I arrived home from 17 days in Bangladesh at 9.30 pm last night.
It was a brilliant trip, great to see Practical Action on the ground, the positive impacts our work is having on the lives of some of the poorest people in the world, to speak with our effective, and often inspirational, staff and to hear about how our knowledge sharing work is taking the benefits of our work to many millions more. The multiplier effect – leveraging every ounce of benefit from our work to the benefit of poor communities.
We do a great job and we should be proud.
But as I try and capture my impressions I am also left with the sense of so much need. The expressionless faces of the girl textile workers plodding into factories, the beggars some with obviously drugged babies, the people living in make shift tents by the side of the road – the black plastic covering ripped by rain and storms. Conversations about extremely high malnutrition in children –the figure quoted was nearly 50% – and the already felt impacts if climate change.
Together – Communities, Practical Action, and our supporters – we are doing great things – helping people make a living, get enough food to eat, access clean water, decent sanitation – but we also have to be humble and say we are not doing enough.
That’s not to down play our vital work but returning home to my healthy family, my safe home, my brilliant job the contrast is extreme.
While in Bangladesh we had a meeting where the Dhaka based team sought to share Practical Action’s learning with others and to learn from other NGOs. Care, Action Aid, IRRI (International Rice Research Institute), World Fish Centre etc. were there.
One guy who came to the meeting was A. Atiq Rahman – he was amazing, inspirational. Look him up on Google and you get a sense of how fortunate we were to have him there. Brilliant that he is a friend of Practical Action. He spoke of how in the late 70s we believed we could change the world and now with the impact and wisdom of age we look for smaller steps. Of how those small steps are vital but not enough – we still need to change the world but no longer have confidence in how. Politics being by the nature of democratic terms of office, the art of language not action and short not long term views.
Practical Action believes that we have to change the world. We believe 100% that the work we are doing to make people’s lives better is vital but we also believe that we need to find a way to deliver technology justice.
My reflection on my visit to Bangladesh is that change is complex but can happen. What’s great about Practical Action is our work but also our vision, our values and inspiration.
Schumacher in Small is Beautiful – to paraphrase said – we need to act to protect our world, to find meaning and a quality of life more fulfilling than consumerism, to find a new way of doing development – and when asked who should lead he said – each and every one of us whether rich or poor, young or old powerful or powerless – to talk about the future is only useful if it leads to action now.
My overall reflection on my visit to Bangladesh is to echo Schumacher !