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S02 E04 – Creativity and Movement Building

We talk to Kudzayi Ngwerume about her experience building movements and connecting people through creativity and passion.

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Kudzayi’s Favourite Book

Find all of our guests’ reading recommendations at our The Tao of WAO book club.



Important note: this is a lightly-edited AI transcription of the conversation. If you require verbatim quotations, please double-check against the audio!

Doug Belshaw: [00:00:23] Welcome to the Tao of WAO, a podcast about the intersection of technology, society and internet culture with a dash of philosophy and art for good measure. I’m Doug Belshaw.

Laura Hilliger: [00:00:34] And I am Laura Hilliger. This podcast season is currently unfunded. You can support this podcast and other. We are open projects and products at Once again, I am pleased to be allowed to introduce our guest, Kudzayi Ngwerume. I met kids when she was at Greenpeace International and I invited her on today because I well, I was excited to get to know her a little bit more. And when I was working at with the comms department in Greenpeace, she was always full of passion and authenticity. She’s an active advocate for equity, inclusion, justice, creativity and just a bunch of stuff that we also think about in and talk about. And so I’m very excited to introduce her. Welcome, Kudzayi.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:01:28] Hi. Very excited to be here. And lovely to see you again, Laura. And great to meet you as well, Doug.

Doug Belshaw: [00:01:36] Yeah, no problem. So we’ve got some questions for you. We’re going to put a bunch of things in the show notes so people can kind of cyberstalk you and do all that kind of stuff and find out more about you in a good way. In a good way. But I thought we’d start off by just asking you what your favourite book is. And just by way of context, our last guest, Jess Klein, mentioned that she has like a favourite one that she tells the world about because it sounds important and all that kind of stuff. But then she’s got her actual favourite book. So if you want to mention more than one book, that’s that’s cool.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:02:08] Wow. Oh, this is a hard one. Um. Gosh. Paper book. Okay. One that I can remember recently. I forget books very easily. I don’t know why, but I’ll read a book and then I’ll forget. I’ll forget. I even read it. Um, but one that was actually passed on to me, and I’m supposed to be borrowing it. It’s years on now. Um, is a short book by James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room. Um, it’s just exquisite. It’s just. It’s just exquisite. It’s just an incredible, heart wrenching, beautiful love story. Um, it takes place in France where I am based. Um, and I don’t know, it’s like every sentence, every word is just. It’s just absolutely delightful. So that’s, that’s definitely, I think, um, a favourite of mine. Uh, do I have a real, real favourite?

Laura Hilliger: [00:03:06] Well, it’s not the one you just tell people.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:03:10] No, that’s definitely, I think. Yeah. I think, like, I think I like that. I don’t think yeah. I think for me it’s definitely a top. It’s one of the few books I’ve read more than once. I don’t really read books, even if I do forget them. And this one is one that I really can pick up and read. And I read it twice and I’ve had it for two years now. I need to get it back to my books.

Laura Hilliger: [00:03:35] Do you think that she forgot that she loaned it to you?

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:03:37] I don’t think so. I don’t think so. She reads a lot and she’s an incredible writer, so I’m pretty sure she’s just thinking, you know, that I’m going to do the right thing and own up to it. So you know what I.

Doug Belshaw: [00:03:49] Do when I when I loan a book to someone like a dead tree version of a book? Um, I, I just. I tell the person I’m lending it to them, but I immediately go and buy a new copy because so that I don’t. So that I don’t feel bad if they don’t return it. Yeah, Yeah. And most times people don’t return books like that. I would, I would say or maybe it’s just me, but most of the time I would say people don’t return books. Yeah.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:04:18] I mean, the, the problem is what is the copy? Looks like one of those that was bought in like a fair or something. You know, it looks the cover is different from the one that you see in the mainstream in the mainstream bookstores. So yeah, I think it’s a good reminder. I’ll try to find her address and talk to her.

Doug Belshaw: [00:04:39] Well, if you’re listening. Yeah, Kudzayi is about to send you a book back.

