|Photo Credit: World Bank|
Just as a recap, here's my explanation of the term "civil society" from my previous blog, A New Course for the Big Ship of the World Bank, in case you missed it:
"What is civil society?" Not governments. Not corporations. The rest of us. Just regular folk. Sometimes it can mean a lot of people formally banded together in large groups called non-government organizations (NGO's) like CARE or Save the Children. It can refer to a community of local people with an interest in protecting their environment. It also includes a couple of socially-minded bloggers like me and my World Moms Blog buddy at the meetings, Jennifer Burden.I've been to many Washington D.C. conferences and "summits" for anti-poverty NGOs...meetings set up for volunteers to learn about a topic and then lobby about it on Capitol Hill. I'm used to experts presenting information with infographics and talking points followed by the audience asking questions mainly to clarify understanding. Sometimes if the speaker is a member of Congress or the head of a government org, a questioner might ask a challenging question as a form of protest, but generally people just want more information from the presenters. After all, they are the experts and they know best..right?
|Joseph Robertson of Citizen's Climate Lobby |
weighs in at the World Bank Town Hall
Is there tension here? You bet. But here's the thing. Real constructive communication is coming out of the conflict. Rather than having people yelling in the streets, the World Bank is inviting them inside for real conversation. Those conversations are often disagreements, but fairly productive ones without name-calling or threats. I find I learn more in the question portion of the sessions than the actual presentations. From a mom perspective, my blogging partner Jennifer Burden mused that our children learn by arguing and these disagreements seem to be serving an educational purpose for both sides. The World Bank continually stresses that they want to hear our dissenting viewpoints to make their policies better and this audience is more than happy to oblige. At the same time, all of us are learning about World Bank's side of the story as well as gaining the perspective of citizens from other countries we otherwise might not get to talk to in person.
|A Ugandan grandmother|
At the TedX-WBG presentations, Raphael Parente of LABi said: "If we want the world to change, we have to think and act differently." In this case, "we" means both the World Bank and civil society members. In the Civil Society Program we are are changing by challenging each other. Change isn't likely to happen if everybody just smiles and nods while millions struggle to survive. I find myself thinking about a particular woman I met at a health care event in rural Uganda on a trip with the Shot@Life campaign. She appreciated the vaccines UNICEF was providing, but was focused and serious as she related other problems they faced like HIV/AIDS and lack of quality education for her children and grandchildren. As a fellow mom, I feel like I owe it to her to add my voice here to challenge, listen, and change our world for the better.