Knowledge Institute Podcasts
Abbey Road Sessions: Dianne Dain on Purposeful Partnerships
Dianne Dain, Global Partnerships at UN Technology Innovation Labs, discusses purposeful partnerships and how technology solutions can touch on multiple SDGs and help achieving them. The discussion covers climate change, education, equal opportunities and the role of women entrepreneurs.
Hosted at Abbey Road Studios by Jeff Kavanaugh, Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute. The podcast is a part of our special series on an important global topic, Achieving Resilience in the Stakeholder Capitalist Era.
“Women have the resources, so when we become aware of the way the rest of the world lives, let's do our best. Let’s take our resources, let's take what we naturally do as women, which is take care of communities, families, lifting others up, and let's use these resources for the rest of the world.”
- Dianne Dain
How can young innovators help in achieving resilience for the planet?
Dianne talks about her background and how she got involved in the United Nations.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), what are they?
Jeff and Dianne talk about Finland
Dianne talks about SDG5 – Empowering Women and Girls and SDG17-Sustainable development through global partnerships
Dianne talks on importance of education, women entrepreneurs and a competition called Reboot the Earth
What's the UN doing to reach more of these half entrepreneurs, half family leader folks that may not have had the education needed?
Dianne talks about the challenges. How is the UN thinking about following psychological tendencies and still getting things done?
What are some things that people can do in the journey of the SDGs and things that Dianne cares about? Dianne mentions the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact.
Dianne talks about her work in Scotland.
What's been a major influence on Dianne? She shares her personal story.
Jeff Kavanaugh: There are 1.8 billion people in the world between ages 10 to 24, the largest generation of youth in history. Close to 90% of them live in developing countries where they make up a large proportion of the population. Dianne Dain, how can young innovators help in achieving resilience for the planet?
Dianne Dain: Well, thank you, Jeff. That's a really good question and it's a really important question because resilience is key to what we want when we talk about sustainability, when we talk about scalability, I think one of the key areas is that they shouldn't be afraid to fail, because failure, I think it was Truman Capote that said, "Is the condiment that gives success it's flavor." And I think that right now as youth learn from failures, as youth learn that they shouldn't be afraid to hesitate or fail, we can take this energy that's going on right now with all of the youth as they're protesting, as they're trying to make a difference in the climate and transition them into problem solvers. So we go from protestors to actual problem solvers.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well in that problem solving and these purposeful partnerships is what we'll be exploring today's conversation. Welcome to a special edition of the Knowledge Institute podcast where we talk with thought leaders about achieving resilience in the era of stakeholder capitalism. I'm Jeff Kavanaugh, head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute, and today we're coming to you from the London's iconic Abbey Road Studios. We're here with Dianne Dain, responsible for global partnerships at the United Nations Technology Innovations Labs.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Dianne is the innovation and leadership specialist building the UN Technology Innovation ecosystem for the office of information and communication technologies. The first lab was established in Finland 2018 followed by Egypt, Malaysia and India in 2019. Dianne, thanks so much for joining us.
Dianne Dain: You're welcome. I'm happy to be here.
Jeff Kavanaugh: With a bit of background, how did you get involved in United nations?
Dianne Dain: Well, I ran a national organization in Washington DC that was founded by Eleanor Roosevelt actually 75 years ago, and it was designed to empower women, especially mothers as they were literally holding the country together during the depression. And we had consultative status at the UN. And so we held regular panels there, based on that presence at the UN, I was asked to come and build an advisory board. I'm from California, so in the technology sector I had a lot of experience with innovation and startups and we actually began building some strong advisory board for the UN and the technology sector. And then that transitioned into being asked by member States for emerging technology.
Dianne Dain: And as we transitioned to this era of exponential growth in emerging technology, we were finding that the member States were being left further and further behind when it came to developing tools for social need. And rather than going around piecemeal and responding to requests, which is what we were doing, we decided to send out a note verbally to all 193 member States and tell them that this is something that is going to be impacting if they need tools, if they need resources to emerging technology, skills and tools that we had to offer it to everyone.
Jeff Kavanaugh: This is something that's bothered me for a while is because there's so much exponential opportunity and potential with the digital age, it's nonlinear and certain parts of the world have, if not conquered it certainly harnessed it, and we've all enjoyed the benefits of it. And yet such a large percentage of the world hasn't. And maybe there's not immediate money in it, which is why the commercial interests haven't flowed there. And it seems long overdue that an organization and really the UN is the only one of its scope and scale to say who's speaking on behalf of these member States. And so I view your role as so critical as translating from your background and being in California, understanding all that to getting the word out to people that need it.
