Crossroads – H-OI Management thinks out of the Box

Volunteers step into a simulated vicious circle.

Our H-OI management team participated in an unusual activity offered by the NGO Crossroads during a recent Management Meeting in Hong Kong.

In our line of work, it is important to think out of the box from time to time, to stay flexible and apply a hands-on technique. That’s why we decided to participate in an activity that Crossroads calls Global X-perience.

On Crossroads:

Malcolm and Sally Begbie started Crossroads in Hong Kong in 1995. They used their training as an accountant and as a PR consultant to help those already doing a good thing in a hard world. Then one project followed the other. Today, Crossroads operates from a site that covers 600,000 square feet with 70 team members and many more volunteers from the community.

Crossroads collects and donates goods. Their warehouse has goods equating to 200 x 20” containers. They “built up matchmaking” for companies who want to give to charities and those who are in need and they support handicraft all over the world.

In addition, since 2005 they have offered something they call Global X-perience: On their tenth anniversary they invited Hong Kong business leaders to take a pile of rubbish, build themselves a slum home and spend the next 24 hours in simulated poverty. This activity developed into a regular program.

Today, Crossroads offers simulation X-periences on war, HIV/AIDS, blindness, water shortages, hunger, poverty, and more. They help people understand need with their hearts and heads.

Crossroads Website

On our X-perience:

Elena Pentsi, Director HR, describes the activity as follows:

“We were not really clear what to expect. We booked the simulation ‘struggle for survival’ which lasted 2 hours. I myself was wondering how a simulation exercise of such short time would be able to put us in a situation like this …

The group was divided into family units living in a slum and making a living out of folding paper bags. We got confronted with numerous challenges such as rising living costs, rising rents, health issues, etc.

It was unbelievable how quickly a very intense and pressurized situation was created which made us behave in ways we would normally not have reacted.

I was very impressed to experience how difficult it is to get out of the circle of poverty and understand better how people may be forced to take decisions which contradict my values (e.g. don’t free up time for their children to go to school, sell organs for the sake of having a bit of money in their hands to survive, etc.).

I think it was a very good decision to take our senior management team out of their day-to-day work and put the usual business challenges into perspective.

This exercise was a very powerful experience which I would like to be able to also make accessible to a wider group of people in our organization.”

Dirk Kollmann, Regional Director South-East Asia, adds “I experienced the same insights during the seminar. Especially how vulnerable and helpless you are in such a situation, and that you won’t be able to get out of the vicious circle by yourself, but that outside engagement and help is needed.

I share Elena’s point that our normal values were challenged very quickly during the simulation and that we even changed our values, as we were desperate to find any solution to a life-threatening problem that needed to be fixed directly.”

For us as a company, it was important to create awareness in our management team for issues like poverty. We are at the moment looking for ways to help. All the more since H-OI, as a global sourcing organization, has presences in countries where problems such as poverty are widely spread.