No red carpets or trumpets but rather a room full of 30 Bangladeshis aged 18-25 eagerly waiting our arrival. This to me the best reception of all because even after arriving an hour and a half late (train delay from Dhaka to Chittagong don’t you know), we were still warmly received with sweet smiles. Without really knowing us or what exactly we were planning to do with them over the week, they still took the decision to commute to the workshop – for some of them an hour long journey. Their faith and subsequent commitment expresses a deep sense of respect which only makes me more determined to see them take the most they can out of this experience. With this group however – I sense they would need little encouragement to do just that.
Despite stepping from train to workshop – Gioel and I caught some inspiring second wave of energy that allowed us to jump right into the workshop the moment we arrived at the center. After brief introductions of ourselves, we quickly turned the tables in a storyboarding exercise that gave every individual 1 minute to present them selves. Amongst the aspiring lawyers, musicians and development practitioners there was an environment of positive collaboration that only makes me excited about the coming days.
After outlining the plan for the coming week we enjoyed a brief tea session with the individuals, listening to their stories of engagement with social activities within their community. One thing that struck me more than anything is just how great their awareness was about the benefits of social networking. They really understand the opportunities that you can create for yourself simply by making a point of treating everyone as someone well worth your time and attention. It’s a very simple concept but yet so many of us miss it or assume that only certain kinds of people are worth ‘networking’ with.
After the last remaining participants took their leave, Gioel and I sat down with Subir, YPSA youth programs coordinator and also our lovely companion throughout the week. As we sat there on there on the terrace of the YPSA guest house we spoke dynamically about the precarious relationship between the development sector and private industry. We spoke of the unnoticed opportunities and the compromising dilemmas that their relationship entails but amidst our undefined opinions could define one conclusion: that development discourse needs to pay closer attention to the management of this relationship. The novelty of Corporate Social Responsibility is fading, but we should press harder questions about what this triple bottom line is actually all about. Much of what we are accepting for CSR is representative of a naïve view of development. Its tangible development – the kind in which the results can be demonstrated with numbers and maybe even a photograph of the final product in a community. The illusion of this parachute type development is convincing for most, as should be expected, however it feigns executing projects that actually have long term prospects (the most important kind). Wrapping this discussion up, I was only more convinced about where our organization is trying to go and the discourse we are trying to broaden and make more inclusive.