Dianne Dain: It was really interesting actually, and I was, I felt very privileged to be on this team. It was a very small team, but we initially did all the workshops and assess the needs of the member States that... And you're right, it's a strong difference between the availability, between ... There's a skill set everywhere. So it's not a matter of skill, it's a matter of having the tools, the trust and the availability to build these tools for themselves. And so we offered it to come into their country being brought in of course by the member States themselves, to help them develop these tools and connect them to partners that can help build those tools. And then it was designed to be a network of labs where they would share technologies with each other.
Dianne Dain: So Finland was the earliest adopting state, a member state that brought us in. And each lab focuses on a different set of social issues surrounding either pillars of the UN, which are your peace and security, human rights or the SDGs, which we're all familiar with, hopefully by now.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Fortunately, everyone is. I conduct a fair amount of talks and I always ask people to raise their hands at the beginning, and it's better now, but it's worth reinforcing these sustainable development goals or SDGs, they're 17 of them and Dianne's responsible for number 17, partnerships, where these are literally changing the world and hopefully private enterprise and academics, academia and NGOs can all get behind the 17 and we get together on number four, which was education.
Dianne Dain: Right, that's right. And sometimes they're called global goals in the business, in the private sector, but they're actually officially called the sustainable development goals for a reason. Because we want to build tools that are sustainable, that promote development, that make it equal and that equalize opportunities for all the member States. So Finland was the first one to bring in a lab, bring us in, and they focus on education, health, or circular economy and peace and security.
Jeff Kavanaugh: I see. Well, what's amazing is Finland, like a lot of people, we are aware of it, but until you really get to another folks there, the journey that they've been on since world war II and before where I wouldn't say it's a developing country, but at the time they weren't as far along. And by focusing on education and equality in certain areas, the progress they made across about three generations has been astounding.
Dianne Dain: It's really remarkable.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Some of the most forward thinking, and maybe because they're a smaller country, they're able to run these experiments and see the results faster. And I've had the pleasure of working with some of the folks, there are some people in your team and they're certainly forward thinking.
Dianne Dain: They are, and they're very open to wanting to work with other member States, which is really amazing. They want to share their talents and their time.
Jeff Kavanaugh: I think that's amazing, is the degree to which they want to share. You're under discussion with them and they're talking about wanting to get information into Cairo and Egypt and in India, in Mauritius and I'm thinking are they the center of the UN? But seriously, I think that they're trying to pay it forward and they're actually punching above their weight, if you want to call it that. Given that, as you think about your role in SDG number 17, are there any of those goals you tend to focus on more than the other?
Dianne Dain: Yes. Well, we believe that actually SDG number five, which is women, all about women and empowering women and equalizing opportunities for women actually has a greater multiplier effect on all the rest of the other SDGs. So in other words, if we solve number five and we prioritize women, we impact hunger, we impact food security, we impact so many of the other SDGs. And so our office has actually correlated, we have a emerging technology tool, data visualization tool that actually has correlated most of them to find out how they intersect with SDG five and that's interesting to me.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Yeah. And I'll admit, I'll be the first one growing up and it is the farm and very male dominated and all that for ... I didn't think as much of this and I thought, well of course it's obvious and yeah, don't make a big deal about it. And the more I've talked with folks like you and also done research, that correlation if not causation effect has really emerged and the number of countries where women are more educated or in the workforce, the countries just don't stand for the dictators and for the totalitarian systems. And it's amazing that looking at certain areas, the ripple effect they have. And that certainly for me early on, I'm not a stupid person, but I didn't get that. It took a while before I warmed up to that.
Dianne Dain: Right. It has a direct correlation on early marriage, which has a direct correlation on the children's education. So it's all a trickle down ...
Jeff Kavanaugh: In the family units as well.
Dianne Dain: Absolutely.
Jeff Kavanaugh: What you'll stand for because of your children, and basically society in general. So I think you bringing that to light or to emphasize is great. The other area I think that has ripple effects, education. And so if you can comment on some of the early work being done there.
