Myths and merits of crowdfunding

THE SOCIAL MEDIA AGE has brought growing popularity to the premise of crowdfunding: Mobilizing ordinary people, via digital tools, to financially and morally support personal initiatives. The model offers an alternative to more institutional options, which small-scale actors may find overly bureaucratic, competitive, or at odds with their vision. Moreover, high-performing crowdfunding campaigns often make…

Editing playbook

WHEN YOU EDIT a text, you must become a self-conscious reader. As you read, take note, literally, of your reactions. Your basic benchmark is the document’s readability. Don’t be satisfied with second-guessing what the author meant: If you don’t understand right away, neither will others. You can improve a text tremendously in very simple ways,…

Threading your outline

THE TRICKY TRANSITION from researching a topic to writing about it lies in sketching an outline. Beware of starting off without one. That would be like setting sail without a rudder; you may move, but not where you intend. An outline plots your course from one chapter, section or subtitle to the next, until you…

Drawing conclusions

THE PURPOSE OF A TEXT is to lead the reader somewhere, which means it cannot end in a wasteland—that is, without a conclusion. The introduction sets the direction, and the body signposts the way. The conclusion says “you have arrived,” ideally after a rewarding journey. Sometimes it is announced as such—with a title that gives away its…

Making introductions

DO YOURSELF A FAVOR: Learn how to grab your audience in the first few sentences you write. A good introduction is an inspiration, like the deep breath before a plunge. Give your readers a moment to inhale, take in the importance of what you are about to discuss, and prepare to dive wholeheartedly into this…

Pointed phrases

GOOD WRITING transports the reader, almost literally. It takes him or her from one idea to the next, from an emotional state to another, from a general understanding to a more nuanced one, or from the past to the present. Each sentence powers this overall motion, one movement at a time. Picture a game of…

Your information diet

MOST OF US only have ourselves to blame as we complain about information overload, and then go on information binging. The explosion of media platforms and communication channels is, by no means, an unsolvable problem. Consuming information in more discriminating, purposive ways must start with each one of us clarifying what, after all, is this information’s…

Accountable leadership

MAKING IT TO THE TOP doesn’t say much about what to do once you’re up there. Breathe pure oxygen and plant a flag? Indeed, the process of achieving a position of leadership tends to obscure the purpose of being in that role: people head an organization because they founded or inherited it, campaigned brilliantly in…

Asking questions

THE FIRST QUESTION many of us ask ourselves, when we set out to conduct fieldwork on a new topic, is “what on earth am I going to ask?” Meeting people is often inhibiting, because we don’t quite know how to start the conversation. Defaulting to small talk about the weather has thus become standard practice…

Documentation & sourcing

IN THE INTERNET AGE, desk research would seem like the easiest thing: aren’t unfathomable amounts of information instantly available at our fingertips? Yet the surplus of digital information in fact raises serious challenges: besides its sheer, overwhelming volume, much of this material is incomplete, poorly structured and unverified, making for an open-ended process of ploughing…

Moderating a panel

IF WE’RE HONEST with ourselves, we’ll admit that many conferences we attend prove disappointing, if not an utter bore. Most often, the topic is interesting, the speakers qualified, the venue pleasant, and the audience motivated. Moreover, an enormous amount of effort and money go into the logistics of such events. How could it all go…

Treading the Iraqi minefield

FOR OVER TWO DECADES, Loulouwa Al Rachid has carried out groundbreaking fieldwork in Iraq, mostly in highly adverse circumstances: the grinding authoritarianism and grueling economic sanctions of the 1990s; the build-up to and aftermath of the U.S. invasion of 2003; the ensuing civil war; all the way up to the recent struggle to reclaim territory…