Lead Manager, Nepal Innovation Lab
Aradhana Gurung started working in the humanitarian and development sector with the United Nations 15 years ago. Today, Gurung is involved with World Vision as the Lead Manager for Nepal Innovation Lab where she oversees management and strategic design of innovation projects for humanitarian aid and development sectors. She describes her role as a privilege, being able to work with a young and dynamic team of very creative individuals who are passionate and dedicated to working together to find solutions to challenges that vulnerable communities consistently have to endure.
In an e-interview with Avant Shrestha of B360, Aradhana Gurung shared her thoughts on leadership and the challenges and future of Nepal Innovation Lab.
What is your definition of a leader?
Leaders are people who look out for others, who make sure that those around them feel safe, valued and protected.
What does your day as the Lead Manager of Innovation Lab look like?
Every day is different and that is what keeps me on my toes. I am someone who consistently likes being challenged and finding ways to work around hurdles. I am responsible for the overall management of the Lab, my core focus is on strategic partnership building and facilitating design journeys. I work with the World Vision International Nepal for half the week, and the rest of my week is spread across working with both National and Support Offices in the Asia Pacific region and the United States. Support offices are World Vision Offices in other countries who initiate fundraising initiatives for under-developed and developing countries like Nepal. Due to the difference in time zones, some days I start as early as 7 am, right after I drop my daughter off at school and end as late as 11 pm.
What motivates you as a leader?
I have been privileged to work with and for young people in my career. I am motivated by their willingness to take risks as they create new solutions to the challenges in our sector. With my experience, I hope to be able to create a safe space around them where I am able to allow them to focus, help them navigate but also take on the brunt of the noise that surrounds us.
What is the best way to motivate a team?
Create a Circle of Safety for them. Create a space where they are best suited, where their capacity is relevant, where they can fail without repercussion, where they understand their self-worth, where they are valued and where they feel a sense of accomplishment in achieving missions they are passionate about.
What values are most important to you as a leader?
I will quote one of my favourite authors, Simon Sinek to answer this: Selflessness, Empathy and Grace under Fire.
Who is your favourite leader?
My daughter, Zoya is my favorite leader. She is a firecracker. She is seven years old and she is inquisitive and has five questions for everything. She knows no fear of failing and has not been tainted by the prejudices and stereotypes that are imposed by society. To her, anything is possible. She thinks she can do anything and she also thinks I can do anything. This is sadly a time bound mindset which I hope to do everything I can to ensure that she preserves.
What kind of challenge does Nepal Innovation Lab face on a daily basis?
Innovation itself is a challenge and an opportunity that NLab faces every day. The Nepal Innovation Lab is an innovation centre that provides a collaborative working environment to test, prototype and scale breakthrough solutions for humanitarian and development challenges. The NLab was established in 2015 as part of World Vision International Nepal’s Earthquake Response with the aim to contribute to the national recovery and to inspire the humanitarian as well as the development sectors to deliver more effective, high-quality and community-driven responses. Innovations that are born in the NLab are usually co-designed with people affected by crises. The NLab envisions to bring together the right mix of visionary companies, entrepreneurs, thinkers, and problem solvers to test big ideas in a very real context.
What does the future hold for Nepal Innovation Lab hold?
World Vision International Nepal is dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. Currently WVIN works in 12 districts in Nepal. Over the next few years we will be expanding to three new districts. The NLab is committed to finding innovative, cost effective and impactful solutions to the challenges those most vulnerable communities in Nepal face. The NLab is invested in working with local partners and community members in developing and testing these solutions..