This sentence I came accross in the latest volume of Development entitled 'Greening the Economy' a special issue in partnership with UNRISD. And once again I found that disturbing Bob Dylan phrase that times are still changin' at the introductory page as if there were any times in world history without change. Dealing with change is crucial for survival. Not dealing with it results in death.
The same volume of this SID glossy contains a most interesting analysis of the momentum for change in the Philippines. Marlyne D. Sahakian reflects on the role of everyday people in contributing to change. Her assumption is that many individual actions will not suffice. Consequently her plea is for more collective action in order to challenge existing institutions, norms and values. That disturbes me again. Why should these be challenged? Should institutions not rather be transformed based on collective norms and values. It sometimes seems that norms of the former century still dictate institutions. However, what is the norm is being invented today by active citizens and entrepreneurial spirits who are inquisitive in nature when faced with challenges, eager to overcome them.
I do not belief in system change that everyone is talking about. I do belief somehow in system transformation that many others are talking about. But to the bottom of it, I do not belief in systems as rigid normative frameworks. They are organic transformative realities that anyone is part of and contributes to, no matter how small the particle. The question raises: can anyone be in control of the system, to guard it from parasites or other ills? Having a predictable behaviour of the system seems to be the prerequisite for building trust. Just like with a mammal, you can study a system's behaviour. However, is it also possible to condition it? And even if it is possible, Is it even desirable?
In the same article I came accross an interesting observation of the author. Looking for sources of collective action and green activism in the Philippines she made a reference to faith communities that have a distinct characteristic from other social groupings in society. It has the potential to bridge between different socio-economic groups, and therefore provides fertile soil for collective action, should the need arise. It goes beyond the public administrative units of the Barangays (the smallest unit of governance representing some 100 households). It also outplays the typical high-society networking and associations of like-minded well educated individuals that bring social activists together with business operatives.
How come the author concludes that religious communities as spaces for collective action are still to be explored? Have we turned a blind eye to social organization providing the incubation space for social innovation? It is indeed high time to further explore the dynamics between secular life and spiritual living and digg out shared values preceding the co-creation of a green economy. Only then successful partnerships will be formed that will not only impact the system but even transform it. Despite the need for siome form of collective action at some stage, it takes someone to take the first step.
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.