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Social sector gets social
For the suits there is Davos every other year but for the non-profiteers, or 'social sector' there are multiple options. Choose from the poverty alleviation conference in Sao Paulo, the save water convention in Amsterdam, the human rights seminar in Geneva, the urban renewal get-together in Singapore, the AIDS/HIV campaign in South Africa, or the climate change meet in just about any country you can imagine. Imagine Tuvalu, and spot it on the map.
The NGO world's glitterati are on the move. Passport pages are filling up fast and furious. A thousand issues need to be resolved to save the billionplus in India and so a few hundred international events must be attended. At any time of the year some part of the world has just the perfect amount of sun to hold a conference.
Some say 'civil society' is more efficient than sharp corporate honchos. After all, they must convince donors that to seek solidarity nothing works like a global mela of NGOs. There is capacity-building that needs priority handling, the need to train the trainers, tool kits to be developed, best practices and experiences to be shared and the overall demand for knowledge upgradation. And, of course, there's the mid-March conference that must be organised to swallow the budget that never got used. But, of course, the fund cannot be returned to the donor. How can one ask for a bigger, grander project the following year without proving that the existing project 'impacted' society?'
Of course the donors, too, love gettogethers. Mimicking the corporate world, there are project proposals to be made, targets to be achieved (looking for effective aid, not profits, please!), year-end PowerPoints and lessonslearnt summations to be shared with the donors who fly in at night and are out by morning. The contracted inspectors make their brief visits while pocketing 'hardship allowances' for visiting a 'Third World' country.
For every grass-root and mass movement that flourishes and really works - also called 'civil society' in general - there is someone holding agency on its behalf and finding the cheapest economy ticket in order to attend the next People's Movement meet in Madrid (sometimes the 'grassroot face' is tagged along too: everyone loves the face of 'impact' ). If you don't attend one meet, how do you swing an invitation to the next one and ensure the rival doesn't grab the limited seats?
And why not? If the average-Joe MBA from a second-rate management college can enjoy an annual 'retreat' on a Greek island to discuss his next target, why can't 'civil society' ?
If the world is so Skyped-out and the big daddies of the corporate world are meeting the world's biggest babus and politicos on an island off Southern France this year to find a solution to the 'supply side' problems of a global food crisis and if a few journalists hungrily eye the junket that comes along, why grudge the few from the NGO world their little indulgence in a not so up-market hotel in Prague? You never know: there might be a solution around the corner or at least the next crisis to leap for. Project proposal in hand.
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