Our local radio station 702 hosted its annual Walk the Talk race last month and with 50 000 registered participants it was filled to capacity. I myself have participated in an annual Walk your Talk workshop, but of a different nature. This is for change practitioners wanting to balance care for the environment, society at large and finances in their work and is held in a beautiful mansion called Buckland Hall in South Wales.
In the work of transformation, exquisite care needs to be taken to prevent slipping into the mode of regurgitating expired well-intentioned knowledge. To speak from continued practice and not hollowness that may unknowingly have set in. My good friend Sofia Bustamante recently visited Mohammed Yunus and Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Her reflection is that “transformation happens when you don’t take your eye off the ball”. The continued success of Grameen Bank lies in the fact that they have not slipped from what they stood for. I myself have been privy to have an audience with Mohammed Yunus when in London early 2008. I asked him why he thinks that micro-finance has not taken off in Africa the same way as Bangladesh. He responded that although the mechanisms were the same when kick-starting it in South Africa, mainstream bankers were the implementers who do not think like the poor, can’t meet them where they’re at and operate from that place.
I get nervous about the effectiveness of change initiatives when social commentators who have a platform to voice their opinions with suggested change theories do so when not immersed in the issues they are commenting on. This includes the lack of transformation in institutions who publically promote the ethic. One of my favourite Paulo Freire quotes come to mind ‘revolutionary leaders cannot think without the people, nor for the people, but only with the people.’ I need to remind myself about this every so often when I find myself hanging out in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg and preach about values, transformation and relationship with the poor (as defined by mainstream society).
Sofia cautions me to be gentle; that it does not take an evil person to slip. While I keep this in-mind; I would like to encourage myself and fellow change agents to keep doing the inner-work. Check that we are operating from integrity and not get caught up in the busyness of preaching about values and transformation or new agendas but Walking our Talk.