Mutual Development = working together for mutual benefit, with common contribution to address local challenges
There are “no experts”, we are all equal participants
Everyone should benefit
Share your ideas, skills, knowledge and resources with others
Seize the opportunity to challenge your prejudices, engage with empathy, listen without judgement, seek to learn
Do not look for funding, instead communicate your actual needs with clarity
Be prepared to be surprised
Look to build long term relationships that sustain themselves.
This is an attempt to clarify an earlier post, and also to separate process from principles. There will (I hope) be many ways in which Mutual Development can be practiced. But it’s important to clarify the root thoughts and behaviors.
Mutual Development arises from observations as to the state of the Development Industry and the problems it causes. Especially with respect to Money and it’s use in social empowerment. Short summary – Money fucks up everything in this context, at least when coming from external and non sustainable resources. Money creates artificial inequality, without guaranteeing meaningful contribution. It creates dependencies, with inevitably lead to collapse or hindrance to projects upon the withdrawal of funds. Anyway, enough bitching, I’m trying to create a positive provocation. “Experts” are also problematic, I addressed this in the first post.
As well as a provocation towards development I also consider this a provocation towards tourism (at least with respect to a desire to experience different cultures), gentrification and other issues that also suffer from inequal relationships and an absence of empathy and direct cultural interactions.
Mutual Development brings together communities of interested participants to help each other. Diversity is encouraged as this helps to foster understanding, address cultural stereotypes, and give access to knowledge and skill sets beyond the boundaries of the host culture.
It operates on principles of contribution and benefit. Offers and Needs. By communicating our desires effectively we can then begin to identify how to help one another, how to work together. We can build sustainable, meaningful relationships we are prepared to continue long term. We can learn from one another and help to develop each others lives in a meaningful manner. We help each other get to where we want to be.
It is knowledge that gives us power to adapt ourselves and environment to meet our needs. Each of us has something to give and something we can receive in this context. It is an abundant gift that we can all offer without detriment to ourselves.
It doesn’t matter what your background, you have something you know that you can share and teach. Regardless of how educated and knowledgeable you are, you can never know it all, you are always in a position to learn something. The same principles can be applied to community resources, the more we share the more we have access to.
Mutual Development is not about earnestly “helping the poor”, it’s about us all helping each other. It’s about working together with what you have. It doesn’t assume intellectual superiority, but instead begins with learning, empathy and understanding. It’s about helping yourself by helping others. It is imperative in this practice that tasks, skills and knowledge are distributed through shared learning opportunities, to ensure against reliance on individuals or resources that could lead to system collapse upon withdrawal.
Mutual Development should benefit all parties through non financial means. It should be a joy. It should create benefit. It should cause peoples eyes to light up, inspired, to move us all beyond the daily drudge or contribution for money. It is a space where dreams can meet and realities emerge. Mutual Development implies Mutual Benefit, that everyone draws what they need from the process, and creates opportunities to improve their quality of life.
For Traditional Development organisations wondering how they can contribute to such models I would answer the following.
1. Support with connecting people – Make your knowledge networks accessible, help with transportation costs where necessary to bring people together
2. Assist with legitimisation of models, removal of Bureaucratic Hurdles that may be encountered at government levels
3. Amplification, storytelling and documentation of impact4. Stop repeating the things that are counterproductive to nurturing a sense of local responsibility – eg. creating artificial and unsustainable dependencies (finance, expertise).
5. Encourage and participate in more experiments of this nature, the cost is tiny compared to your existing budgets.
Examples I would argue of Mutual Development opportunities at present are the evolving ice project in Aswan, and UnMonestery in Matera Italy. If you know of other projects that fit this concept – please share.
A note on the image:
The image at the top is a play on the skeptical third world kid Meme http://memegenerator.net/instance/41674898 Based on how stereotypes are being continuously challenged through my daily experiences. Sadly these cultural stereotypes still exist even at a local level in Aswan with respect to Nubian culture. Africans have the skills to help themselves they have much to teach us and each other. It’s important to tell stories that counteract the damaging legacy of “Let them know it’s Christmas time” and move beyond our own sense of superiority. We must engage as equals, for we all have much to learn.