Afgelopen vrijdag was weer zo’n dag. Lekker zorgeloos genieten van het mooie lenteweer. Op mijn fietsje van Ede naar Wageningen. Ik realiseerde me ineens dat ik mijn winterjas beter thuis had kunnen laten. Waarschijnlijk was ik te lang niet buiten geweest om de temperatuurstijging op te merken. Terwijl mijn zoon kort geleden al in korte broek bij 15 graden op de zaken vooruit liep, merkte ik dat ik zelf inmiddels hopeloos achterop was geraakt. Het zal het generatieverschil zijn. Soms moet je iets achterlaten. En je ontdekt dat vaak op het moment dat de omgeving toch wel radicaal anders aanvoelt. De oude jas moet uit. En misschien is het nog wel zo prettig zonder jas!
De parallel met mijn loopbaan dringt zich op. Jarenlang heb ik me ingezet voor verschillende organisaties. Ik wrong me in allerlei bochten om in het keurslijf te passen, maar ook om organisaties te helpen veranderen. En ontdekte bijna te laat dat ik zelf moest veranderen. Soms past de jas niet meer. Als je niet oplet loopt de temperatuur op, ga je zweten en begin je je onprettig te voelen. Vaak ligt het niet aan de jas. Hij zal nog regelmatig van pas komen. Maar nu even niet.
En zo begon voor mij het zelfstandigenbestaan. Naar mijn eigen visie op het maatschappelijk middenveld en zelfs op het bedrijfsleven een contradictio-in-terminis. De echte zelfstandigen zijn al bijna uitgeroeid, op de paar boeren in Sub-Sahara na die nog zelfvoorzienend door het leven gaan. We zijn allemaal interdependentia. En dus is het samenwerken geblazen. Mensen opzoeken met wie je kernwaarden deelt of gezamenlijke doelen nastreeft. Het liefst allemaal afkomstige uit verschillende ‘werelden’ met een eigen geschiedenis. Wat maakt een effectief team? Zoek de verschillen! De neiging is wellicht om gelijk gestemden op te zoeken als je streeft naar samenwerking. Maar dat werkt niet meer. Complementariteit is het nieuwe buzz-woord. Ben benieuwd wat voor ‘jas’ daarvan kan worden gemaakt. Misschien wel een regenpak? Het zou zo maar eens nodig kunnen zijn. En dan is het wel handig om droog te blijven en toch door te kunnen fietsen.
Is bij u ook sprake van een weersomslag? Het U®TURN programma is ontwikkeld voor uw 'climate adaptation' strategie.
Last Friday was the closing day of the sixth World Water Forum in Marseille. If fora are the places where solutions are to be found, initiated or co-created, what solutions did this forum yield? One may appreciate the efforts the host organization made in organizing the forum and in organizing a whole range of technical field trips along with it. To answer the question that possibly triggered you to read this blog, I was not. I did not attend. Was I supposed to attend? Well, it depends on who I am, what the purpose of the forum was and who their prospective participants were.
Thanks to the advocacy of our own ministries quite a number of players from the Dutch and Dutch-related international knowledge infrastructure were present at the forum. When I met someone working with a consultancy firm responsible for a substantial water program in the Netherlands last Friday I asked him the same question? What would his firm have to gain from the World Water Forum. His answer was clear - not much. To his understanding the forum consisted of quite an incrowd of people that like to see their names appear in highly regarded scientific magazines and publish articles that will support their status as experts. And I have to say, reviewing the website I saw the name of my former director Dr. Safwat Abdel Dayem appear, questioning the moderators where and how he could post his solution. He was an important figure to me in my first encounter with the Dutch water sector abroad, while working for the Drainage Research Program in Egypt. Not only important for me, but also for teamleader of my project, and as soon learnt for a whole bunch of engineers that tried to contribute their technical knowledge into Egyptian water management.
The Egyptian-Dutch relations were well developed and to my understanding a much larger percentage of people living in the Nile delta owed their reasonbly well functioning water infrastructure to the Dutch connection. How come I never came accross any ICCO's, Oxfam's or any other NGO at the time? I only knew about government departments, Dutch consultants and Egyptian counterparts, all in a myriad of friendly (and sometimes less friendly) relationships. I definately gained a lot and should still thank Dr. Safwat for his contribution to the jumpstart of my career. My most successful contribution to the Egyptian water sector was getting the Mohandis Zarf (drainage engineer) and Mohandis Rai (irrigation engineers) talking to each other about controlled drainage. Two departments in one government office of the Ministry of Public Works and Water Resources and even the Ministry of Agriculture participated! I belief it was there where the first seeds for the ¥OURWORLD initiative were sown. Different worlds, meeting each other. I abstained from the deliberations agreeing for the workshop language to be Arabic. I only made sure some minutes were taken, and only after the workshop was finished I had a clue about what had ben discussed (eventhough I could express my basic needs like bread and water in Arabic).
