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Highlights from Our Meet the Experts Podcast with Marguerite Coetzee

May 11, 2021

As part of our efforts to find the most creative and innovative insights from around the globe, we regularly seek out thought leaders and industry experts from outside the Berliner community, bringing their unique perspectives and lessons to our students and alumni. Recently, our team had the privilege of speaking with Marguerite Coetzee, who is the founder of Omniology and an artist, anthropologist and futurist based in Cape Town, South Africa. Whether you prefer to learn through text, don’t have time for the full podcast or just want to get an idea of what the podcast is about before listening to the full thing, we’ve put together some of the highlights from this Meet the Experts podcast. Enjoy!

Our talk with Marguerite Coetzee began with the topic that is regularly dominating news stories and social feeds around the world: the pandemic. According to Marguerite, we could be talking about the pandemic as a dance routine or river, where people are open to exploring and going on a collaborative journey together. However, current narratives seem to use war or storm metaphors, where things are out of control and powerless victims turn to leaders and captains for answers. And this, she says, impacts the solutions we propose and the actions we take — or don’t take.

It is this unique appreciation of the way language is used that has allowed Marguerite to deeply explore dominant and emerging narratives. Whether she’s using STEEP (social, technological, economic, environmental and political) analyses, the causal layered analysis (also known as the iceberg model), the EMBARK (explore, map, break through, act, reflect and kick-start) model or her own DELA (dynamic, emergent, liminal and anthropocentric) model, Marguerite works to gather and contextualize information in a way that produces (actually helpful) data and insights that encourage meaningful communication and engagement.

“The way that we see the world influences how we behave in the world, and the language that we use changes how we experience a situation and how we respond to a problem that we’re facing,” Marguerite said. Taking that one step further, she added that getting a fresh view and reframing the way we see a problem can open up new, dynamic ways of responding to it.

So, what are some examples? Aside from the insights covered in her Ancestors of the Future: The Poetry and Potency of Language piece, Marguerite spoke with us about her relationship to and affinity for Zulu language and culture, having been raised Afrikaans, and why her early experiences of visiting markets and hostels, particularly when combined with her studying Zulu as a major at university, helped her to see the importance of seeing the world from a different perspective. 

Her genuine curiosity later informed the work she did with an alcohol brand. In an effort to encourage the company to be part of the moment, not just focused on extracting it, Marguerite took the client to a hostel so they could feel the energy and excitement of those preparing to return to the homestead after working in the city. Seeing the courtyard celebrations, complete with people cheering and dancers stomping, proved to be a very organic way for clients to interact with those they want to serve — to see them and to learn what’s important to them. And Marguerite showed the clients that, to reach these audiences, you just have to meet them where they are.

“If [the client] wanted to reach an audience that is not connected through technology (since people in rural areas who don’t have WiFi), you could introduce a trend to them [in the hostels], and they would then transport it back home,” she said.

And that’s just one example Marguerite gave us. Whether she was talking about how she helped a Spanish bank humanize and make sense of online content gathered by AI or how she worked with a team to develop a leadership program where they take organizations through diagnosing internal issues, Marguerite offered a hopeful case for the idea of being on a journey, particularly when you don’t always feel as though you have a map.

“I guess the challenge for people listening is just if you feel stuck or don’t know how to react or have no clue where to begin, just try to see things from different angles and see what develops from there.”

That’s a solid case for empathy, engagement and exploration if we’ve ever heard one.

Want to listen to the full podcast? Check it out here.

Find out more about Marguerite and her work below:


Linkedin: Marguerite Coetzee -