Dianne Dain: That's right. Education is so important. I think I wanted to point out one more thing that's kind of women and education. We recently promoted acompetition called Reboot the Earth, which I know we were going to touch on, but I'll just jump into it here a little bit and tell you that one of the winners from India, actually, one of his solutions had to do with women because they were not being educated on agricultural principles, which I know you're very familiar with agriculture, so I thought of you when you were talking just a minute ago. But one of his tools, he uses AI to actually predict the weather changes and then how that impacts what crops that you will plant in the ground. And then because of the biodiversity needed, especially during climate change, especially the rotational education concept that we just touched on, it's not being taught to women.
Dianne Dain: And when climate change happens, quite often the men have already left because the women who are left raising children and seeing after communities are literally the ones that hold the communities together. And so this tool that was developed actually talk about touching on multiple SDGs going back to what we just discussed. Education-wise, women are quite often left out of the picture and if you delve deep into this subject, this tool actually helps hit on all of those fronts. It takes the education, it takes AI, it educates the women, it breaks them down into small groups and then it incorporates microfinance and those types of solutions are the ones that we have to connect.
Jeff Kavanaugh: I agree. Everyone, reminding you that once again you're listening to the Knowledge Institute, Abbey Road Sessions where we're talking with our leaders about achieving resilience in the area of stakeholder capitalism. Here with, again with Dianne Dain responsible for global partnerships, the UN Technology Innovation Labs. Dianne, one of the things is interesting to me is when I was at the UN last, there was some people from Africa and I think it's the women farmers who are the ones who embodied what you said a minute ago. They were the ones who were making sure that the entrepreneurial aspect, making ends meet, what to plant and actually conducting commerce on their smartphones. What's the UN doing to reach more of these half entrepreneur, half family leader folks that may not have had the education needed?
Dianne Dain: That's interesting. That's an interesting question. I think it's absolutely critical. I know that UN Women is working heavily on this. I know that UNICEF is working when it to children's welfare. There's multiple UN agencies that are working across the board on many different aspects. When it comes to empowering entrepreneurs, I believe that women entrepreneurs, when you talk about resilience, we need to go to the women that are actually living the problems on the ground. They're generally taking care of children. They're generally trying to make ends meet for themselves, for their children, for their communities. And so when we talk about resilience and empowering these women, we need to turn them into entrepreneurs and I know that there's some work being done in UNDP, there's different agencies that are working on the ground supporting these initiatives.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well you're about to go into probably, if [inaudible 00:12:36] is different from that environment into the snow-capped enclave of Davos, Switzerland here in a week or so. And understand you're talking on rebooting, rebooting the earth, rebooting the oceans. Can you talk about those initiatives that maybe sound grand, what are they about and what they trying to accomplish?
Dianne Dain: Well, right now we are all coming together with one common crisis, which is the climate. We have one earth and so for better or for worse, in this case, it puts us on the same page. And that is what these competitions are designed to do. It's designed to take the energy of youth, where they're demanding that they're not going to take it anymore and they don't want of the future that we seem to be careening towards. They want more say in that future and we're actually trying to give them the ability to have more say in that future by turning them into solution builders. So Reboot the Earth was designed to take challenges, climate challenges and challenge the youth using emerging technology, create solutions that were scalable, sustainable, and turn them into actual solutions that will help our climate.
Dianne Dain: So we had each lab location, India, Malaysia, Germany, Finland, New York, USA, each held a coding competition. Each one had a winner. We brought them to the Climate Summit, the winners, and it was very exciting because we got some really amazing tools. We're actually following them and their progress, they're actually developing their tools now. In Egypt, they're working on agriculture on a device that's a mobile device, that tests the soil and it does it through a vehicle, like a small vehicle, which is very interesting. India, again, women and agriculture. Malaysia had to do with another area of agriculture. So we are working on these tools with them, helping them develop them.
Dianne Dain: And then the stage two is Reboot the Ocean, which we're about ready to launch. This is the decade of action. This is the decade of the ocean. We have the oceans conference that's coming in June, the UN Oceans Conference. So we're announcing this reboot, the ocean challenge. Again, it's similar platform. It will be an online platform. You can find it at Unite Ideas and solutions are going to be built and challenges. There's five tipping point challenges for our oceans. Those challenges will be all found online after next week. We hope to get thousands of solutions from all over the world. If you have a lab that you want to host a challenge at, you can go and let us know and download the challenge and host it and then upload it onto our platform. We were really designing these for the success of our planet at present.
