IT is often easier to say no rather than yes, to articulate what one doesn’t want in life rather than what our actual desires and dreams are: I don’t want to become an engineer, I don’t want to marry someone, I don’t want to join a particular organization or sector, etc.

I recently met a lovely group of Canadians who said that for the longest time it was easier to say that Canadians are not this kind of people rather than the kind of people they really are!

Development leadership should include and imbibe:

1. An imagination, of the kind of society we would like to live in based on certain non-negotiable universal human values like equity, compassion, and dignity. What would a society based on these values look like – what kind of relationships would we have? How would we engage with all living beings? With the environment? What kind of basic lives would be guaranteed for all? What nature of education would help guide us down this road?

2. An understanding of how to look at the concept of development through multiple lenses (and not just through an economic, year-on-year GDP growth lens) – the openness, willingness, and ability to look at development from a human rights lens, environment lens, gender lens, welfare lens, etc.

3. The ability to understand social issues and design solutions through social systems and design-thinking perspective. No social issue can be solved in isolation or in silos (learning outcomes are not only a result of curriculum, pedagogy, teacher presence and capacity, and class infrastructure but also affected by poverty, family size, health and nutrition, education and empowerment of the mother, sanitation, etc).

4. An appreciation of the importance of building social purpose organizations and/or collaborative partnerships and networks with an appropriate strategy, structure, systems, process, and culture – given the complexity (social, human dynamics, transdisciplinary nature) and magnitude of issues facing society today (poverty, health, education, empowerment, livelihoods, environment), it is really impossible for a single individual or organization to bring about sustainable, scalable social change.


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