So where are we now? At a forum of the type in Marseille also different worlds are supposed to meet. One major challenge, many scientists reflecting on it, each offering their insights. Did these bring new solutions? I observed a few outsiders bringing in some language that most of the participants may have felt a little bit uncomfortable with. Corbatjev and Izabella Teixeira, Environment Minister of Brasil made some sharp observations as also reflected upon in my article at the U® learning and exchange space. The Brasilian Minister pointed to the endless string of conferences serving to polish the profiles of individuals, clearly challenging the very existence of the forum to which she had been invited, confirming the view of the individual I talked to last Friday.
So then, what is there to gain from fora such as the World Water Forum? Wanting to re-engage myself with the water sector I felt I had a possible solution. Where two departments do not seem to communicate, have them both talk with yet another department. Suddenly they will find out that they speak the same language. Any outsiders presence offers the possility to explore other venues and windows of opportunity unseen before. I therefore challenge the water sector to make an effort to open up to the unusual suspects. A first promising presence of a civil society stream in this forum is much appreciated. However, don't limit these to water related client organisations. Invite those with entirely different interests and focus areas. Some may use the water for healing purposes (holy water in Ethiopia), for sanctification purpose (Ganges water in India) and for the establishment of political boundaries. The real solutions may not be found in the technical. They may need to be be found in the spiritual, societal and political. Though quite a bit of civil society presence acknowledged this potential contribution, it did not substantially influence the engineers' debate. Who knows, the die hard water engineering companies may also soften up and those absent this time may regain interest in joining the debate as they have to deal with people's realities all the time while designing public infrastructure, whether acknoledged by the cliient organization during the project inception phase or not.
(unfortunately this solution did not make it to the www.solutionsforwater.org website due to some technical constraints with registration)
At the LinkedIn Group on International Development a discussion was provoked by Dr. Oladele Making change happen: People will commit to change when their #corevalues and concerns are met by the #change. I posted the following response that I turn into my weblog today.
Thank you Dr. Oladele for kick-starting this most interesting debate. It seems to me that the question raised by Alexandre has been answered just by the virtue of the many responses it triggered. Apparently people (including myself) adapted their browsing behaviour turning it into contributing. Whereas in other occassions they would just click on to other topics. The short and concise character of Dr. Oladele's statement (unlike this one ;) ) lead them to pause, in some cases even read contributions of others and finally chip in a few contrasting, sharpening or deepening lines, hoping that others would read them and take them along in their analysis, exercising their adaptive capacity and hopefully also evaluate them using their own corevalues.
That leads me to the core question. Why did this simple statement trigger so many responses? Change may be threatening all of us in some way. In response to all changes around us, everyone will seek to hold on to at least something that does not change. There you are: #corevalues. They usually do not change over night and help evaluate change.
Todays emphasis on adaptive capacity as referred to by Alexandre in his last contribution may be over-rated as adaptive capacity is not only required for survival and renewal, but may also be used as a means to acquire dominance. If one manages to make people more easily adapt, it will also be easier to influence them. This might be profitable when spreading messages that bring freedom and well-being. However, it may equally be used for spreading messages that are binding and support selfishness and consumarism.
Core values provide the counter intuitive to adaptive capacity. They help to qualify adaptation with regard to its presumed outcome: a positive or negative change. An increase or a decrease in possibilities. An increase in freedom are a decrease in freedom etc. It is vitally important to keep adaptation and maintainance of core values together in order to ensure rigour in society.
I have adapted to the funding environment in the Netherlands where these days more emphasis is placed on entrepreneurship. So I registered a company. That looks like highly developed adaptive capacity. However, putting it slightly different: I found myself without a job and decided to create one. That was not so much adaptation as well as a conscious choice that rather then applying for a position, I wanted to deepen my creative capacity to live out my core values. Is that still considered adaptation? I did not turn in my principles and core values while leaving a staff position. The private sector seems to be opening up for the soft side of business, providing chances to market social enterprises. My profit (apart from my salary) is also expressed in terms of social capital. My core values help me to select what job I want to focus on. They are not always the best earners money-wise, but hopefully still provide for a living. And people within my network that I share these values with help me remembering them.
For more details about my social enterprise see: www.uraide.nl
Currently a hot debate is taking place in the Netherlands about budget cuts on official development cooperation that the liberal government is proposing (see information on the website of ¥OURWORLD and Partos). The right-wing chief-condoner of the current cabinet dominates the debate and even threatens to withdraw his support for the current cabinet if they do not live up to his demands. Amongst other, heavy cuts on development cooperation, which he names as a left-wing hobby.
