Building whose capacity to do what? How?

This is a direct follow on from an initial rant about “social innovation”.  At the end of that I went on a rant about how social change is a marathon not a sprint and that the ‘load’ has to be shared.

There’s an article, very astute, by a Development Aid specialist that I read as I yomped around Alexandra Park with my backpack full of bricks and weights. I should try to track it down… meanwhile, this –


But what IS the load?

There’s the technical work – be it writing press releases, responding to consultations, gathering evidence for a judicial review, fundraising, prisoner support.  

Sharing the load would be making sure that the knowledge and skills were easily shareable – written down, turned into videos, workshops, trainings etc, that it was possible for folks to be apprentices in meaningful ways

There’s the credit – if people are going to do grunt work, then they should also be able to get – if they want it – credit, exposure etc.

Power to decide – what are the decision-making processes? Who has final say? How can they be challenged etc? At what point do those who have been doing grunt work get an invitation to be part of the decision making (which they may of course choose to decline).
All this brings me to the buzzword of many a year – “Capacity building”

As meaningless and frustrating as “innovation”  (yes, vaccines were an innovation. So were machine guns, mustard gas and concentration camps. For god’s sake stop using innovation as a synonym for ANY form of progress).

And always ask the following

Capacity-building To DO what?

To do endless pilots which allow policymakers to defer and defer and defer? To do the leg-work for big beasts to swoop in and create new markets and marketisations? To be the thin-end of the neoliberal wedge?

For WHO to do what?  White middle-class professionals sitting in offices, being suitedly and suitably parasitic on those taking the risks?

For how long is this capacity going to be maintained? 

Are you just creating the next generations of micro-bosses, or are you trying to spread the capacity to capacity build and create the vibrant civil society you say you want? Are you teaching the pigs on animal farm, or also the cows, hens and the sheep?


And when you’ve answered these questions

How is this CBW done?

By who?

Peer-to-peer or  Top down info deficit bullshit?

(Horizontal, peer-to-peer, social innovation – all the right buzzwords. Old wine in new bottles, we’ve been on this rodeo before.)

 The whole point of the Active Citizenship Toolkit, as I see it, is to make it easier for individuals and groups  to see what is at stake – what skills, knowledge and relationships are needed for sustained social innovation around the climate crisis, the racial and sexual injustice crises…  If we are serious about transition/transformation and the acceleration of them, then it becomes a question of WHO IS GOING TO KEEP BELLING THE CAT?

The cat WILL take the first bell off, and eat the brave and clever mice who put it on.  So those brave and clever mice better have prepared the next generation of cat-bellers.  And also devised ways of helping them cope with watching a vicious cat eating their buddies. And figured out how to learn from all the failed attempts (one is reminded of the bomb disposal experts who would describe each step of the way over a telephone, so that when they made a mistake, someone else could learn. Not inspiring, but hey ho…)


Okay, I have completely lost control of my metaphors. Happens when you’re rusty at blogging. So it goes. Publish in beta and be damned…

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