Jeff Kavanaugh: uniteideas.?
Dianne Dain .org.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Got it, uniteideas.org, got it. Well, one of the things that's interesting too is the partnerships that aren't just with these young entrepreneurs, they're between public, private, NGO, academics. Can you share what's working well and what's causing you to stay up at night these days?
Dianne Dain: What's working well, I think is that we're all coming together with a shared, I guess you know, it's the concept of shared value where we have a common need. Each one of us as human beings to help the planet thrive, to help sustainability and survivability for the human race and for our home. So I think that that's keeping me up at night as well as working well, if that makes sense. It's a challenge, but it's also something that has a sense of urgency.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Are people buying in the way you want?
Dianne Dain: Not enough. We're not on target to meet the SDGs.
Jeff Kavanaugh: That's where I was going.
Dianne Dain: Yeah, we're not on target to meet them.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Or is it because corporations want to help but are afraid of the short term impact or they just aren't listening?
Dianne Dain: That's a really good question. I think that everyone's listening. I think that there's certain ones that don't believe it. And I think there's also countries that, because they were later to develop, they don't feel like... They feel like it's inhibiting their economic growth as well.
Jeff Kavanaugh: It's an excellent point. I want to jump in there because this is why I think Marianna Bozesan, and she does a wonderful job of saying these things within planetary boundaries so that it's a closed loop system. And one of the challenges, I feel is, we're asking countries that are just now bursting onto the scene.
Dianne Dain: That's right.
Jeff Kavanaugh: That are enjoying all those things that Western society has enjoyed for a long time. And we're saying, oh by the way, no, you can't have the carbon footprint. You can't do these things. You got figure out how to do it. So wait, but you didn't have to. You can't have the protein in your diet, you can't have all these things. And so it's a bit hypocritical, if I can use that word as well as just psychologically you're asking a group of people or large groups of people to do things counter to their interests. So how is the UN or your group thinking about following psychological tendencies and still getting these things done?
Dianne Dain: That's the challenge, isn't it? That is the challenge. Technology wise, my goal is that and our goal is that we take these 10X return traditionally developments, emerging technology developments that are causing such exponential growth in one direction for so many of the population. At the same time, they're creating this giant gulf between those that are not developing them at the same pace. So we have a technology transfer bank that's, even the office of least developed countries. At the end of the day when we have labs in countries that are developing technologies, they're open source. They will be, we have an IP advisory board that helps us define exactly what portion can be open source and put into that technology transfer bank.
Dianne Dain: So at the end of the day we're trying as fast as we can to help some of these countries get up to speed. It's pretty hard to talk about emerging technologies when you are trying to just survive. So a lot of them don't see the value so you have to, a lot of it will be ...
Jeff Kavanaugh: Who cares about the cloud if you don't have water?
Dianne Dain: Exactly. It's like don't preach to me until you feed me, I think that's a challenge.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well, the good news is there is some tech that is helping create power, do more with water. And so sorting that out that the tech transfer bank is a great step there. What are some things, maybe three things they can do to help in this journey.
Dianne Dain: In the journey of the SDGs?
Jeff Kavanaugh: In the SDGs and to make some of these things that you care about so much happen.
Dianne Dain: Well, I think first and foremost the global compact has defined 10 principles that if you go online to the global compact and you sign onto those principles, they're pretty simple. It's supporting human rights, getting rid of forced and child labor. They're big ones. But I don't mean to make them sound simple, but if we can achieve them as our core principles as businesses, that will go a long way to making progress in some of these goals, some of the sustainable development goals.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And the rest of them with environment and anti-corruption as well.
Dianne Dain: Exactly. So environment, anti-corruption, precaution and responsibility to the environment and then develop and encouraging environmentally friendly tech, which sometimes I think that we need to be aware of the negative consequences of tech, especially as it has to do with some of the things that we don't talk about. For instance, the cloud storage as we're all uploading all of our selfies to the cloud, that has a massive environmental impact, cloud storage in and of itself. So there's a lot of issues surrounding technology that are great but also that are very negative.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Taking more of a personal note, personal tag, you'd mentioned before in our discussion about your interest in Scotland and going back and some of your work there. I think you actually are spending some time there and teaching as well. Can you talk about that?
Dianne Dain: Yes. I'm an honorary professor at Glasgow Caledonia University and Mary Robinson has established a gender economic center there, which is very interesting. And so I'll be teaching there as an honorary professor and also COP 26 is coming to Glasgow, so it's really good timing.
