Tag Archives: Denmark

They Come in the Name of Helping

poster1I spend every Monday with 11 European students and one from Sierra Leone as part of the Lantos/Capitol Hill Fellowship. Yesterday afternoon, we watched the documentary They Come in the Name of Helping and afterwards we had a lively discussion with its producer, Peter Brock.


Brock met now Lantos Fellow Joseph Kaifala (from Sierra Leone) at Skidmore College in United States. Kaifala and some of his friends from back home explain how they perceive aid workers and why aid is often wrongly implemented; Aid organizations lack understanding and knowledge of the culture and society they are operating within. Furthermore, Brock argues that donors give money out of pity instead of respect and humility.


PR and aid

This raised an interesting discussion about PR campaigns raising money for aid. Brock mentioned slogans as “Save Darfur” and “Save a Child” as examples where the message tailors the donors’ bad conscience and pity instead of respect for the African people. One of the Kaifalas in the documentary says: We are poor but we deserve dignity.


I do understand the critique of the campaigns – without having paid much professional attention to them. On the other hand, as a communications professional, I also have to say that PR does not work if the campaigns do not take the target audience’s self interest and motivation into consideration. And how much can one individual take in? The aid organizations are competing with each other and they are competing with other issues such as climate change, human rights, and homelessness in our backyard. Therefore, the PR campaigns have to cut through this clutter to be successful. Not to say that they cannot improve. I am sure they can!


Brock and Kaifala suggest that we should not only donate money to Africa but should become civically engaged in our local communities and fight local problems. I figure this should improve our respect and humility for other people – at home and abroad. This message might work in United States with a communitarian tradition. But I do not think it could work in a European setting – or at least in the Scandinavian countries. For instance, we do not have the same tradition for helping out in our communities. Another guest speaker to the group said that Americans cook a casserole as soon as there is minor problem. That is also my experience from living here. But that does not transcend to Europe – or at least my home country Denmark.


Please, watch poster_TheComeInTheNameOfHelpingthe documentary. It is thoughtful and it raises an important debate and call for more respect and humility in development aid which does make a lot of sense to me.


Climate Change is a Hot Political Issue in Denmark

I gave a briefing of the Danish experiences to some of the faculty members at PR and Corporate Communications at Georgetown University yesterday. It was a part of their preparation for a roundtable meeting next week with Danish communications VPs on climate change and communications. Here is an extract of my notes:


Denmark is an Environmental Conscious Country

Since the oil crisis in the 1970s, Denmark has implemented a strict environmental policy which among other things has focused on renewable energy. In 2004, renewable energy accounted for 28% of the production of electricity. Denmark has also proven that a country can maintain economic growth and reduce dependency on fossil fuels at the same time.


Other notable initiatives and results are:

          Tax on energy consumption and waste plus water discharge

          66% of all waste is recycled

          Reduced water consumption with 30% in the last 10 years

          Bathing water is clean

          Cars run on unleaded petrol

          6% of the farm land is organically cultivated

Source: www.visitdenmark.dk


Professionally, I have never been engaged in this debate and I am sure this the facts that we are proud of, but as with everything else we could probably do more to secure energy independence and reduce CO2 emissions.


Political Denmark on Climate Change

During the last couple of years, the Liberal-Conservative Government, led by Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has engaged in the climate change debate. In February, the Prime Minister held a speech at the University of Copenhagen as part of the Copenhagen Climate Lectures. A bit to my surprise, he has fully adopted the views that are presented by the IPCC (UN Panel on Climate). This is further demonstrated by the creation of the Ministry of Climate and Energy  (no English version) in November 2007.


Denmark is hosting COP15 in November/December 2009. The goal is to establish an ambitious climate agreement for the period from 2012. As part of the preparation for COP15 the Prime Minister is hosting roundtable discussions with key actors in the debate on climate change. For the first meeting, earlier this month, Harvard University made a memo debating the economic tools in a new global climate agreement on reducing CO2 emissions.


The Danish government has published Plan of Action for CSR  (PDF) earlier this month. This is not a law, but the government is asking the Danish companies to work more efficiently with CSR. The Plan of Action includes that 1,000 of the biggest companies have to report every year on their work on SCR. The plan focuses on 4 areas and one of them is climate change. The goal is that corporate companies take responsibility in handling the global climate challenges by reducing the consumption of energy and CO2 emission and by developing global solutions to these problems.


