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Podcast Episode 20
Host: Hello, my name is Claire Heffron, and welcome to this week's episode of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy podcast on the latest issues, advancing peace, security and international cooperation. The response to the Coronavirus pandemic is evolving, and at this time, we still don't know how long the crisis will last. Currently, it's difficult to make the right choices to get through the disruption caused by COVID-19. We discuss these issues with Peter Cunningham who is the founder and co-director of the Geneva Leadership Alliance. And as extreme measures to handle the current situation appears to have become the norm in a short period of time, some of these have a direct impact on people's data and digital privacy, as information is widely shared across organisations and countries. Earlier we spoke to Helen Shapiro, who is the founder at Vegvísir consulting. Helen has been working in physical risk management and compliance for over 15 years.
Ashley Müller: Thank you for joining us with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. My name is Ashley Müller, I am with Peter Cunningham today. He is the co-director of the Geneva Leadership Alliance at the GCSP. Peter, thank you for joining us. You've recently developed a blog series on leading in uncertain times. Why did you create it and what are you trying to get across?
Peter Cunningham: Well, I think for the last five or so years, we've been looking at the question of leadership in peace, security, in development and governance sectors, what are some of the things that make a difference? What are some of the practices that make a difference when the work is particularly complex, when the people involved, stakeholders involved are really diverse, either kind of from a cultural point of view from a professional point of view. And when the environment they're working in is challenging. Essentially, what makes a difference when the work is complex when the people are diverse, and the environment itself presents challenges, and I think that this is something that applies to almost all of us right now. And so what we wanted to do is to share a couple of insights that we have particularly recognised, make a difference and to make those accessible to orders right now.
Ashley Müller: Thanks, Peter. My next question is what are the themes of the blogs and what are the key elements involved in leaving in uncertain times?
Peter Cunningham: What I've tried to do because there is a lot to say on this subject. So without trying to give too much at once is to really focus on four areas that are cross cutting.
One is about the ability to make safe space from a leadership point of view, one of the hardest things, when things are changing very quickly, when it's very uncertain, is to carve out the time and the space for not just for yourself, but for sometimes an entire organisation to be able to focus on the things that matter most when you feel like things are changing faster than you can keep up with. That is very hard, although not impossible. It's one of the points to do.
The second one is around sense making. So this is a uniquely human thing to have a need to make sense of the world around us and to be able to do that. So this gets challenged, the need increases, and you see that come out in many different ways. You see the need for stories to explain ways and means to explain to ourselves the complexity and the unknown aspects of what's going on right now with this pandemic. And you see that come out in many different ways, different people, you see that come out through conspiracy theories, you see that come out through religious expression or spiritual expression, you see that come out through substantive articles and academia you see that come out in people you know, experimenting and trying different things.
The third one is around decision-making. Now, this has been talked and written about extensively, you know, decision making in the context of leadership, we often use cases the Cuban Missile Crisis is probably one of the most studied decision making case studies and the peace and security space. But again, there are some things we can learn about it. individual level at an organizational level around the approach to decision making that is more or less helpful. We're going to share some accessible practices around that.
And the last is really around responsibility particularly in our Western culture, we really had the opportunity to focus on our individual rights and individual freedoms. And that's wonderful with those freedoms, and often they've been hard fought for right? So we protect those understandingly, but at the same time, they come with responsibilities to the communities.
Ashley Müller: Would you be able to share with us some of the opportunities that arise as we navigate uncertain times? What can leaders or emerging leaders do, what opportunities are there for them in this time?
Peter Cunningham: Well, I think opportunity is a mindset, right? Even that question and suggests a mindset, just a way of thinking that there are opportunities there to be discovered, not everybody shares that mindset, or not everybody is able to, to think like that, as they increasingly feel pressurised, stress threatened, uncertain, fearful concerned, it becomes harder and harder to even think like that in the first place. So I think from a leadership point of view, it's just up to us to recognise how you even think about opportunities in the first place. Is it something that you're easily able to do and can help others focus on as a way forward? Is it something that you find actually quite difficult to do and you need to lean on others?
