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International Women’s Day (IWD) is observed every Mar. 8 and is, according to the UN, a “time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women” in the quest to achieve gender equality, and women’s empowerment and rights.

One of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals is to eradicate extreme poverty. While in Vietnam it's been achieved, other countries are still struggling

As we head into the Lunar New Year and debts are paid off and homes swept clean to ensure health and success in the coming months, the UN has also done a bit of housekeeping. Put your thinking caps on. Quick! — name the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the next 15 years. OK, can you name the old Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)? Something about poverty and water, right?

I love bandwagons. It appears the objective of making a difference in the world is not just well, making a difference in someone’s life, now it’s about making the greatest difference.

Researchers in several different experiments have hooked up the brains of people while donating to their favourite charity and — whammo! — did the scientists have their socks knocked off. The test subjects’ brains lit up, mimicking the same physiological reaction as using cocaine or nicotine. I always thought doing charity was a trip, but it turns out, for some it’s addictive. Those warm fuzzies (the feel-good factor) are very real.

Three Hmong women weave material out of hemp in Ha Giang, the most northerly province of Vietnam. Ask nicely and they’ll sell you the material without the middle man

At this time of year our thoughts turn to holiday gift-giving (ack!). It may be that you’ve got family for whom you’d like to buy something ‘authentic’ or ‘meaningful’. Perhaps it’s client gifts, staff recognition or end-of-the-quarter teambuilding loot you’re after.

Despite promoting food security, projects like the World Food Program may not necessarily be sustainable

Over a coffee the other day I had a delightful conversation with a woman who, a few years ago, had been stationed in Guinea with a nonprofit working in microcredit and poverty alleviation. She was circumspect regarding the effect her international organisation may or may not have had, but she was grateful for her time overseas for what it had ended up teaching her.

Refugees crossing the Mediterranean. The EU hasn't worked out how to deal with them.

Utilitarian bioethicist Peter Singer is in the news annoying both the animal rights activists who aren’t hardcore enough for him and the charities who don’t deliver enough programme impact. He has a new book out, but what got me thinking was hunting — the predatory manoeuvers of man on man and man on beast.

I recently gave a talk on utilising ‘innovative partnerships’ as a way to solve ‘human capital’ issues within the hospitality and tourism industry. But I was reluctant to pepper my talk with ‘innovation’ or ‘innovative’ and instead used the word ‘progressive’.

Not that long ago I attended an event where a couple — both foreigners — were decked out in the Vietnamese national dress: she, an ao dai and he, an ao gam, both in headgear. While the evening had great music and dancing, it was neither a wedding nor a state function. Why were they dressed up in another culture’s national costume? “Because it’s fun!” was the breathless reply.

The photo op... Angelina Jolie in her role as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador

We’ve been told that you cannot make money while helping the poor because that is morally repugnant. But I believe you can ‘do well’ by ‘doing good’ and balance a social agenda with a profit agenda.

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