Laura Hilliger: [00:04:45] It’s very funny. Um, yeah. So, I mean, we could take this conversation in so many different directions. Really. I, you know, when I was kind of trolling you online, trying to trying to find out more, I started to look into some of the things that you’ve done. And I feel like a lot of the work that you’ve done has, has really been about bringing people and movements together and using creativity as a vehicle for that. And so I thought, you know, having having a bit of a ramble chat about how you do that, like if you have any methods or processes that you always start with and just how you kind of pick pick apart some of some of the complexity around the work you do. I’m super fascinated to know about your process, really.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:05:37] Thanks. Yeah, I mean, I think I’ve had I’ve had a, I think like most people, a very non-linear journey. I never thought I would be doing what I’m doing now. I certainly never went into kind of university thinking that I would be working anywhere close to the movement space. Yet even the climate space. Um, but I’m very fortunate that, you know, things and choices have kind of aligned and so. I am from. I’m born and raised. I was born and raised in Zimbabwe. I’m Zimbabwean and lived there my whole life, all through high school and went through kind of like, you know, that very structured education process where it’s like you do what they call in the English education system, your GCSEs, and then you do your advanced GCSEs, and then you go to university and you do a three year programme and that whatever, if it’s law, then you become a lawyer. And that was pretty clear for all throughout my my time. That’s what I thought I was going to do. And then for some reason I really made up my mind that I really wanted to go to the US for for university and I was lucky enough to be able to do so. And when I got there, um, I went to UConn, University of Connecticut. There were just kind of like, yeah, you can just take a bunch of like. You know, electives and you can kind of figure out what you want to do in the first year. Oh, that’s interesting. Um, and so you could just take a wide range of different classes and you’re really encouraged to take everything, you know? So linguistics, anthropology, philosophy, drama alongside your sciences and your business basics and, and stats and all of that. And I think that’s when I started to think for the first time, you know, what is it that I could be doing and what else and not being and not feeling like I was bound to a particular process or, you know, a ladder that I had to necessarily go up. Um, and when I graduated, I graduated with finance and gender studies. And um, at the time the idea was to, um, do something around microfinancing, I think with, uh, with, with, with, with communities. But that didn’t happen. And I went straight into the corporate world. And was doing events and got into doing event planning and event design, which is creative, but it was very corporate. Um, and. Um, and that was, that was okay for, for the longest time I think I did that for like 3 or 4 years. And then there was a chance I happened to be at a concert. I can’t even remember the group, but the opening, uh, it was a fundraiser for Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe was going through a lot of political and economic instability and you probably all heard about the hyperinflation years and, um, the political tensions that were there. And at the time, um, there was a decision for a government of national unity, and it felt like a real opportunity to, uh. You know, kind of come back home and participate and to do something different. And so I took that opportunity and went back to Zimbabwe.

Laura Hilliger: [00:09:16] Was that the first time that you kind of felt that activism, Gene? Or do you feel like I mean, in your when you were still living in Zimbabwe before you went to the US, did you did you feel like, you know, like that? I don’t know how to describe it. The, you know, the passion for social justice, you know. Is that something that, like helped you on your path or did you kind of discover that with, you know, with your return to Zimbabwe? I’m just curious.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:09:47] I’m not sure I had like the activism. I mean, I was in like Rotary Club and I was a Brownie.

Laura Hilliger: [00:09:54] I was when I was little.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:09:56] I was a Brownie. And, you know, they would make you not that would make you sorry part of being a brownie. Anyway, the one the chapters that I was with was, you know, to do good in your community and things like that. So, um, you know, I think I had a little bit of that. Um.

Laura Hilliger: [00:10:16] On my Honour, I will try.

Doug Belshaw: [00:10:18] Oh, you still know it.