Jeff Kavanaugh: COP 26 ...
Dianne Dain: Will be in Glasgow, which is all about the environment for the planet and we have a location up in the highlands of Scotland that is very precious and really focuses on the environment. We have river front property, as well as forest and it's our intention that we utilize that to explore some of these areas that we're going to be talking about at COP, that we're going to be hopefully creating greater use of our environment in a holistic way.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Great. Well, as we start to wrap up and respecting your time, I know you just got off a transatlantic flight earlier today, could you share maybe who or what's been a major influence on you?
Dianne Dain: Sure. I would be happy to. I was actually abandoned as a baby at the Salvation Army hospital. I knew that a lot of that, I went into the LA County foster care system as a child, very young child, and then was adopted into a family. And my work in Los Angeles took me, I'm a harpist and it took me into the inner city of Los Angeles by choice. So I would play my harp at a lot of different events. And one day I got a call from the Salvation Army actually and asked me to go to a maternity home and play for mother's day. I looked at my birth certificate and I realized the name of that maternity home was the same name that I was, that was on my birth certificate. And so as I went back there and I played the harp actually for this group of young women and girls, it was very bars on the windows, 10 miles from where I was raised yet it was where I was born.
Dianne Dain: It came home to me and it hit me very hard that by virtue of the fact that I was lifted out of that circumstance, whatever reason, whatever set of circumstances lifted me out of that, there were a whole lot of people that less than 10 miles away from me was living a completely different life. And it's really about opportunity. It's really about the advantage that you have with education, with everything that I was given basically. So to me that was a moment in time that completely changed my life. From that point on, I committed myself to equalizing opportunity for others. And I think that, that's sometimes what we forget that in our own backyards we're very much a product of our environment and our circumstances and what we've been given. And there's a whole, most of the world that has not been given.
Dianne Dain: And also poverty may start in America between X and Y, but poverty starts everywhere else, there's a whole other grid or lower dominions that we don't really understand how deep poverty gets for the rest of the world. So I believe the more that we wake up to that, that was my wake up moment in a small way. But I believe the more we wake up to that as a world and as the Western world, I'm going to say a quote that the Dalai Lama said, that may not sound appropriately a hundred percent but he did say that, "The world will be saved by Western women," and why the West? Why did he say that? Because we have the resources, so when we become aware of the way the rest of the world lives, let's do our best. Let's take our resources, let's take what we naturally do as women, which is take care of communities, families, lifting others up, and let's use these resources for the rest of the world. And so that's my passion and my mission in life.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Wow. It's hard to say anything after that. Just absorb that for a moment, thank you for sharing that. How can people find you online and learn more about what you're doing?
Dianne Dain: Well, you can go to our website, which is until.un.org and learn about the labs, or unite.un.org which is our crowdsourcing platform for the Reboot Accelerators, and just engage and participate in some of the events that we have or in the crowdsourcing competitions that we have. We really need everyone's voice and we're trying as best we can to reach out to as many people as we can, so join us.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Great. And also, you can find details and our show notes and transcripts at infosys.com/iki, I-N-F-O-S-Y-S.com/iki in our podcast section. Dianne, thank you for your time and a highly interesting discussion. And everyone you've been listening to the Knowledge Institute, the Abbey Road Sessions where we talk with thought leaders about achieving resilience in the era of stakeholder capitalism. Thanks to our producer Yulia De Bari and the entire Knowledge Institute team. And until next time, keep learning and keep sharing.
About Dianne Dain
Dianne is an Innovation and Leadership Specialist building the UN Technology Innovation Lab ecosystem for the United Nations Office of Information and Communication Technologies.
The first UNTIL Lab was established in Finland in 2018 followed by Egypt, Malaysia, and India in 2019.
She is the founding woman of the global leadership team that built the UNTIL network. Currently Dianne is kicking off the Reboot Accelerator Programme team to design, engage and activate youth solution builders.
- Connect with Dianne Dain:
LinkedIn | Twitter
- UN SDGs
- The Ten Principles - UN Global Compact
- Glasgow Caledonia University - WiSE Centre for Economic Justice
- COP 26 Glasgow
- Salvation Army Hospital
- UNTIL – UN Technology Innovation Labs
- Unite Ideas - Reboot Accelerators Platform
Selected Links from the episode: