Agile in non-tech environments – Empathy mapping with Joe public in Ibrahim Hyderi, Karachi

Combining Agility and Empathy to better understand people and change Building on from my previous post on empathy maps it seems apt to share a real world example of how a non-technical team utilises empathy maps. To build deep understanding of the target audience’s issues and to address their pains. 

For those not familiar with Peace Through Prosperity, the organisation works with people engaged in micro-enterprises; such as street-cart or pavement based green grocers, barbers, cobblers and food vendors. Peace Through Prosperity enables them to build a better future for themselves, their family and community through vocational education and coaching. Continue reading

Seekh Kebab Crawl

Karachi-Seekh-Kebab-Bandu-Khan-062015-04 This is blowing off steam Karachi style, feel a little burnt out by the day… close it by sampling one of the top five comfort foods on offer! seekh kebabs!
So this evening undeniably the two picky connoisseurs of seekh kebab took to a few of Karachi East’s well known Kebab eateries, namely; Ansari Kebab House, Bandu Khan, Jehangir Meerat and Ghaffars’s Kebab house. Introducing our seekh kebab Connoisseurs; Ishtiaq-Ur-Rehman and yours truly of course.
It was a time boxed Kebab crawl, and got short further by what we found at a couple of the more spoken of kebab houses. Our seekh kebab rating scale:
  1. Texture: how well the mince and spices are grounded and the moistness of the minced meat.
  2. Spices: balance of spices
  3. Lightness: lightness of the kebab (a subjective measure of the amount of ghee mixed in in to the mince and spices)
  4. Service.

Karachi East Seekh Kebab Crawl Results

Bandu Khan in Sindhi Muslim
We were greeted by Gul an old timer at Bandu Khan’s a charming character, the right karma to kick off a kebab crawl! Bandu Khan serve their seekh kebabs in a pyrex dish keeping the kebabs hot for longer! and it works! +1. The balance of spices was perfect, just the right amount of ghee and of course the texture was spot on.
Abdul Ghaffar Kebab House in Bahadurabad
We were shuttled to the cashier the moment the waiters found out our order was small, the cashier informed us that Ghaffar’s don’t sell Seekh Kebab! but having made our way to this much talked about kebab house we decided to review their Chicken seekh kebabs, these were stodgy and bland waste of an otherwise pretty good chicken!
Zameer Ansari Kebab Centre in Bahadurabad
Zameer Ansari had to be the most awkward visit of the evening, much to our annoyance we found out this Kebab Centre does not sell seekh kebabs, not even chicken ones! as a self proclaimed kebab centre this is an epic fail! though they did score on service, they were damn apologetic about not serving Seekh kebabs!
Jehangir Meerat Kebab House on Tipu Sultan Road
As far as spices go Meerat’s is on the hotter side, though the texture was perfect Meerat lost out on their kebab’s not being as light as they can be, a bit too much ghee mixed into the mince for our liking. However Meerat did kill it on service! we got served the last plate of khiri kebabs without having ordered it – the chaps there know Ishtiak’s favourite kebab from their eatery! 


The Verdict!
As hard as it is to accept the favourite dig ranks a close second… it is true! Meerat sits close to but not at the top! I may have to revise an earlier post!Bandu Khan’s was by far the best seekh kebab on offer between the eateries we visited.
Until the next crawl.


enjoy the kebabs and feel free to post your recommendations for us to try out in the comments.


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9others dinner in Karachi with Entrepreneurs of circumstances

9OTHERS-logo Another short trip to Karachi with a full on agenda; a conference to speak at, SCRUM & Kanban trainings to deliver, a Mini-MBA curriculum to review, patrons and board members to catchup with, bureaucracy to on-board, politicians to win over and plenty to catch up on.

All of that aside the most interesting engagement had to be hosting 9other’s second dinner in Karachi, a dinner with a difference. The usual suspects at any 9others’ global dinners are tech heads, startups, lawyers, soon to be movers and shakers of a multitude of sectors, most using technology platforms as the basis of their empires to be… all meeting up with the common goal of gaining the aid of others for their own successes and of course extending their assistance to aid the success of others.

9Others is undeniably an awesome concept and over the years has created a helpful and powerful community, it is about time the power of the network was introduced to entrepreneurs who need it the most; entrepreneurs of circumstances that Peace Through Prosperity (PTP) is engaged with.

Mobilising was a challenge, for our guests were alien to the concept of 9others as well as networking to help grow their businesses, these are individuals who work 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week plying their trade on street pavements as cobblers, hawkers, fruit and vegetable vendors or street barbers. They get little time if any to network with their peers and have little appreciation for peer sourcing solutions to their business challenges.

Having said that Nasir Shah the SCRUM Master and team leader for the PTP field team and Abdul Rasheed the project manager for the Mini-MBA project did a superb job at convincing and gathering 9 entrepreneurs of circumstances for the dinner.

9others dinner in Karachi with Entrepreneurs of Circumstances - Peace Through Prosperity On arrival our guests were amused at the principle of the invitation, it is rare for them to be invited to a restaurant without occasion, more amusing the notion that it will be beneficial for their businesses, most of whom have been struggling with for years if not longer. There was some element of mistrust since unlike the usual 9other dinners as hosts we were picking up the tab, and if anything these folks know there is no such thing as a free dinner.

Nasir who also happens to be a linguist with 5 local languages in his tool kit did well to set the scene and explain that we wanted nothing more than them to attend, try it out and at worst they will be dined at our expense and at best they will gain a peer network.

The trades we had in attendance were,  four fruit vendors, one vegetable vendor, two juice vendors and two street cobblers all from Qayyumabad in Karachi, Pakistan. To begin with our guests were  trepidatious, then shy, Shehzad Khan a 50 year old fruit vendor found the whole thing a little amusing though there was more scepticism there than amusement. The rules were laid down, share your recent successes, your upcoming challenge and lets help each other overcome the challenges and learn from the successes of others. It was a struggle to irk out successes since they saw none worthy of being shared until Anwar a 33 year old street cobbler broke the ice saying he had a bumper day a couple of weeks ago when he managed to earn 400 rupees in a single day (that’s £2.40 / $4) and with that we had a benchmark for success and the rest followed with their own tales of awesome successes they had had over the last week, month and more.

Peace Through Prosperity 9others The challenges part had to be curated, some of our guests assumed since there was free dinner on offer there might also be free capital on offer too, we had to interject and make it clear we were there to help them help each other and there was no capital on offer, we could assist them in obtaining micro-finance loans but only after they had completed the Mini-MBA program and there too proven that they were capable of growing their businesses, cutting down on expenditures, developing new services and increasing their margins. With that done the nature of the challenges being aired changed, though they may seem insignificant to us they are mammoth if we stand in their shoes.

With Katie and Matthew’s blessing Peace Through Prosperity shall be hosting a 9others dinner in Karachi every fortnight across the seven neighborhoods  the Mini-MBA program is being delivered for the six selected street based trades. You can learn more about 9others here, and about Peace Through Prosperity here.

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Towards a better future state – improving the socioeconomic landscape through data informed transformation – part 4 (Going Agile with Artefacts to aid scalability)

Application of DSDM ATERN to design and deliver innovative Agile international development programmes Somewhere in the beginning of this journey we uncovered our own transformation and that it remains continuous; from people of the fence to a vocal opposition, off the fence and in the thick of it, putting our talent and resources where our mouth is;  designing, engineering and delivering programmes that work, are measurable, repeatable, evolving with increasingly positive and verifiable results. Analysing analogs and antilogs, experimenting, failing and revisiting the drawing board on multiple programmes at times concurrently, at times all consumed by what can be engineered in society using Agile methods to experiment in situ.

Prototyping where prototyping is seldom conducted, taking every opportunity to learn, adapt, apply, measure, rinse and repeat. Running lean, delivering social development programmes on fumes, a startup of sorts with quantifiable social good and spiritual food as our return on investment.

Given our cross cultural, global ambitions means the design process has to be agile with standardised artefacts to ease knowledge transfer between cross cultural teams and adapted to new environments effectively with the same or similar level of efficacy.  Navigating unchartered waters albeit with considerable experience of having delivered very different transformational programmes in large organisations.

Be it the Mini-MBA programme or Urban farming cooperatives, every programme is broken into components and delivered using methodologies best suited for the nature of the individual component, whilst being Agile. We are in a hurry remember, gotta fix whats broken and fast.

Being a practitioner and evangelist of Agile in its different guises it was a no brainer to adopt DSDM Atern here. A major consideration remains scaling the programmes via the international development community; to achieve scale beyond our very humble means requires adoption of our programmes by the behemoths of international development; USAID, JICA, DFID, Minhaj-ul-QuranAga Khan Development Network and the likes of. Though I have my doubts if they could do things as we do… the systems scientist in me says with the right artefacts and training this is repeatable with similar results; they can replicate our programmes and processes, the pragmatist in me says it requires a paradigm shift that is hard for these organisations to contemplate let alone deliver on.

In context effective repeatability entails creating the programmes and documenting the processes in a language these not so Agile organisations understand, can relate to and adopt without having to re-learn or re-engineer. More importantly grass root teams who may not be familiar with Agile at all can pick up and fly with it, we have already proven that they can in South Punjab, KPK and are now doing so in Karachi. With that outcome in mind DSDM Atern was a natural choice for the design process of the programme it self, not so much its delivery. For delivery the teams have been trained in and adapted SCRUM, Kanban and a variety of modelling techniques borrowed from digital marketing, digital strategy development and LEAN… the details of which are for the next post.

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Urban Farming in Karachi


seasonal veggies for the winter in the bedding outside the house are sprouting up

Karachiites and visitors to it are well aware that green spaces / vegetation cover in Karachi is very  limited. Total vegetation cover in Karachi as of 2008 is estimated to at 62,643 acres, at 7% of the total land area of 907,001 acres… it is appalling! and whatever little green spaces are around are disappearing fast, if its not the land mafia its successive bureaucrats who leave their mark by undoing whatever little good their predecessors managed to do.

So with this backdrop there is much song and dance when yuppies of Karachi plant tomatoes in a pot! but there is little celebration of the rural workers who are putting their farming skills to good use in the city having moved to urban centres in search of a better life.

urban farming in Karachi

radishes, lettuce and rocket in the terrace bedding

Zulfiqar is one such urban farmer, having moved from Baltistan in the north some 11 years ago. On arrival the shy introverted 16 year old went about making use of the bedding and whatever spare space he could find in the garden at mum’s house in Karachi.

It was only recently that a confident young man who now speaks English has an email address and sends me pictures of his green exploits on his Chinese manufactured Android phone brought his urban farm to my attention.. that too having overheard the praised bestowed on a friend for being a recent convert to urban farming  Zulfiqar commented ‘no big deal sir, we grow our own tomatoes, lettuce, peas, radishes, potatoes and rocket, we have for many years’. This post is to celebrate Zulfiqar the urban farmer, who religiously prepares the beddings for each season, utilises every possible space he can without getting into trouble with the gardner (who seems redundant with Zulfiqar around!)

As for Zulfiqar’s answer to the silly question of why…’it keeps me close to home…’ he says. Once a farmer I guess always a farmer.

AWESOME work Zulfiqar and keep your pics coming and I shall keep you folks updated on his green exploits in the concrete jungle of Karachi.

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