Doug Belshaw: [00:10:21] This is this is fascinating to me because obviously what you’re describing is a version of British culture, which is very much like, how can we organise a society so that nobody rebels? Yeah.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:10:36] It’s so English. Yeah. I mean, when I was growing up, it was, yeah, there was, it was a lot of that and. But I think I still. You know, I was still I think even even in high school, I was still part of, you know, the the more the thinking about like, you know, you’ll get a job and you’re advanced like this and your career and you’re achieve X, Y and Z before this age or by this age. But it was really university where I started to get introduced to to activism and and things around social justice. I remember the Unesco Chair for Human Rights was hosted at my university. Um, and he and you could apply to be an ambassador for Human Rights. Um, and I did that and a lot of the focus was around. Hiv and Aids, which had a strong footprint and impact in my life coming from Zimbabwe. And it was through that that I started to see and discover all the things, you know, that, you know, this was this was this this work in the movement. Um, there are ways to participate and contribute, but I never, I still didn’t think at the time that it would be something I would do. Um, in terms of my, my work life at all.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:12:02] And it wasn’t until I made the return back to Zim. That I started to think about that because they were just so many things that anyone could do and so many people were doing things. And there was a time when a lot of us did go back home. Um, and, um, and so that’s when I started. And I had a great opportunity to work with a very, very small local NGO that was working with women in the townships around clean water access. And it was, and it was, and it was the first time that I started to get introduced to the, to this notion that it wasn’t just about, you know, bring the clean water now, but it was about, you know, the women organising themselves and being able to be in a position where they they would go and they would lobby for their rights for their community and not, you know, a donor coming in with a big tank of clean water and installing it and then leaving the next day. Yeah. Um, so that’s where I started to really get introduced to that and, and meeting people and, you know, activists, people who started as student activists and were doing all that kind of foundational work.

Laura Hilliger: [00:13:14] And how do I have kind of two questions. Number one is how technology has impacted you at that time. And the second one is about creativity. And because I know you know that earlier in your career you were bringing technologists and artists together, for example. And and I’m, you know, with that example of, you know, your first steps into activism, how did technology play a part and how did creativity play a part?

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:13:44] Um, I’m not sure. I’m not sure if technology was used in the sense of what we know it now in terms of, you know, mobile, you know, tech use. But I definitely think in terms of creativity and innovation around solutions, it started to become a thing, right? So, um, and we still see this I think in much of development in the aid world, you know, this idea that we just go in there and we, we do this one thing and it can work in Zimbabwe, it can work in Malawi, and it will work in Zambia and it will work. And it’s like, actually, no, because communities are set up very differently. Um, they values how they approach things is really different and you need to go in there and you need to get the right insights in order to be able to create the solutions that work best for that community. Um, and that’s slower work, it’s less, it’s less flashy. Um, it might not be the big, uh, I don’t know, tech app of the year, but the solution will probably be the most sustainable. It will be owned by the folks on the ground as well. They probably will be the ones that will create it. Um, and that’s how you have kind of long term progress. Uh, and then I think obviously for that after that, then there was a rapid acceleration of tech and tech opportunity, particularly in my part of the world, and what tech could do. And you know, I don’t know if you remember that phase. It almost felt like tech could just solve everything.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:15:24] You could just like technovate our way out of every problem that we’ve ever had, you know? And it became an absolute obsession. And there was just this rush in every yeah, every NGO project or company project was all about what’s the latest Start-ups And they were just so many start up events and hype and hype and hype and hype. Uh, and I think that was good. I mean, I think that there was, there was, there was goodness came out of that building certain ecosystems, people getting to collaborate and understand each other. But it created a little bit of a false sense of like that. Yeah. That you can kind of like technology will, will take you out of everything when you actually if you’re a technologist, you probably need to be working with a community organiser, with a public health official, with the head of um, the mothers group, you know what I mean? And then that way you’ll come to something that is beneficial, um, to the, to the community you’re trying to serve.

Laura Hilliger: [00:16:27] So our listeners, our listeners can’t see Doug and I nodding emphatically at everything you’re saying. But, you know, when we I mean, that’s the thing about openness, you know, and, and a lot of the work that we do is we are technologists. We, you know, we, we know our way around the Internet and computer and apps and all the things, you know, we can tinker around with code, you know, we know all that stuff. But at the end of the day, the work that we do is completely contextual and it is always based on whichever organisation we’re working with. So, you know, as, as a collective, you know, we don’t we don’t we have tools in our toolbox that we have found work really well for us. But, you know, there is no one size fits all. And you know, in activist work, it just it doesn’t exist. You’re everything you said. And my nodding is, you know, part of the reason that I really wanted to talk to you because it seems that when we met at Greenpeace years and years ago, you know, we have that thing in common where we both deeply understand how important co-creation is, how important contextualising a particular issue or, you know, a even a solution. You know, all all of the ways in which we create impact in the world have to do with the people that are being impacted.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:17:57] Yeah.

Doug Belshaw: [00:17:57] So one of the things I wanted to mention was I remember the very first time must have been, well, a good few years ago, I first came across the acronym EMEA. Um, is that the right word? Got it. But basically stands for Europe, Middle East and Africa. I was just like, mind blown that someone could think that you could put like, even Africa as a as a discrete thing, never mind like lumping it together with Europe and the Middle East and stuff. And when you were talking there and we were nodding our heads just about in the limited experience I have of working with with Africans, just the difference in different parts as you’d expect, and just the the cultural imperialism and, you know, racism really of people thinking that you can just treat an entire continent as being the same thing.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:18:53] Yeah.

Doug Belshaw: [00:18:55] Amazing.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:18:56] 100%. I mean, it’s, uh, you know, you just mentioned it. I mean, Africa is probably the biggest one, right? Everyone likes to put it all together, but, you know, there are so many languages, so many different cultures. Even Zimbabwe is a small country, you know, very, very small. And we have three main languages plus multiple dialects plus, you know, the different cultures and everything. So even within that, you have, you know, you have you have these particular differences. Um, so and then you have, you know, Francophone Africa and then, you know what, what’s happening in the East is very different from what’s happening in the West Africa, what’s happening in Central Africa. Um, and I think that’s where, you know, and I can understand the hype that was there around, um, all the opportunities around technology. Definitely things came into being very quickly and changed our lives very quickly. You know, it’s the common story around mobile money and what that has meant and what that has changed for a lot of people. Um, where I come from, it’s huge WhatsApp, huge, you know, So we can’t, we can’t deny those opportunities at all. I think it was more about what we saw was not really thinking about what, what we needed to build as a necessary infrastructure and ecosystem for some of this work to really thrive and to become bigger than itself.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:20:30] And of course it can only do so much as well. Given a situation in a country right at some at some point you just need certain things to work properly and to be affordable. And that can create you know, that can really hamper, I guess, the progress around that. But at the same time, when people are communities are so restricted, they become so creative. And I mean, I just remember, you know, the big example would always all the economists trying to explain the hyperinflation and what it meant and what it was. But you could deal with like the the the guy we call them commies and they’re the public. The way people access public transport, they get into these minibuses and there’s the driver. And there is the conductor who’s collecting the money. And the rates were changing all the time. But this guy knew what you needed to give him and what he needed to give you back every day, all day. Which means he was a step ahead or with it than most economists were who were struggling to do.

Doug Belshaw: [00:21:43] He was an economist. Yeah.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:21:44] You know what I mean? So and people just they just were. So as things changed, um, people would just find creative solutions to work around it and to figure out how to do this and to do that. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing at the end of the day for society to always do that, have that kind of creative resilience. I like to call it. Um.