Ashley Müller: And what about some of the risks that are involved during this time? I mean, how can we protect ourselves when navigating these uncertain times. Are there risks involved?
Peter Cunningham: Yes, one of the things that I mean, most certainly that I think that we all feel that at the moment, one of the things that I've noticed in what's been talked about and written about public is a need for, for example, the mindfulness movement, the importance of looking after yourself and take care of yourself. And I think that's really important. I also would say that you need to be careful not to get blind-fulness. In other words, this is a difficult time. And many of us are going to be challenged in ways that we may not have experienced before, and there's no hiding from that. So I think with the focus on self care on the focus on the need for us all to be a little bit more tolerant towards each other, there's also a need to recognise that we are going to have to lean into this and meet it and have the courage. Now risk goes hand in hand with courage. We all have different levels of risk tolerance. You know, if we look at how we like to invest for a futures, you'll get a good sense of your risk thresholds by looking at you know, how you approach your retirement investment, so know your own risk thresholds and maybe accept that you're going to have to lean into those a little bit. You're going to have to possibly push back on some of those and take a little bit more risk or accept that it's going to be part of everyday life.
Ashley Müller: Peter, my last question to you is around your upcoming “Lead and Influence with Impact Online Course” that is newly launched, please tell us about it. What can we look forward to in this online edition?
Peter Cunningham: It's going to be great. One of the one of the things that has always been a big challenge for us and this has forced us to take some risks ourselves in our work actually. So talk about practicing what you preach,but to run a course, particularly the Lead and Influence Impact course, because it has been so successful. It had required people to come to all be in Geneva. And what I'm really excited about is that this course is now going to be accessible no matter where you are.
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Ashley Müller: Thank you for joining us with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. My name is Ashley Müller, and I'm here today with Ms Helen Shapiro. She's focused on GDPR Organizational Transformation. Helen speaks regularly at various events, and has been helping the GCSP as a consultant with our GDPR compliance journey.
Ashley Müller: Helen, thank you so much for taking the time with us here today. A lot of us who are In our organisations or jobs transitioning online, who haven't necessarily been digital before, we have a lot of fears and a lot of worry about our data and about privacy. So Helen, if I were to go and speak with my colleagues or my friends or family, what kind of tips Should I share with them? How do we safeguard ourselves? What would you recommend?
Helen Shapiro: Well, I think this is a process like any other educational process, and I think we need to first have awareness, share it, and also get informed. There are plenty of free courses out there. We can find a short (for instance one hour) video about what cyber hygiene is about, and learn about simple tasks or habits that we need to change. For example, how do I manage my passwords? Whenever I talk with folks about GDPR (which is inherently connected to cyber-security) I ask: “how many of us here use the following passwords: 0000, your birthday, your dog's name, or perhaps your mother's maiden name?”
With no exception, there are always some hands that come up.
And here is the danger: we used these passwords in all kinds of sites, applications or digital portals. Then, if there is a security breach or a hack, even if the data compromised is from an old account or an inactive profile, it might still have a password that we currently use somewhere else.
And so, we have let the hackers into our “protected” space.
We need to develop a sense of what type of information about us is out there. What is my digital footprint? We need to have the basic tools to figure out who I am as a digital person. The trick is to gain useful knowledge that each of us, as a normal person, can use in order to protect our personal data. And I mean this for each and every one of us, normal folks, not only IT wizards…. What do I need to do? What kind of things should I pay attention to in terms of software, hardware, phishing, digital behavior, terms and conditions of various sites & services etc? What kind of example do I set for my kids? How do i share this knowledge with the members of my household, friends, family, etc.?
Some simple behaviors, habits, tools can still be useful. We must start somewhere, and every change is a process.It takes time to get the right information from the right sources. For example, each of us needs to have a good password management process.
