Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Team of Teams

Sezim Zhenishbekova leads MOGwee Bishkek
Taking a cue from Stanley McChrystal’s insights about constructing an adaptable, multi-national team, I’m glad to gather my friends across 9 countries as mobilizers for MOGwee. 

From Peter Koroma in Freetown and Esther and Emmanuel Zamble in Abdijan to Dmytro Potekhin in Kyiv, Sezim Zhanishbekova in Bishkek, Shams Niyozov in Dushanbe and Simin Shokrullah in Kabul, 
Lan Thai Vo leads MOGwee Ho Chi Minh City
to Myo Min Thu in Yangon, Sovannarote Kang in Phnom Penh, Kim Phuong in Hanoi to Lan Thai Vo in Ho Chi Minh City, we are a team of teams.

Simin Shokrullah leads MOGwee Kabul

Esther Zamble leads MOGwee Abidjan
with her father, Emmanuel
 Each of my friends—university students, professors, and activists—reaches out to their friends, identifies opportunities where enterprising personalities merge with fascinating life stories, great skills, and access to internet. It begins with brainstorming—a young poet in Yangon, a painter in Kabul, a musician in Abidjan, a family of bee-keepers in Bishkek—who can we find? How could we turn it into video-chat? How can we photograph and describe and sell this experience to others?

And as our teams begin to hold small workshops, café meetings with their friends and colleagues, we are beginning to see a team of teams take shape. See their progress at

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Put talent one click away

Zahra recalls her family's experience when the
Taliban controlled Afghanistan, and eyes her
future skeptically. She shares her story and
Farsi conversation on MOGwee.
Last week I posted that talented people too often find work ad hoc. It doesn’t have to stay that way. Just as Airbnb and Uber have re-trained markets to put services where people are demanding them, we need a platform that puts amazing people, perspectives and skills one-click away.

Santos advocates for better public health practices
in Sierra Leone, but his work has been dangerous.
After losing his parents to Ebola, he redoubles his
efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene practices.
He shares his story and hopes for success on MOGwee.
Mautasm escaped Syria with his family as a young teen,
and left his parents when he ventured across the Aegean
 on a small raft with his brothers. His journey was marked
 by fear, deception, and xenophobia, but he remains optimistic.
Now finishing high school in Germany, he shares his story on
MOGwee, trying to earn enough to write a book.

So this spring with my cousin and friends we cooked up, where curiosity meets talent.
The platform enables users to explore fascinating people the way we search Amazon, book time to chat, e-pay, and video-chat all in one place.

This message isn’t a sales pitch, it’s a call to invest more of ourselves in the people around us. Do you know someone over-talented and under-compensated? Think about referring her or him to post a profile here. Are you looking for a Dari instructor, a meditation coach or a traditional healer? Or would you be ready to talk to a young woman in Mazer-e Sherif about her life under the Taliban, or a young man in Freetown who lost his family to Ebola? Expand your boundaries and take things from another perspective for a change.

I want people to earn more. I want to create a million jobs. Help me do it.

#MOGwee #marketplaceofhumanexperience

Friday, August 18, 2017

Developmental impact starts on my home-payroll

With Jack and Tomoko
As my friends and colleagues know, in addition to the exciting work I’ve been chasing at World Bank Group these past 18 years, I’ve also been chasing six kids at home. And no, I don’t deserve the Soviet Mother-Hero medal, but I have been lucky to have wonderful helpers at home who certainly do deserve it. 

I don’t consider myself a high-earner, but hiring lots of helpers has always been a necessity in my life, even when they earned more than my after-tax income. We got started having kids when I was 20, and babysitters, all older than me, had to show me the ropes. At our craziest point in Kyiv, I counted 14 helpers on payroll. Bringing them into our family, from childbirths to Thanksgivings to guitar lessons, has multiplied our joy.

Ted and Dmytro improv in Kyiv
At WB, I could be uncertain about the impact of my work, but at home I never was. At work we could spend two years on a report that might sit on a central banker’s shelf, or prepare a project that would never be approved. Meantime, Negede sent five kids to college, Atey bought herself a motorbike and sent her sister to college, Nubia bought a house and fixed her husband’s teeth, Vera paid off her daughter’s mortgage, Lena bought a car, Dmytro renovated his kitchen, and Oksana bought a house. Our family’s colossal needs were a big part of that.

Vera and Sabina
For the best-networked helpers, finding the next job is a smooth operation, facilitated by word of mouth and expat social networks. But just as I am surprised time and again by the incredible skills and very low asking-prices in developing countries, I am surprised and embarrassed that the mechanisms for finding markets continue to be so ad hoc. A musician with PhD from Kyiv Conservatory scrapes by at a local institute, and drops by the international school looking for gigs. A graduate student in theoretical mathematics earning USD5/hour is lucky to be referred by a friend of a friend at church.

Can we do better?  #MOGwee #helpingpeopleearnmore

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What comes from Am-I-making-a-difference? The story of MOGwee

My name is Colleen Mascenik. I’ve been a development economist for 17 years and a mom for 18. I have 6 kids, a noisy home, and little time to think. For nearly two decades at an international financial institution, developmental milestones have been an impersonal measure attached to impersonal projects. I wanted to have an impact, but my own contribution seemed a very small part of a very complex whole.

After chemo, December 2015--hair returning!
Then I got cancer. More accurately, I learned quite late that I had multiple, very extensive tumors in my right breast and lymph nodes, and would go through surgery, chemo and radiation. First, cancer shocks you with the possibility of death. Then, it shocks you with the reality of life. And getting off the radiation table on the last session in 2016, I had to line up priorities, who-am-I and what-am-I-doing, without the anchor of time. I might have 3 years. I might have 30.

So while I re-embraced my family, I began to re-assess my work. Am I making a difference? Is my work causing people to live better?

In May 2017 at American University of Central
Asia, with the future MOGwee girl-team
Day by day I felt less certain about giant institutional interventions, and more certain about the interventions we make personally in one another’s lives. I felt less convinced about the vagaries of development projects and more convinced of the positive impact of income and dignity to make people live better.

Creating the Tajikistan team with Zilberman
and Olim in Dushanbe, April 2017
 This is my story, but not only my story. MOGwee is my dream that people should earn more. I want to create a million jobs. MOGwee is also the story of people who are over-talented and under-compensated. It’s the story of people who don’t realize they’re on the edge of a completely new market.

Join us.