Doug Belshaw: [00:22:08] What what’s interesting with that is that, you know, we’re experiencing that kind of very it’s similar and very different in the, in the West in terms of the pandemic because there’s an emergency response. Yeah. But then as you come out of the emergency response, how well do you keep on with the same stuff that you decided to do at very short notice? Or do you think about as you start to talk about their the infrastructure behind it, how can we bring people together? Um, and what we see in our work sometimes is that what people chose under extreme pressure or under very specific circumstances they want to keep hold of and they want to keep working with, even though there’s better options, especially around like open source and co-design and, you know, all of that creativity around that. Um, yeah, it’s, it’s a difficult thing to be able to advise when you go into organisations, but I’m going to quote something back at you. I would hate to have my words quoted back at me, especially from a few years ago, but um, yeah, Laura pulled this out. So in 2018, so three years pre pandemic, you said if we can leapfrog the West in mobile money, we can leapfrog the West and protecting what’s left of our biodiversity and redesigning economic development. So it benefits both people and planet Africans are creative. And it’s time we bring that creativity and innovation to saving the only continent we have. And I wondered whether you could talk about maybe I know there’s been the pandemic, but what’s happened since then? Anything you’ve seen for good or bad? And just a bit about conservation in in Zimbabwe and what’s kind of happening at the moment for people who don’t know.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:23:44] Yeah. I mean, I guess knowing what I know now, um, I would say it’s not necessarily. Yeah, it’s, it’s a bit of leapfrogging. Leapfrogging, but it’s actually, I think, tapping into the knowledge and the expertise that we have that are from lived experience. And I think part of it is, you know, when we think about where most parts of the African continent are in terms of economic development, um, you know, one opportunity is not to follow suit, right? And to be over consuming, um, resource destroying, um, people on the planet is one. One of the ways is to rethink how we live in societies, what we value, what we think is important, um, how we think about status and well-being. And I think there is still, there’s still opportunities in some parts of that, especially like one of the things I like to think a lot about, and I don’t work in this space, but for sure what’s evident is like around food, um, and you know, where I come from, we have a lot of small scale farmers, subsistence farmers. You know, they live on the land that they have and they work with that. They’re not trying to build mono, you know, monoculture, whatever you call them, you know, homogeneous crops and like fast industrial agriculture, which we could be sold and being told like that’s the way that you guys are going to develop, that’s how you’re going to ensure food security.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:25:23] At the same time, you’re just going to destroy everything and everyone along with it. So I think for me it’s part of that. It’s saying that we don’t have to. The North Star is not the North or the West version of development and what we’ve been sold around it. And we can even see that. I mean, you know, we’re always releasing a few years ago how some of the top GDP performers were coming out of the continent. But then if you looked at those countries on a day to day basis for normal people, things hadn’t gotten that much better. So, you know, the GDP was obviously, you know, benefiting the top whatever percent. So for me, I think it’s about, you know, not leapfrogging is like leaving out that part of development that we think we should go down finding our own way around well-being. And and at times that also even means going back to how things used to be and how we used to look at things, you know? Yeah, we didn’t, you know, we used to heavily subsidise stuff and, um, and you were okay going into a supermarket and not seeing certain fruits and vegetables throughout the year because they were seasonal and that was okay.

Doug Belshaw: [00:26:39] And I think there wasn’t a market in everything. I was talking about this on, on social media the other day. I finally paid off the final £0.04 of my student loan. Last week, £0.04 was left on my student loan. Um, and I’m 40 years old and in some countries, like you’re not expecting to pay off your student loan until you’re like 60 or whatever. And I was trying to explain to people that that doesn’t have to be a market in education. Like, as you say, the state can subsidise this stuff as they did for my parents, etcetera. Um, and I just think it’s interesting the way that we choose to measure stuff. So you mentioned GDP there and something which I haven’t heard about for a few years, but was all the rage a few years ago was the Human Development Index the Martha Nussbaum came up with ten plus years ago. And the way that we measure stuff, surprisingly, is the way that people tend to organise society and their businesses and their lives. And I think we do need different ways of measuring stuff. Um, yeah. I don’t know if you’ve come across any different measures from GDP in the work that you do.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:27:46] I mean, I think there’s a lot of conversations right around alternative economies and, and what, what that can mean. But I know from, you know, from lived experience, you know, it’s always hindsight though, you know, um. We when our community like there is um, um, in Zimbabwe you have, for example, um, you have people who live in like kind of like the more well-off suburbs, so in bigger houses and bigger gardens and you’re further away from your neighbour. And then you have folks that live in the townships where my, where my parents grew up and when they were growing up, they were. You know, next door to every relative and aunt and uncle and all the support systems that you would need to raise a family, a community, Right. And then the wealthier you get, the further away you go from that and you live more alone and isolated and and just even things. If you think about some of the things around mental health and mental health crisis and stuff like that and I think it is part of it for I can I can only speak for where I’m from is when, you know, this idea that the bigger and further you go, the better it is. But then actually it’s just a breakdown and a fragmentation of the community that you actually need to be a healthy, wholesome human being. And so that’s it’s a hard sell. And it’s also I definitely I’m not saying I mean, there is a reality around poverty that we all have to be, you know, very serious in terms of like how how we do that. But I think this the stretching out and just having pure wealthier people and it’s happening across the continent. It’s not it’s not just exclusive to to Western nations and and everybody else being left behind is definitely not the way it’s also not always compatible with our cultures and our beliefs. And I think, yeah, I think that there’s just real opportunity because many countries are still very young, um, and are in the defining stages of, you know, who they are as nations and who they’ll become.