Media Denmark on Climate Change

Another indicator of the rising interest in climate change is that the media has invested in this subject. Denmark has got its first climate reporters.




Corporate Denmark and Climate Change

I have noticed that climate change is also a hot issue in the communications business. The PR and Communications Association in Denmark has hosted a lot of meetings on climate and communications. But it was actually a bit hard to find more information about the Danish experiences on CSR, climate change and corporate communications.


As far as I could see in the yearly reports on CSR from Danske Bank, Dong Energy, and LEGO they developed Climate Change Strategies in 2007. But how do they use this in their communications platform?


Today, a friend of mine emailed me an article saying that companies like the Swedish IKEA has build a green platform years ago but they are not talking about it. It is the Scandinavian way of not telling consumers and the general public about your efforts. It is so obvious why you are doing it. So instead of green washing we are talking about green hushing. Is that what is going on?


Web 2.0 in Denmark

Our claim to fame in the Wild World of the Web is Skype, usability, and Lego Mindstorms. One of the inventors of Skype (using VoIP technology), Janus Friis is Danish. The usability guru Jacob Nielsen is also Danish, and Lego is based in Denmark. It is part of the Danish nationalism not to be nationalist but we are very proud when a Dane make to the world scene. It might be because we are such a small country. For those of you who have never heard about Denmark before it is a small country in the Northern part of Europe with a population of 5.4 million which is 1.1 percent of the EU population.



98% of the population can access broadband, and according to OECD Denmark is the leading country in the world in relation to broadband penetration.



Popular Websites

Just like in United States Google (one in English and one in Danish), YouTube, and Windows Live are popular Websites, but Facebook (number 5) is more popular than MySpace (number 14). Of the top 10 Websites only three sites are Danish. The social networking site for teenagers Arto (7), the public TV and radio broadcast station Danmark’s Radio (8), and the tabloid newspaper Ekstra Bladet (10).




For years, I have been wondering why blogging was not such a big thing in Denmark. New trends cross over, but it seemed to me that blogging, especially corporate and political blogging, took forever to take off. Apparently, the Danish political culture is less “conductive to the openness required in a successful blog” (Naked Conversations, 2006, p.115). Following the current US presidential election on TV, blogs, in papers, and from time to time in town hall meetings, I have experienced a vivid and emotional American political culture where individuals are not afraid of expressing thoughts about political issues. I think it is especially the emotional debate that I am not used to.


Living abroad for almost two years now, I have only followed the news and trends in the communications industry in headlines. I asked my female network Nina B a few months ago what blogs they are reading – and no one responded. I guess they were all busy – because seeing the boom in the Danish blogosphere means that they have to read blogs like here, here or here (Sorry they are in Danish. They are about politics and blogging). A few weeks ago blog number 100,000 was registered.


The big blogging thing last year was a boom in political blogging. The Prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen and most of the party leaders blogged during the three-week-campaign. Interestingly, some of the politicians do not think they have to blog between elections. The leader of the Social Democrats, Helle Thorning-Schmidt did not blog for two months but she started blogging again after a communications expert criticized her in Politiken (one of the leading newspapers in Denmark).


During the campaing the prime minister invited voters to join him running around the lakes in Copenhagen. 500 people joined him. Another political leader – Naser Khader used twitter, but it did not make a big difference because his campaign was a flop.  



The e2012-goal

The Danish government has a goal of becoming a digital administration by 2012 making it a lot easier for the citizens to access the relevant authorities. Furthermore, it is the ambition that all written communication between citizens or private companies and the public sector will be digital. The Ministry of Finance and The National IT- and Telecom Agency are working to provide better, more cohesive and efficient digital services on http://www.borger.dk. They are working on version 2 right now including a “My Page” where the user can access personal data and digital letters. Furthermore, more services and information will be available at the same site: income taxes, job search services, social security benefits, car registration, application for building permission, declaration to police, public libraries, enrolment for higher education, announcement of moving, and health-related services. Finally, the government got it! The idea is good – but I guess it is hard to implement it across various government levels. However, to become a Web 2.0 administration they have to work harder of the tools facilitating political conversations. The online debate is more or less non-existent.




Netbanking has nothing to do with Web 2.0. But I just want to mention it briefly because I was in chock when I moved to the US and I had to use checks. I had never written a check in order to pay a bill. I had just used my Net Bank. Danish banks were frontrunners in developing a secure net banking system. Already before net banking Denmark had a similar system called giro where each company had an identification number and each bill had an identification number which made the system secure