Beads - Passion for Facilitation

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Blog about learning/change, facilitation, systems: small groups and large scale processes, and poverty/power/progress.

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Bellagio Initiative: Human Wellbeing for All

The Broker is leading an online discussion on the Bellagio Initiative. In a nutshell this initiative aims to rethink development and phylanthrophy for the 21st century. In this blog, I answer some of the questions:

 

  • Should growth end?
  • What to make of increasing conflicts, and how to act?
  • Why is the Aid Industry struck?

 

Should growth end?

No. What should end is the destructive goal of profit maximization. It’s not about what’s good for business, but it is about what’s good for society. Companies are discovering that
what’s good for society is also good for business. I like the paper and video with Michael Porter: The Big Idea - Creating Shared Value.

 

What to make of increasing conflicts, and how to act?

Local problems are increasingly linked to global problems. There are so many different layers of interests and so many different values and believes. No wonder there is conflict. 

Where there is conflict the system is on the verge of finding a new balance. We should not aim to get rid of conflict, but see it as an opportunity to find new ways forward. It is not the actors in the conflict that need our attention, but the relationships between them. The best way forward is that each actor stops convincing others and start inquiring.

Truely hearing each others’ interests and values creates new insights and possibility. That is why methods like Open Space Technology, and other methods that bring ‘the whole system into the (virtual) room’, work so well. The best role for social movements would then be to enable groups with differing interests to really hear each other. If people can appreciate and acknowledge each others interests, they will improve their relationships, and new capacities for the future will emerge. Oh, and make sure that people whose wellbeing is not ok are heard in this process.

 

Why is the Aid Industry stuck in economic growth and poverty reduction?

Many development NGOs are already “fundamentally confronting the origins of the unequal distribution of human wellbeing” (Bellagio statement). For instance, OXFAM currently ‘tackles’ the fact that nearly one billion people do not have enough to eat. Their GROW campaign is about changing the global food system. It confronts origins like climate change, land grabs, food price hikes and intensive farming.

The bi and multi-laterals are dragging their feet. Why? Well, the UN is after all the largest and best paid bureaucracy in the world, and we all know how difficult it is to change those. Bi-laterals are a product of the society and the political systems they serve. My own country, The Netherlands, is a case in point. Dutch politics today cares about the wellbeing of the Dutch without connecting that to the wellbeing of others in this world. Yet, the Dutch still give generously for poverty reduction. As long as the public in donor countries still think in terms of economic growth and poverty reduction, the Aid Industry will remain stuck.

Don’t try changing the Aid Industry. Focus on shifting the public mindset and promote inquiry based political relationships.

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