Laura Hilliger: [00:30:08] I do think that there I don’t know if it’s just me getting older or what I pay attention to or if if the resurgence that I’m seeing is like, I don’t know where it falls on the plane of reality, but I feel like there’s a resurgence, a resurgence of more collective community building and more local, regional, um, engagement. And I don’t I honestly don’t know if it’s just that I feel like the pandemic has kind of shown that the, you know, mass consumption, social status, let me buy the most expensive thing is not the way. And that the pandemic has has made it very clear to people that our ability to live healthy and fulfilling lives is not connected to, you know, consumerism and the market. And I feel like in the past couple of years that’s become a bit more like mainstream, Like, I mean, you know, I’ve even read articles about how like the wellness industry is being commodified by the market, you know, or I recently read an article about how life coaching, you know, is like one of the most popular industries and has absolutely no criteria for sanity. Like anybody can just be a life coach. And I feel like in the past few years that that this resurgence of us caring about our own well-being has become something that the market is trying to to get its hooks into. Um, I’ve just personified the market but um, and I wonder, I wonder if I’m if is that resurgence really there of this idea that we are as human beings need to think about the collective and that, you know, our, our values and life are not associated with what we can buy and how we present ourselves, but rather intrinsic and across the board, whether or not that that resurgence is really there or if it’s just Lara’s paying attention to a particular kind of community. I don’t know. What do you guys think?

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:32:28] I mean, I don’t know. It’s hard to tell, right? Because it’s hard to tell because we’re not we’re not in all parts of our communities. Um. I know that. I think. I think there’s been a lot more and I think a lot of people are questioning for sure. Um, and those who have the privilege to question it right are definitely questioning for sure. Um, you know what, what is it that matters? At the end of the day, I think there are certain things that people have come out of the pandemic. Um, you know that for me, I mean, having a young child, it definitely was like. Do I have to be so far from my family? This is crazy. I should be close to my family. I need to be down the road and I need to make a plan to make my way back there as soon as possible type thing. And I’m not sure that would have been that would have happened or would have been as strong if if they weren’t, you know, if we all had didn’t have to live in in, in apartments with like little kids and work and and no support structures at all that were available to us. Um, but I think that there’s it will still take a lot of work because what we’re being sold and the system that we’re in is just that powerful. Um, they have this saying in southern Africa and it’s called It’s our Time to Eat. And it’s this idea that, you know. I I’ve had to struggle. And now I get what you’re saying about that. But it’s like, if I can kind of have that success, I’m going to take it. Who? You know what I mean? Why? Why should I give up what others have, you know, have enjoyed? Um, so I think, you know, so I think it’s going to take a lot of a lot of work. And I think that’s where when, you know, for those of us that are. Working in the climate movement space. It’s also how we talk about it and how we bring this conversation to folks in a way that doesn’t feel like people will have to think humans are just a bit strange like that, right? Like, then it’s like I have to give up all these things. I have to give up all the stuff. Um, and why? Why me? You know what I mean? But more about like. We could be so much happier and so much more fulfilled and things could be easier and better for more people if we moved in a bit of a collective direction. Um, but yeah, I don’t know. It’s tough out there, especially with social media and. And I mean, we haven’t talked about it, but, you know, with stuff that’s being sold to you all the time, we didn’t even grow up with that.

