The following article is written by Florian Wegenstein and does not necessarily represent the opinion of all Delta Cultura Cabo Verde members.
Since one week I ‘m back from the 3-day Center Host workshop in Johannesburg. The experiences, the content of the workshops, and numerous conversations have inspired me to the following thoughts. Since they have a lot to do with the central issues I concern myself with in the past few months I want to make a short note of them and share them. And of course I am always happy about any kind of reaction.
The topics of the workshops in South Africa were monitoring and evaluation as well as resource mobilization. So both workshops had (amongst others) to do with cooperation partners: How do we show that our work is successful and achieved the desired results. How do we convince potential donors to support our institution. How can our organization survive in this competition for resources. How can we work economically sustainable. How can we create our own resources to become more independent . What services can we sell to generate income …
During one of the workshops I got somewhat uncomfortable. So I had to ask the workshop leader whether she is really convinced that social business and stuff like that was the right way for NGOs to achieve social change. Absolutely … was her reply. She seemed so sure about it that I did not continue asking. Only after the workshop I went to talk to her about the issue once more. She said something that has stuck to my mind and kept me busy thinking: NGOs have to get out of this old fashioned hippie attitude ‘we are the good guys and you have to finance us’. I do partily agree with that: ‘we are the good guys’ is a useless stupid attitude which can only lead to dead ends . But on the other hand, I believe it is very important that the international community takes care of the weaker ones. Of all the people who suffer. And very often NGO´s take over that task. So I don’t believe that they should first of all take care of their own businesses and worry about economic sustainability and after that – if there is still some time left – help some people who suffer. This can’t be the answer to our crises, can it?
What also repeatedly leaves me uncomfortable in many workshops is the fact that too many set phrases are used and accepted without looking critically at them. An example: something that is for free is not worth anything. Fact. That is supposedly like that. But it is not . If I ask a 6 year old child that comes to our center every day if he does not want to come anymore and if he feels the center is worthless because there are no fees to pay he would hardly confirm that. That means that we educate our children to think like that and so we can very well question this attitude and have a better look at it and if we find it useless we can think of different attitudes we could teach the kids. I think workshops like those in South Africa should be much more about questioning and reflecting such issues.
Surprisingly I can also explain why I think like that: all organizations who participated in this workshop work for necessary social change in this world. I believe – and everybody will agree I guess – that doing homework with the children or teach them what to do or not to do to not become HIV positive does not automatically lead to social change. Or is it that we should define social change a bit more? So for me it always makes sense to honestly question things, reflect on them, look behind the set phrases and things like that. And I believe it would be very fruitful if many people do that together.
Anyway in general I believe that not everything has to be economically profitable in this world. I believe it shouldn’t always be the cost-benefit analysis that decides if things happen or not … if it is not economically profitable to abolish hunger tomorrow I still wish we would go for it.