Capacity development, learning, change, poverty/power/progress
People seem to have lost interest in development aid, and yet they also seem to find poverty and widespread inequality unacceptable. What's wrong with this picture?
I came across this short video from TED (their mission is spreading ideas), which shows a talk from Dave Meslin, a community choreographer as he calls himself, from Toronto Canada. Dave speaks about why people do not seem to care about (local) politics. It just takes 7 minutes.
Dave explains, in a funny way, the obstacles which prevent people from engaging. He starts with the way the public is usually invited by the local government to give their opinion about something, through a boring, uninviting, black and white add in the papers. And he goes on to show how information is just not shared. Open any magazine, and you'll find film, book and restaurant reviews, each with the exact place, date and cost, so you can actually see the film, buy the book and go eat in the restaurant if you like and can afford it. Then look at the politics review in the same magazine, no website reference, no number to call, no suggestion of what it 'costs' to get involved.
It made me think of a reference I read recently about a journalist who had said that the Dutch public is not interested in real reports about development aid. Apparently, the public just wants the occasional scandalous bits like over the top executive salaries in NGOs. Really? I don't see many journalists even trying to bring a story about the complexities of Aid Effectiveness.
Dave's experience with citizen engagement suggests that the current OXFAM Novib campaign ""Praat Mee" (in Dutch), where people can donate their opinion, is a promising way to engage the public.
The other point Dave makes which I like is about leadership. He suggests that today's great hero's are from the movies and they have all been chosen to lead. This is the wrong message, because leadership is collective, imperfect and voluntary (from within), Dave says. That is music to my ears. Maybe I should start running leadership development programs in Holland?
The obstacles to engagement sketched by Dave are not meant as an excuse for people not to engage. In fact Dave believes that people are not selfish, stupid and lazy, but that they are amazing, smart and do care. Just like poverty reduction, it's a matter of creating choice.
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