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Straight from Cambodia: Business insights on empathy

Blogginlägg   •   Jan 14, 2017 15:00 CET

Srey – Tales of Urban Girlhood is a documentary book where meetings and encounters with girls who live amongst the garbage in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh deliver insights on sustainability, business and responsibility.

It's about how we as humans are interpersonally connected all the way from the outer rims of the value chain, to the boardrooms – and this makes Srey most relevant for the leaders of businesses. The theme of the book, which is to be released January 14th 2017 on Dokument Press, is the importance of empathetic meetings – from dumpsites to boardrooms.


Why Cambodia? Similar problems exist in many more places around the world.

Yes, the book is truly relevant in many places.

However, Phnom Penh is interesting, due to the fact that much has happened in a short period of time, and the economical development in the country is accelerating very fast. 40 years after the rule of Khmer Rough, the tech start-up scen is maturing. At the same time the economic gaps are big.

We have both spend a lot of time in the region, and my co-author Evelina Fredriksson lives periodically in Phnom Penh.

What is the purpose of the book?

By listening to Srey, corporate leaders can learn about one of our times most important skills: empathy. It is the skill that makes leaders equipped to make good decisions in a rapidly changing world.

There is a lack of knowledge today on how we can connect interpersonal knowledge from the outer rims of the value chain – to the boardrooms. That is the gap that Sreyaims to illustrate.

Isn’t it problematic that you, as white, European writers and photographer, travel to Cambodia, tell the Cambodian girls stories and then get to travel home again?

Srey isn't a traditional documentary about girls at a dump. It’s not about them raising their voices – it’s about us understanding, encountering and learning from the people living in the outer rim of the global value chain. The picture is made even more complicated by inequality, colonisation and racism.

So it’s about us, not them – and that is why it’s relevant that just we have worked with the book Srey in this time that we live in.

Isn’t it problematic having pictures and the real names of the children you interview?

To work with people, especially children, is a big responsibility and that is why we choose to only work with those individuals who’s protected by a robust network in Cambodia. To speak for one self is important, especially since it’s an opportunity rarely offered to exposed and vulnerable groups.

The big question we worked on with Sreyis how to create channels for that information that other wise never gets through, and how to make sure that it’s heard. We don’t have any systems in place for this process, and that is why we need to learn about the importance of empathetic meetings.

What makes this book and these pictures different from other books and pictures that highlight people in need around the world?

One of the main points of the book is to illustrate what our regular meetings with vulnerable groups look like – and contrast with the actual information that is available there. What is it that we need to learn?

The pictures aren’t there to by themself make us learn about empathetic meeting – but the pictures, the texts and the meetings with Srey are there to support the readers' own reflection on empathetic meetings. You feel it in yourself when you really feel with another person. We want to help the reader to get to that feeling, and training oneself through meetings with others.

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