required to see through complex, multi-partner projects, or to see through difficult transitions (in particular digital). While working for the United Nations in Mongolia (1997-1999), I led negotiations on three Memoranda of Understanding with the Government of Mongolia: Youth, Food Security and Nutrition and Human Rights (Blue Sky Bulletin).

As head of the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office (1997-1999), I was at the centre of a fast-expanding UN mission in the midst of a major crisis (called "one of the biggest peacetime economic collapses ever", Mongolia's Economic Reforms: Background, Content and Prospects, Richard Pomfret, University of Adelaide, 1994). Everything we did required solid negotiation skills that were sensitive to the culture and understood how to get things done in that context. People were under a great deal of pressure and the times were characterized as “volatile ones for Mongolia, with revolving door governments, the assassination of a minister, emerging corruption, a banking scandal, in-fighting within the ruling Democratic Coalition, frequent paralysis within the Parliament, and disputes over the Constitution. Economically, the period was unstable and rife with controversies." Mongolia in 1998 and 1999: Past, Present, and Future at the New Millennium by Sheldon R. Severinghaus, Asian Survey, Vol. 40, No. 1, A Survey of Asia in 1999 (Jan. - Feb., 2000). pp. 130-139 (Publisher: University of California). 

Award-winning, this work was called a “role model” for the wider UN and country offices.

While heading a multi-institutional major project for the UK’s National Health Service (2001-2003) under the Modernisation Plan, I had to daily negotiate with colleagues and staff across professions, institutions and with senior managers and executives. Introducing new ways of doing things requires a fineness of touch and a strategic mind to see how small steps eventually achieve goals. Award-winning, this work was called one of the “three most admired websites in the UK public and voluntary sectors”, and a UK Government assessment called the overall GOSH Child Health Web Portal a role model for the NHS.

Since 2007, I have been working on media products for the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC). This has required contacting and networking with people across the global South. The goal was to raise the profile of South-South cooperation in the UN system and the profile of the growing numbers of innovators across the global South resulting from the rapid expansion of mobile and information technologies, and in turn transform the UN’s strategic and funding priorities. This was successful and acknowledged in the Strategic Plan for UNDP 2014-2017 and its first UNDP Youth Strategy 2014-2017

© David South Consulting 2017