Growing recognition for CPA’s thought leadership, path-breaking work and expertise in Sri Lanka in leveraging new media for civil society initiatives has its significant downside. It attracts the attention of those without any taste or imagination who seek to appropriate ICT4Peace because they see some parochial gain in doing so.
I was approached two days ago by a well known organisation in Sri Lanka which wanted my input on how to engage the diaspora in a multi-million rupee non-violence campaign over the next month. Some ideas were bandied about over the phone with the head of the organisation on how civil society in the US had used the web to generate public support to lobby Senators and Congress. A convoluted mess of viral and web marketing gobbledygook followed. This was sprinkled liberally with references to Barack Obama’s web campaign. I was told that the organisation was looking to get 100,000 members from the diaspora engaged in their dialogue.
Unsurprisingly, neither this person nor the organisation writ large had any clue as to what they were talking about or how to go about engaging the diaspora. I wrote in and said that I would only engage with them on a professional basis, as a consultancy. They then said they had no money to pay me.
It was precisely the response I expected.
I’m certainly not opposed to sharing knowledge. This blog alone is littered with key ideas for designers, developers and service providers. Many can be monetised profitably. That to me is the essential nature of the work I do – which is to share information and knowledge freely, and indeed, through such strategic sharing and communications to strengthen the work of the peacebuilders and progressive social change agents.
What I’m opposed to however are those who suck innovation dry. These organisations and people are parasites – essentially mercenary and blinkered, they seek to first gain as much visibility for themselves and their initiatives without any meaningful emphasis on partnership and sharing. Knowledge shared with these entities is downright dangerous, since they lack an essential sincerity towards sharing. It is for them more important to be seen to be doing something than to really do something right.
ICT4Peace for them is a tool, or set of ideas, for self-promotion and gain. There’s really no “us” in their worldview, just “me”, “mine” and “I”. And that’s the anti-thesis of peacebuilding.