Doug Belshaw: [00:35:12] Exactly. And so and one of the things just to riff off what you said there, which I think is very interesting, is that especially a lot of Western societies during the pandemic, people’s material needs were covered by, in many times the government. So all of a sudden you haven’t you don’t have this need to go out and earn money and you’re at home and what are you going to do with your time? And I feel like a lot of this like rage and like culture wars and all that kind of stuff comes from people needing to differentiate themselves from one another rather than pulling together. So I agree with Laura. I do see more people pulling together and a lot more movements and a lot more work on open source projects and that kind of stuff. But then on the other side, I see a lot more people finding very small things to argue about and tiny little differences becoming these huge differences. And I think we need to be careful and finding ways in which we can guide people towards working together and figuring things out together. So I don’t think I think it’s been an important part, but I think there’s still work to be done. And with my I used to be a history teacher had on, um, the Black Death of 1349, right. Killed a bunch of people and then all of a sudden the serfs were like, I’m not going to work on your estate anymore unless you pay me more money. And started wandering around the place. And now you see people refusing to work for low paid jobs or jobs where they don’t get respect and that kind of thing. So I think that’s a hugely positive thing. People deciding, No, I’ve got a barrier where my self respect and like my minimum, not just for money, but my minimum for what I want to do with my life.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:36:57] Ten.

Laura Hilliger: [00:37:00] How do we solve this in like the next ten minutes?

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:37:06] I’m putting all my faith in the youth and those coming. No, not all. We need generational solutions, for sure. Um, but yeah, go ahead.

Laura Hilliger: [00:37:20] I was just going to say, I think that I think the big the big thing that, you know, we need to kill the story of individualism. You know, that, you know that somebody is more special because of X than everybody else. And I think, I mean, kudzu did a lot of work with influencer strategy, which I find very interesting to bring in right now, because if we’re talking about the story of individualism and trying to create a world where collectivism is the more dominant and default mindset, um, how can influencers a exist in that society? But B how like, how can we actually use the current setup of the way that we look at people’s value like, like in a global sense? How, how do we, how do we switch that to a more collectivist mindset when we still live in a celebrity culture?

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:38:26] That’s a good question. Yeah, I did. I did work on influencers and I do believe in the work. Um, and for me, um, it was always more about, especially when you look at, you know, digital influencers and micro influencers, it was more about the communities they used to. They build around themselves, their content and their brand. And I used to find those communities very interesting. So maybe you follow someone. I follow a number of influencers with different reasons cooking, parenting, whatever. Um, and, and then you find that within that there’s, there’s a community that comes together that’s sharing, that’s exchanging information. Um, the influencers, they obviously, you know, projecting certain things, saying certain things that the community most likely agrees with. And for me that was the real opportunity was trying to find individuals or touch points where you could reach certain communities that you just otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Because maybe when they look at your organisation or when they look at your brand, they just don’t see themselves reflected in that. But if they if, you know, if you are able to have a fair and very open and collaborative relationship with an influencer and they can bring some of these conversations to their community, then you can start to potentially see how, you know, you might be able to connect with this audience and vice versa. So for me, that was, you know, that that’s where I see that opportunity, I think. I mean, I know that, you know, celebrities, whatever the big celebrities are still able to sell certain things in certain minutes. But I think there’s a bit more scepticism around that. Now, we don’t live in that necessarily in that age. And I think it’s more about the content creators and the digital, you know, the the YouTubers and the Instagrammers and Tiktokers. I’m not on TikTok, but here it’s a big thing.

