Millenium Campus Conference 2011 Reflection

I just returned to Los Angeles from the MCC conference in Boston, and I could not feel more exhilarated, renewed, or hopeful.

It’s especially an interesting way to feel because what I particularly liked about the conference this year was that speakers emphasized the realistic outcomes of attempting to implement social change: obstacles, infrastructure bureaucracy, failure, a lack of accountability, and a lack of sustainability.

That was great. That was perfect. That’s exactly what my generation needs.

I obviously care about social change, and I don’t believe that people should become cynical and give up their vision of a better world simply because there are an enormous amount of obstacles. However, if they want to stop making the mistakes that the world has been making for the past 50 years in implementing international aid programs and intervening in other countries, then we need to acknowledge those mistakes, adjust our expectations, and innovate the way that we think about aid/intervention. Like a speaker in the opening plenary said, don’t become cynical. Instead, never stop learning. Never stop changing. Never stop adjusting.

I am a particular advocate for much deeper initial investigation of a social/political issue through cultural exploration and the acquisition of the unique history of the people in the region. I don’t believe that the “solution” to a problem is to throw money at it nor to intervene immediately without understanding the situation at hand.

In a sentence, I feel exactly like K-naan, a Somalian artist who gave the last speech at MCC. He wanted to help Somalia because of the current famine and political situation. It was only after he left and he began to talk with politicians, millionaires, and NGOs that he became disheartened. In many ways, the real problem is not in these developing countries. It’s in how the West views them and tries to help them. K-naan urged us to become more aware of the reasons why we do what we do. He urged us to learn about the world, and to re-think intervention work in its classical sense. I’m all for a fresh perspective and innovation in global social change. What about you?

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