Sunday, March 3, 2019

We need to strengthen our Civil Society.

With climate change, income inequality, the increased frequency of natural disasters, the amount of human suffering will only increase. Sadly, as the cities expand, the living conditions in most cities gets worse for the majority as pollution increase.

Today, we are faced with a problem of plastic waste as well. With the few billionaires having more money than the billions of others, we are also faced with a situation where many people look for cheaper alternatives. This creates a disposable culture as well as people go for fast fashion and use plastics in everything.

Plastic seems to be a cheap solution for many things from packaging to regular products. For convenience, people don't have to wash and bring their own containers, and in the end, many containers are made of plastic, and we use plastic bags to carry things. Compared to metal and wood, plastic products can be much cheaper as well, leading to their popularity.

Sadly, we never take into account the cost for disposing plastic. Plastic takes a long time to disintegrate, poor waste management will make a lot of plastic end up in land fills and the ocean, and sadly, marine life will eat it and some of them will die. This pollution along with climate change will create a situation where we will run out of land for crops, and run out of fishes in the sea.

This dire situation coupled with the ever increase in human population creates a time bomb where it will be a tinderbox waiting for the spark to happen.


With inequality, many people feel the unfairness in the "system? In cities, living in close proximity with other humans also create a situation of stress by overpopulation. All these factors help create the mindset where people focus on their own needs and their needs for their families first before society. It is not uncommon for people to be selfish and think that problems with society should be solved by philanthropists and the government, and when solutions come from the few people, it will only give them more power.

With wealth and profits increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, this is a worrying sign that the super-rich will have even more influence in development, democracy and politics worldwide. As many social enterprises of the Global South are funded by philanthropes from the Global North, this trend perpetuates the very same divide that the Sustainable Development Goals are trying to bridge.

Civil society should play two important functions when it comes to helping those most in need. The first function is creating and nurturing new ideas for transformative change. Because of the way that most social enterprises are set up, it is hard for the community to play this role. Second, civil society plays a crucial role in seeking the accountability of power, and new social enterprises do not measure the power of these excluded groups. In addition, the metrics used are generally simple and based on economic principles – like revenue or profits – that do not address power.

Power and economics are being taken from excluded communities through new fancy organizations called social enterprises. We need to understand that fulfilling the basic human needs like food, shelter and health does not end misery, exploitation and indignity.

We cannot rely on just a system that pretends to play an important role by fighting the manifestations of poverty, and not engage with structural questions of poverty, injustice, indignity and enslavement. Philanthropy should be about human dignity and justice, defending rights such as the right to life, equality before the law, freedom of expression, the rights to work, social security and education.

If we believe that resources are scarce, then we should see if we can engage the beneficiaries to see if they can be accountable for their actions and work on a better solution for their communities. NGOs need to engage their beneficiary, to work together on fixing situation and speak up for them, instead of taking pity. The poor, the handicapped and the marginalized people are not stupid people, they have ideas and dreams. Social enterprises should try to engage their beneficiaries in leadership roles, and look at other social aspects which they affect the ecosystem, and if they are indeed creating a positive change or patching the gap in the short term.

Each member of civil society has a role but many don’t discover these roles until they get immersed into a social impact situation or opportunity. Exposure is the key and soul satisfaction is the objective. It sometimes requires helping a fellow human to discover and ultimately partner to leverage their strengths for societal benefit.

There are a lot of problems to solve, and we as part of civil society hold the solution if we can work together to enable each other and make the world a better place.

-- Robin Low

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