Laura Hilliger: [00:40:34] Yeah. It certainly feels like the, you know, the, um, there is more there’s more of an opportunity for anyone to be an influencer in air quotes around any sort of topic or theme. So it feels, it used to feel like, you know, everybody was just a movie star and that’s what they were. And now, you know, like you said, you know, there’s all these different media platform technology creation methods like the the creativity of humans is really on display with the Internet. And it feels like I mean, you can find an influencer who is influencing on, for example, a cooperativism or for, you know, you know.

Doug Belshaw: [00:41:20] I think for me, it’s like there’s these abstract ideas like climate change or whatever it is, and influencers, you know, the you might Greta Thunberg, for example, personifies something. Yeah. And that can be a really positive thing because you can latch on and you can say that person stands for what I believe in. But there’s, there’s, there’s a dark underbelly of that as well. Right? So I was reading yesterday about mom influencers in America and how they perform whiteness, you know, and how dangerous that can be. So there’s all different kinds of things going on there. It’s not a homogenous kind of as we’d expect. Like it’s a it’s a heterogeneous kind of thing going on. But at the same time, I definitely agree with kids like trying to find ways into communities to have a conversation on is exactly what we all should be doing.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:42:10] Yeah. And I mean there were some interesting things that came out last year, right? All of a sudden, doctors and scientists were people you wanted to listen to. There was a new there was a there’s a new virus. And, you know, we had been if you think about the at least the climate movement, it was struggling. You know, how do we position scientists to be more accessible and and people to, you know, be able to tune in And all of a sudden, some of the most influential people were doctors. And that’s a good thing, you know, And I think that’s you know, that’s that’s been forever. You know, we always movements always coalesce around individuals and personalities. You always need that. That’s how it works. It could it can be decentralised for sure. But, you know, you always have the face of movements. Um, and I think obviously with, with, with social media that’s taken on a different form and there’s good and then there’s equally, you know, there’s the bad side of it as well because like you said, anyone and everyone can be an influencer. Um, and there’s been the other side of it. People who are very influential have access and reach, you know, um, not talking along the lines of science and giving terrible misinformation, dangerous information at the end of the day. Um, so, so I think, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a hard one. And I know for organisations it can be difficult to, to do that because you’re just like, well what we stand for, that’s, that’s good enough. And working with influencers comes with a lot of risks. There are people, they’re individuals, they, they’re not, you know, they’re not like how it used to be where you sign a rider for a concert and you know exactly what’s going to happen. You know, you might connect with someone today and then next week, I don’t know, they they’re doing something that’s completely not what is in line with you. But I think at the end of the day, if you’re finding individuals whose values are really aligned to what you’re doing, then it can only be an opportunity. Um, and especially with, I think. With younger audiences who are less you know, they’re harder to find. They’re not like how we used to be, where we tuned in at seven and watched this program and knew that these people were tuning in. And and you could do that, you know, now you have to find them across multiple channels if that with very different interests and, um, yeah.

Laura Hilliger: [00:44:47] Well, I certainly think that this connection was an opportunity. And just taking a look at the time and seeing that we’re almost at 45 minutes, so I wanted to start to wrap us up, um, being respectful to everyone’s time. Um, yeah, I think we should maybe just have you back again and have another chat because that was really fun and I learned a lot and I think that you are super awesome. I’m a big fan, so thank you so much.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:45:18] Well, thank you both for having me. This was really, really great. I was so nervous, but, um, it was such a nice conversation and definitely, um, will be listening to all your other episodes again. And um, yeah, no, definitely, you know, would love to have another conversation here or otherwise, if you’re ever in my part of town or if I’m ever in town.

Laura Hilliger: [00:45:41] I think I’m just going to come to your part of town, invite myself over.

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:45:46] You should.

Laura Hilliger: [00:45:48] Okay, then. Thanks so much for being here. And I guess we will speak again soon!

Kudzayi Ngwerume: [00:45:56] Bye!

Doug Belshaw: [00:45:57] Thanks Kudzayi!