Raymond Shih

This is the concluding part of the six-part blog series ‘Building the Business of Grand Challenges Canada’

People like me that work in a funding organization or others who work in the strategic and operational side of the business, rather than on the front lines, don’t frequently interact directly with those who we are servicing. As such, it can be quite helpful to step back occasionally and remind yourself of why you got into your particular field. Since monetary compensation in the not-for-profit world generally is less than for comparable roles in private sector, renewing your passion in what you do is key to staying motivated.

For me personally, one of these moments came while helping to plan a workshop in Tanzania last spring for potential applicants to our programs. The meeting was going extremely well according to the meeting participants[1] so during one of the lunch breaks, Abdallah S Daar, Chief Science and Ethics Officer of Grand Challenges Canada, suggested we go to Akberali Tea Room, known to the locals as ‘A Tea Shop’. This is a café that Abdallah had been going to since his childhood and has now become a bit of a pilgrimage for him anytime he returned to Dar Es Salaam.

After a trip to Akberali Tea Room, Raymond Shih left with not just a delicious snack, but also some perspective

After a trip to Akberali Tea Room, Raymond Shih left with not just a delicious snack, but also some perspective

We hopped into a taxi and at a traffic signal, a ragged-looking man with an open wound on his leg went from car to car asking for help paying for cancer treatment. During this stop, I looked around and realize there were lots of people living in poverty along the side of the road, many of whom were in poor health. The juxtaposition between this (the extent of the problem) and our workshop (where we were trying to help solve it) could not be more apparent. 

Embracing rather than ignoring these moments will renew your passion and provide fresh perspective[2]. Upon my return to the hotel, I was re-energized and determined to make the workshop as positive as possible and do what little I could as an individual to help reduce this disparity.

My point is only that all the business theory and knowledge in the world do not mean much if you don’t care about the outcome of your work.

This my last blog post in this series. If you read any or all posts in the series, I want to thank you and I hope you found some value in it. I would love to hear back with any questions, feedback, and ideas for future posts that you have so please stay connected. Until next time.

B-schooler, do-gooder and ace networker, Raymond Shih believes in telling the Grand Challenges story like a B-school case study in his tongue-in-cheek style. Reach out to him on Twitter @RvShih.


[1] An unbiased source to be sure.

[2] In case you were wondering, the food itself was absolutely delicious. The hot crispy exterior of the samosas were counterbalanced perfectly by the cool, tangy dipping sauce. If I ever write a guidebook for Dar Es Salaam, A Tea Shop would definitely get a strong recommendation.