Intelligence For Good

(Picture) Khadija, a drone pilot in Tanzania trained by WeRobotics. Lynx connected WeRobotics, who focus on humanitarian, development and environmental projects, with our partners in Tanzania to assess damage after the 2016 earthquake.

By:  Trevor Jones, Co-Founder at Lynx Global Intelligence

 

The word “intelligence” has many meanings. It is an old word, with etymological roots in the 12th Century.

Intelligence, basically translated, meant “comprehension” in Old French. It wasn’t until the 16th century that intelligence gathering entered the lexicon. As various nation-states built up their military information gathering services, “Intelligence” began to mean the collection and distillation of enemy positions and plans. Intelligence gathering has expanded to include IMINT (imagery intelligence from satellites) and recent practices, like SOCMINT (Social Media Intelligence).

And yet “capacity for comprehending general truths” – from the Old French, remains at the core of the meaning. To simply gather or possess knowledge is not enough. Active analysis is required; the data must be cultivated and presented to an intelligence consumer. But what if

those consumers went beyond national entities, to include NGO’s and private sector entities focused on changing the world around them?

Because of that exact notion, Lynx Global Intelligence was formed to focus on “intelligence for good” as a differentiator, a way to stand out from similar firms and do the right thing by human beings and the environment. “Intelligence” has also garnered several negative popular meanings. Intelligence services in many countries have gone beyond knowing, to doing, and sometimes impinge on domestic human freedoms in its most extreme form.

While some assume that intelligence gathering itself has negative implications, Lynx wants to subvert that notion.

It’s not wrong to assume that intelligence gathering can be intrusive or harmful. But it is equally wrong to assume that intelligence collection and dissemination cannot be used toward the end of human security and environmental sustainability.

The intelligence collection cycle itself is the “ comprehension” of ground truth information. By keeping the collection lens wide, convergences are discovered. States may seek information to promote sovereignty, Lynx collects intelligence to promote human and environmental security.

Lynx also comprehends the needs of the private sector. Convergences between the triple helix of protecting People, Planet and Profit are uncovered to promote corporate or organizational growth in a way that keeps the big picture in mind. By doing so, Lynx speaks the languages of the public, private and non-profit sectors to create positive convergences around the globe.

 

*The photo above is of Khadija, a drone pilot in Tanzania trained by WeRobotics. Lynx connected WeRobotics, who focus on humanitarian, development and environmental projects, with our partners in Tanzania to assess damage after the 2016 earthquake.

Ignoring Politics in Business is Fatal

By:  Trevor Jones, Co-Founder at Lynx Global Intelligence

 

Managers and decision makers often make comments to me along the lines of:

“It’s difficult to make the case to my department that we need political risk analysis when leadership simply relies on the news to price-in what’s happening in our markets…”

When I hear statements like the one above, I’m always surprised. It is alarming to consider that large companies who perform business operations on multiple continents will leave their political risk analysis to in-house employees. I have also seen the harmful effects of treating the international economy as a system without risk. Here are some hazards of not considering political risk assessments:

1. News bias. No news source can replace due diligence conducted on the ground. Mainstream media operates in sensationalism, not in the ground truth. Detailed information about forecasts, market trends, emerging developments, country knowledge, organizations, and their strategies is crucial to stay competitive. Traditional news sources are a poor resource for crafting contingencies around political risk. A proactive approach can be the difference between rebounding from, or suffering because of, international events.

2. Manager bias. Not only are news sources limited in scope, but so is the ability as individuals to process information. That is why there is growing demand for intelligence tools that keep companies safe and profitable. These tools range from cybersecurity packages to tailored research on the ground. The aggregate information acquired from these tools are fed into our proprietary system at Lynx, allowing for a complete picture of the “ground truth”, free from the bias of any individual source.

3. Time efficiency. Managers are often focused on keeping a workforce productive, not assessing external risks. Nothing can replace the value of a regional expert who

can quickly bridge gaps and educate others about risks and opportunities in a specific country or area. Lynx’s experts not only have strong analytical backgrounds, but have lived in the places they analyze (and speak the language, too).

My response is the same when I receive statements like the one at the beginning of this article: “Ignoring politics in business is fatal.”

 

 

Written with edits by Lynx Fellows Matthew Bebb and Marc Babel.

Could We “Ethically Source” Humanitarian Intervention?

(picture) USAID/OFDA Mt. Sinjar, Iraq, 2013

 By:  Trevor Jones, Co-Founder at Lynx Global Intelligence

 

*I owe an intellectual debt to Tyler Rauert for referring me to this concept.

Populist governments around the world are looking inward to appease voters, not outward to assist the most vulnerable populations on the planet. It takes the right mix of domestic political will and international collaboration to save the lives of those persecuted by violence. When a leader or nation is unwilling to protect that basic measurement of human security, life itself, their legitimacy and sovereignty are compromised. At that point, an outside actor has the moral responsibility to intervene to save these lives.

The world stated “never again” after the Holocaust and more recent genocides and massacres in Rwanda and Srebrenica. Shockingly, that tone has been substantively absent in the political community during conflicts in Iraq and Syria where violent persecution based on identity have been the norm. Atrocities are also happening in South Sudan and Rhakine State in Myanmar. Our political will to intervene has waned during the post- George Bush/Iraq years and newly elected populist governments in the US and elsewhere will do little to advocate for saving innocent lives through the use of force. Oddly, we are able to view the destructive effects of war and ethnic-cleansing far easier than ever before, with widespread smartphone video use.

Governments and the UN have failed in protecting the innocent from violence, and NGO’s are limited by their funding and mandate, which must uphold humanitarian neutrality, preventing the necessary force protection from saving lives. That leaves the private sector to take up the slack.

But how? Mercenary forces have been frowned upon over history, and for good reason. But the dire situations in the world today beg a question: could privately sourced civilian protection, the kind needed to save lives in South Sudan, Rhakine, Aleppo and elsewhere, be achieved?

It is a challenging and interesting thought. A couple guidelines that could help shape the debate:

  1.  It is better to train humanitarians to use force than to train those who are well-versed in force protection to protect civilians. Traditional military training may be inappropriate for interacting with civilian populations in dire need (see: Afghanistan). That said, the conversation is moot unless those with the ability to suppress violence are involved, to deter or prevent mass killings.
  2.  The academic theory and practice of humanitarian neutrality will need to be modified. To protect civilians from destruction, the instruments of that destruction must be removed from the operating environment. Destroying the helicopters Bashar-al Assad used to drop barrel-bombs on civilians, early on in the conflict, is a good example.
  3.  Consensus and buy-in would need to be achieved on the international level. Although governments may be unwilling to intervene and the UN unable due to a lack of standing forces, these entities would still need to endorse and support private civilian protection. The services the UN provides are irreplaceable.
  4.  Force protection would have to be ethically sourced. Private military contractors may not be completely appropriate in this setting (see #1). Complete transparency would be needed, forces cannot be present for any other reason than destroying direct threats to civilian populations.

The reality of private humanitarian force protection is difficult to imagine, but the reality of current world events dictate that a new solution must emerge, unless mass atrocities are to continue in their current form.