By IslamOnline.net, April 19, 2006
Following the publication of twelve cartoon drawings of Muhammed, one of which displayed the Prophet with a bomb-shaped turban, Denmark faced an international crisis. Violent protests broke out across the Muslim world and massive boycotts of Danish products led to an 85 percent drop in the country’s dairy exports. To understand how Denmark and Danes are perceived in the Middle East, the Danish Foreign Ministry contracted ReD Associates for recommendations on how to improve relationships.
The Danish foreign minister, Per Stig Møller, stated, “If the cartoon crisis was a dress rehearsal of the clash of civilizations, let’s hope that everybody hated what they saw so much that the main show will be canceled! We Danes are ready to do our part in transforming the potential clash into an alliance of civilizations.”
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In a conversation with Charlotte Vangsgaard, CGAP’s Gerhard Coetzee discusses how to help the financial sector discover the business potential of low-income customers
And learning from customers is not a one-off thing but rather a continuous process. People evolve, markets evolve, and institutions can easily fall into rote delivery.
For-profit companies, on the other hand, are placing ever-greater emphasis on building a deep understanding of people and are looking to the social sciences for insights to help solve their most complex problems. Nonprofits seem to be lagging behind.
Several years ago, a governmental agency tasked with foreign affairs in Denmark was under siege by the Arab world after it defending the right of Danish cartoonists to publish cartoons depicting Mohammad in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten. They enlisted ReD to help explore how Arabs perceive Danes and Denmark in more depth.
Between June 2009 and December 2010, a not-for-profit Danish and Egyptian cultural institute approached ReD to work on a project with them. They hoped to understand the value systems of everyday Egyptians through a series of research activities and methods. Regardless of class, age, gender, political leaning, religious affiliation, or geographical location, the project intended to explore dialogue-building among Egyptians based on shared values.
In the period leading up to the Arab Spring, ReD was tasked with understanding what—if any—shared values Egyptians had across religious, gender, age, and economic differences. Toward the end of our project, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia, and the Arab Spring was soon fueling an uprising in several Middle Eastern countries. Three elements proved key in making our research as fruitful and rich as possible, given the circumstances