As a counter-tactic the NGO branch organization Partos started a campaign trying to convince top-negotiators not to cut on development cooperation arguing that it needs to be seen as an investment that would serve our national image building. How ugly have we embraced the market thinking, even in our international solidarity obligations.
framing solidarity into self-interest
It really amazes me how this framing into self-interest has taken place over the last couple of years. Aided by some provocative figures in the liberal wing and too careful opposition from the socialists side. This has brought the popular vote to the liberal side. The political divides seem difficult to bridge. Even traditional political borders between capitalists and socialists or conservative and progressive schools of thought seem to disappear and appear almost in every political party.
Very few analyze the broad societal current that is underneath this repositioning. The ones best sensing this current will take the lead. The best outcomes will be reached when this current itself becomes the subject of debate rather than being single-sided tapped for political gain. How to tap into this current?
connect Europe to the world
I would suggest the following direction of the debate. Reconnect the debate about development cooperation to the broad social challenges at the European front. What happens in Europe between nations, is a reflection of what happens in individual societies at every scale. If we have invested in Greece only by virtue of statistics and projected financial profit figures, then we should just take our loss and accept we have been misguided. However, those that have invested in Greece on the basis of a relational paradigm, a shared history and an appreciation of the Greek contribution to our European civilization, will not be willing to take this loss. They will endeavor to analyze where it went wrong. Where we lost sight of the relational aspects that normally underpins investment.
Then we realize the need to reinvent our markets in such a way that trust is not based on public perception (manipulated or not) but based on public opinion shaped by long-term relationships, deeply shared values and well-articulated common purposes. That will reconnect societies on the medium to longer term to each other and effectively address major inequalities between them.
One area where this could start to take shape is bringing the social sectors (education and health) in Europe back to citizen’s control. I heard a right-wing economist recently state that health has already been conquered by private forces and is no longer under public control. The same may happen to education if measures are not taken. What measures?
re-occupy social development
Downscaling the systems governing those services to a bitable size. Bringing education and health service delivery back to citizen control. Through our taxes we have contracted out these services to the government to more efficiently provide for us. When the government does not longer respect its side of the agreement, and is trading the interest of citizens to private parties (whether stock-exchange registered banks or insurance companies), it is breach of contract. That means its time to renew it and set new standards taking into account the lessons leant. The same is true for development cooperation. It is not the government that is in control of development cooperation, the voters are.
I would welcome new elections in the Netherlands when citizens would be willing to share their perspective on how they wish to earn a living and pay for critical service delivery. However, we then should not bother about who's the political leader. But we should bother about what political ideology we are convinced of. No single individual can ever represent such an ideology, no matter how charismatic you are. It should be a broadly shared set of values that people wish to adhere to, leaving minor differences to the personal politics. However, when followers allow ideology to be personalized, history shows what consequences it has.
Finally I would like to point to a terrible misconception about the traditional charitas perspective, as far as its biblical underpinning is concerned. However, it might be time to revisit our Jewish-Christian tradition and see how some pearls have been trampled by the same tradition. The perspective that aiding somebody in need is your civil obligation or even an act of altruism is supposedly best illustrated by the story of the good Samaritan. Who-ever lost sight of it, read the summary at the Wiki page about it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Good_Samaritan). Many people today and even in history have misinterpreted this as a lesson where Jesus taught his followers to be good to their neighbors. But that is not even half the story. The story interestingly points to the hypocrisy of the religious clergy of the time. In the story, those who should have considered it their 'duty' to help (given their religious functions in society), quickly passed by on the other side when they found a crime victim on their path. The person who finally helped out was someone who could have been considered an enemy, as he was (probably a trader) of another ethnic group that was considered inferior to the pure Israelite.
Charitas or Justice?
Being on business travel on the most busy and dangerous trade route of that time taking you through territory with different people groups controlling different parts of the road, he ignored his political point of view at the time he met a clear victim of crime. He brought him to the nearest bed and breakfast, paid for a few days recovery and asked the owner to present him the bill on his way back in case the person would have needed a bit more time for recovery.
Had he reason to trust his enemy? Yes, he had! He had placed a moral obligation on the person he had helped to get out of the establishment as soon as he recovered, bearing in mind that a longer stay would burden his helpful enemy. He also trusted the owner of the establishment not to throw him out as soon as the grant was finished. He must have known the person or at least witnessed the care he had taken for the victim. This cannot be considered an act of charity. It was a political act and it must have moved the owner of the establishment also to act diligently.
Did the caretaker earn anything from it? I don't think so. He probably lost some time, lost some money and did not even stay longer to find out if the person he had helped could access a specific market for his products. In case he would have done that, I don't think his humanitarian aid had been equally valued by its recipient.
So, let's get on with it, forgetting about our interest, let us do justice, no matter the consequences.
My name is Reinier van Hoffen.
Click here for a summary.
Also find the text of a lecture Dr. Achterhuis held at the 2012 Bilderberg conference.