I’m in Johannesburg this week for the Barefoot Guide 4! Twenty-eight participants from 16 countries are here in a collaborative “Writeshop” to lay the foundations for the next Barefoot Guide. We’re writing a book (or is it?) entitled, “The Real Work of Social Change.”
This 4th Barefoot Guide will present and illustrate many examples of social change in different contexts, exploring not just the stories and activities, but digging deeply into what the practice and real work are that have made social change possible. Many development practitioners, in all walks of life, want to move beyond isolated, project-based activities. We know that the future lies in more integrated, multi-actor programs that accelerate, rather than impede social change, requiring very different understandings of change and different strategies, approaches and practices.
Over the last couple of days, we’ve been talking a lot about individuals (personal responsibility) and the collective (mutual obligation and accountability) within social change. We’ve also been talking a lot about the transformation that occurs when people discover the strength of their voice and have space, or the opportunity to use that voice, and engage with those in power. Experimentation, active citizenship, ambiguity, and trust seem to continue to circle back through our discussions.
It’s a big topic, but I’m impressed with the WriteShop methodology itself and how it’s open enough to support the formulation of ideas, while enabling “people who aren’t writers write for people who aren’t readers.” There’s lots of questions floating around, and that’s ok. After intense days, we’re now formulating writing maps for our proposed chapters or sections, and then seeing where the content takes us. Tomorrow, we are unleashed! We write!
Here’s the question I’m trying to answer: How do we communicate the reality of social change so that people can have a deeper appreciation of its complexity? It’s about how we portray people, our roles, our work, our mistakes in a “silver bullet solutions” world. It’s about engaging with people who aren’t great fans of “the process,” which is what’s needed if social change in a rapidly changing world will require us to go out of our comfort zones, (which it will)!
And here’s some nuggets of wisdom I’ve been noting throughout the week:
“Listening and questioning are the two root tools we have in social change.” ~Doug Reeler, Community Development Resource Association
“The new era of M&E will be dawned by the people we serve.” ~Moctar Sow, Réseau Francophone de l’Evaluation
“If writing something is a voyage of discovery for you, it will be for your reader.” ~Tracy Martin, EveryChild
Check out others’ Barefoot Guide 4 reflections and thoughts on our Hackpad. Feel free to add your own there as well or here in the comments.
If you’ve got concepts, theories, stories, examples, ruminations or reflections on social change, there’s still many other ways to contribute to the Barefoot Guide 4. (We’ll hardly be done by Friday!)