The revolution should revolutionize many institutions with it, and its roles. We should re-think why we have these institutions in place and what role does it play in our society. For example we need to redefine the role of schools as an institution. How do we want it to impact the individuals in it? That would lead to a change in its methodology, the way it perceives the student. We need to redefine the role of the army as an institution, the role it plays in this society: administrative or defensive? and also what should one gain from entering this institution, transform that one-to-three years of the army from a useless time wasting experience to an experience that add to an experience many individuals would seek and grow and learn in the process. We also need to redefine the role of NGOs in civil society, and the role of civil society itself and its methodology. This is what Nabta is all about; if you are curious how we can do it then you are in the right place.
The idea behind Nabta comes from the problems we face, and some other problems with how we try to solve our first problems, and lastly our biggest problem which is our perception of our problems and solutions.
This is the first in a series of posts that aims to reflect the idea behind Nabta. To share it with as many people as possible and also get as much feedback as possible, as I mentioned it’s a learning process for us all.
Obviously there are factors that are very destructive to our society. And the force that should represent us (the people in this society) to fix these problems is civil society. Who are the main actors in civil society? Unions (weak), political parties (new and weak), academia (should i even start), Non-Governmental Organizations (32,000 NGOs in Egypt and counting, can you feel their impact?), donors and foundations (sitting in their air-conditioned offices deciding what are the solutions to our on-ground problems) and lastly the rest of us, individuals that are not included in any of these institutions.
Since I was never involved in a labor union, political party, research institution or any other form of civil society institutions I will only talk about the NGOs and donor aspect to it and the role of civil society.
In the world of NGOs if you have a problem with civic participation you get a trainer, a room and 25 ‘active’ youth members and voila you have increased the civic participation of 25 youth (at least that’s what’s written in the report). But is that really the case? Did they really change anything significant? Have you ever attended these sessions and became transformed? Ok, lets ask the question differently, when were you transformed? Where were you? Who were you with? Was it momentary or did the idea or transformation live until this day or lead to another transformation?
Many NGOs ended up using the same ‘educational’ methods employed by the governments and corporations. They deny a learning action in the liberation process, but they use propaganda to convince their ‘target group’. We need to change that, we need to create mediums to transform people not brainwash them to do good!
When we want to connect individuals together and network different NGOs or individuals together, what does NGOs do? A conference to bring people in one room, a u-shaped table, name tags and a topic to discuss or a speaker to listen to. These models have very little impact relative to the money invested in them. But again how many times the coffee break in these conference was its highlight not the conference it self, hmm. In Nabta when we want to connect people we do not do a conference, we can do a bowling night. Yes I am serious. I have just seen an interesting TED Talk, among other things it mentioned how the most profound ideas that influenced the human race did not come when their originators were working on in their lab or in a conference. It came in the coffee break, while having a conversation with a friend, while travelling or while chilling under an apple tree.
Lets move to another problem in civil society and how the projects within it is designed. It is the shift of the mental state from being in the real world, my normal life, and then the shift when I am entering a workshop, expecting new information to come, ready to be enlightened. I believe this shift in the mental state takes away from the impact. I believe we need to bring development to the people not people to development lets bring development values -as citizenship, awareness, political participation…etc- to our normal life and the lives of millions. Lets bring development to the street. Lets not try to put 80 million people in a conference, in groups of 25!
So lets learn from this, and gain a better understanding of human behavior and put people where they are actually innovative beings not a boring creatures with a name tag. These are just examples; I think there is a lack of understanding of the human potential in the field that should grasp the idea most, Human and community development. Lets redefine the institutions that aim to serve society and its role and methodology. That is what we need to figure out, and this is what Nabta will aim to do.
But what is Nabta? Nabta is a community of volunteers, it is a medium and it is anyone who wants to join. Anyone who share the same vision, everyone who think or feel that we are doing something wrong in the development world and want to implement different kind of projects. Want to figure out alternative and innovative ways to fix our problems.
Nabta is about trying out new models and questioning the existing ones. So lets create mediums, mediums that bring people together to do something, anything. But nothing that we have seen before.
What is life but a big experiment …
Are you in?