Ashley Müller: You touched on this idea of traceability with the government, with data companies, really offering us a chance to help us because we are all concerned about our health safety. And we want to know if we've been in touch with anybody who has maybe some been in a vicinity where someone did have the Coronavirus. And so somehow amongst at least in certain forums and media headlines, I've been following, there are some who are very much willing to give up their data because it's for a good cause. I'm kind of shifting the perspective of it from a few months ago when we were all crazy about our data privacy, rightfully so. Now, what is your take on this shift of narrative and why is that shift happening? And may I also ask, do you think we can get our data back?
Helen Shapiro: Right. Okay, maybe you could remind me to address the issue of getting our data back afterwards just in case I get off track here.
The first thing I would say to this (from my experience) is that we have not really been very concerned about who gets our data. Generally, we've been very sloppy. That's what I see.
But naturally, we don't like being told what to do and we put off managing our data (like not doing our taxes until the last minute). So now suddenly we have a new situation with COVID-19: gloves, masks, disinfectant gel! We often feel that all this collective behavior infringes on what we perceive of as our personal freedom and choices.
Let's put something in perspective. Our devices can be traced, whether we want them to be traced or not. Nobody's asking our permission at this time.This is legal at this point in time. Even the GDPR itself (namely the General Data Protection Regulation, which is the European Union's overall umbrella, legislative framework for data protection of individuals) recognises that acting in the general public interest, or in order to protect people's vital interests (when they cannot do so) may require collecting and processing private data without necessarily asking permission.
I believe that it's important for us to know what data is captured, for how long, and who actually has access to it! Different governments, different authorities, and different private sector stakeholders, are using slightly different algorithms, parameters, and data.
Different countries or sectors might define or implement their policies and public health strategy slightly differently.
The challenges with this kind of situation are considerable. One of them is that you don't know how far this intrusion goes. You never know who hosts the data, for example. We as individuals do not know who's going to use the data for statistics to do analysis, or the chain of custody / the various parties that receive it.
This is the reason behind emphasizing governance, critical thinking, checks and balances, and digital safety measures. The authorities and their representatives (which can be private sector companies) must ensure that we are not just inviting trouble (not to mention breaking the law).
The troubling thing is that this is something that should have been ingrained already in the practice of such authorities!
Do I think that's realistic? Probably not very. So what can we ordinary folks do about this?
Yes, we can turn off the locator on our devices. Yet “they” can still find you!
Ashley Müller: So it's clear that I have a digital print and various stakeholders do have access to my data, will they misuse it? Can they misuse it? Is my fear justified?
Helen Shapiro: You're totally justified in being concerned. But you should not be afraid.
Because just being afraid without being able to do a lot about it is counterproductive. It just gives you stress. You know, stress is not good - we have enough things to be stressed about.
In the context of COVID-19 (as in any context really), it is important to understand which personal data is collected, processed and stored. Yes, there may be a legitimate reason for that (as we mentioned above), but my data still needs to be protected. It needs to be disposed of in an approved manner.
The fact that there is a crisis or a state of emergency or an extraordinary state in the country that does NOT give the authorities, the stakeholders (including various private sector agents) a carte blanche to go rogue and just disregard the law.
We still have our rights, we have civil liberties. The GDPR is still in force, so there should be policies and processes in place to keep it all in check!
Ashley Müller: Just before we end as a final question, I want to ask you, what are your final insights and what do you want to leave us with?
Helen Shapiro: I’d like to leave us with the three pillars and an observation.
The three pillars, or elements, are valid for any policy. This is especially important in relation to digitisation and private data.
Good collective intelligence
Good general knowledge.
Our future is about all things digital!
Our entire lives are pretty much online.
We take care of our physical selves, putting on our masks and our gloves, getting our kids to wash their hands properly, for a long time with a lot of soap, looking left-right-left when crossing the road.
In the same way we must treat cyber hygiene and data privacy.
Host: That's all we have now for today's episode. Thank you to Peter Cunningham for joining us along with Helen Shapiro. Listen to us again next week to hear all the latest insights on international peace and security. Bye for now.