Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Considering the work of social change!

People involved in bringing healthy social change, community development, and advocates for human rights, find themselves going about life with turmoil and agitation about the injustices they see. Life is filled with value based conflict for people who desire to see authentic change. Bringing healthy change requires investment of time in the work of reflection and introspection if change agents are to stand the test of time. Personal integrity is of great value when agents of change pursue the commitment and support of communities in different sector of society.

A set of questions to consider in our journey as social change agents, social innovators and social entrepreneurs:
Do I desire to be in community and at peace with people, but find myself being impatient?
Do I lose sight of the humanity of the person who in my view is dehumanising others?
Am I caught in the shameful action of dehumanising the one who seeks to dehumanise the people whom we serve?
Is the change that is being pursued an authentic change initiate, or one that is watered down by the powers that be?
Are people truly benefiting from the change initiative or are we duping people into a top down agenda that is skewed by monetary regulations and funding investors?
Is the plan being implemented to truly engage in critical conversation, deep dialogue and activistic advocacy?

Social change agents have had their learning and approach to activism and advocacy immersed and baptized in the waters of liberation movements. They are inspired by the fiery rhetoric of civil rights icons and human rights leaders. They are mobilized by the demonstrative stomping of the feet of people who struggle for their freedom in marginalised communities. Everyday talks and dealings in the corporate, education, development, and social change world can be so shallow in comparison to the depth one is exposed to amongst people who live everyday with their backs against the wall - people from marginalised communities are consumed by a heightened thirst and hunger for positive change when social factors of education, class, race, gender, religion, nationality, abilities, language and other social factors render them as second class citizens.

It is most unfortunate but many social interventions are designed without the buy in of the people for whom the intervention is designed. Development initiatives and projects fall short of delivering with excellence because social interventions and organisations who deliver them, do not have the voices of people from the margins at their tables of conceptual design and development. One would expect to find people and organisations who are involved in development and social change work, at the cutting edge of delivering social interventions, but many development programs and projects are lead and managed by "do-gooders" who go about their development philanthropy, and lack the skills and training to engage complex social realities of marginalised communities. Social innovations and social change agency must divorce the prevalent culture of paternalism, prejudice, and values propelled by passive and modern racism that plagues many development and corporate social responsibility escapades.

Equality, justice, ethics and values informed by people and communities from the margins should become the order of the day in the culture of organisations designed to bring social change. One would expect that fighting for the rights of the marginalised would be a value and moral code of conduct that is at the core of what development oriented organisations do and say. But there are many who speak of development in very romanticised elite notions of social change. The kind of change that may work in Sandton but never see the light of day in Alexandra-Johannesburg,South Africa. Strategic planning, project prep and layout are all affected by the fact that people are not informed of and by those whom they seek to serve, especially when it comes to serving people who are from social classes in the margins of a political democracy.

My journey of faith, the work I do in development, corporate consulting, and the honour I have of had serving a local communities, are conflicted with the heaviness I carry of having had my eyes opened to social realities of the oppressed and the marginalised. I am blessed to have mentors who remain constant in taking me to task, so as to ensure that I stay on track in my service of people.

It is my hope to see faithful work that will bring people together (people from the haves and people from the have nots, into a beloved community experience). It is my desire to see people smile upon the work and initiatives that is delivered with diligence and determination, consciousness and courage, advocacy and activism, and reassuring-reconciliation-revolution!

Aluta continua!!! The struggle continues!!!!!

Seth Naicker.