Uncomfortable conversations? Confronting development’s White gaze full transcript
Host [00:01] You are listening to Make Change Happen, the podcast from the International Institute for Environment and Development. The narratives and language we use to tell stories in the development sector can perpetuate racism and racial stereotyping. In this episode, our guests discuss work being done by IIED and others in the sector to promote anti-racist and decolonisation agendas.
Liz Carlile [00:28] Hello and welcome to episode 18 of IIED's Make Change Happen podcast. I'm your host, Liz Carlile, and I've been very honoured to have taken part in the last 18 conversations with partners, colleagues and friends as we've unpacked all kinds of issues across sustainable development. And if this is your first visit to the podcast, you're in for a great discussion with today's guests. But please also take some time to listen to others, I think it'll be worth it.
Sadly this is my last episode as host as I'm leaving IIED. But it will be my huge pleasure to join the ranks of our regular listeners for future episodes. So I'm truly looking forward to that. Today we're going to be talking about a challenging issue around how narratives we use to tell the stories in our sector can possibly perpetuate, or probably definitely do perpetuate, racism and racial stereotyping, and how easy it is for language to exclude people from the conversation. And in IIED we've been doing some work to review our own narratives and to develop a framework that can help us and, we hope, others to explore that. But there'll be more of that later.
I think to start this episode off, it's worth thinking that, you know, for people in countries across the global South, long history of struggles against racism and colonialisation, and lots of ongoing work to promote anti-racist and decolonisation agendas. But that work's been going on, and until the killing of George Floyd, which acted as a kind of tipping point for the development sector to step up, you know, that work's been going on in the background. And what we're hoping now is that it's become easier and safer to talk about racism and coloniality in the sector. You know, Black Lives Matters (BLM) was a trigger for that, and I think we need to make the most of that.
In this episode, we are going to be looking at, and reflecting on some examples, of how development organisations have been looking at this and responding to the BLM movement. And to think about some of the intentions that they've set out towards becoming more anti-racist. That was a longer introduction than usual, but I think it was an important one. But even more important is for my guests today to introduce themselves. So let me go straight to Mpho Tapela and ask you to say a little bit about yourself, Mpho.
Mpho Tapela [03:10] Thank you very much, Liz. My name is Mpho Tapela, I'm the executive director of Youth Unlimited Network, which is based in Botswana in the Southern part of Africa. It's basically an organisation that coordinates the work of non-profit-making organisations that are youth-based in Botswana. Thank you very much.
iz Carlile [03:34] It’s great to have you with us today, thank you. And Maryam?
Maryam Mohsin [03:39] Hi, my name's Maryam, I'm the head of communications at Bond, the UK network for organisations working in international development. If you haven't heard of us before we are a membership-based organisation, we have 400 NGOs and think tanks from across the UK, and they're all of lots of different sizes. So, from small organisations like Advantage Africa, the Calico trust, Build It International, to the larger medium-sized organisations like Oxfam, Action Aid and Save The Children.
Liz Carlile [04:09] Great, thank you. And Natalie?
Natalie Lartey [04:12] Hi, my name is Natalie Lartey and I work for IIED. I'm the advocacy and engagement manager, and have been doing some work around this issue of looking at inclusive and anti-racist narratives in the international development sector.
Liz Carlile [04:30] Thank you. Well, welcome to you all, and we're really looking forward to discussing this today.
Liz Carlile [04:39] I was going to kick off with you, Maryam, because I know that Bond has been working to develop tools and resources that help NGOs to really become actively anti-racist. Can you tell us a little bit about what you've been doing?
Maryam Mohsin [04:53] Yes, of course. So, as you said, Black Lives Matter and the tragic murder of George Floyd aired many issues about racism, power imbalances across, obviously the wider world, but within the NGO sector in the UK it was a real moment of reflection. And though we know that this conversation has been happening around, you know, how to tackle racism, how to make our sector embrace values around equity, diversity and inclusion more widely, it's undoubtedly been put much higher up on the agenda. And it feels like there's a real moment where we can push forward some real change so that the way we work is much more locally led.
And what I mean by that is rather than it being the case of organisations based in the UK flying into other countries and, you know, doing development or humanitarian work, it's very much about working in solidarity with both the communities, but also the organisations that are part of the countries that we actually work in. So it's much more about using what’s there in a way that makes sense for the people that are there, as opposed to us kind of pushing what we think needs to be done in other countries. And as part of that work, Bond's been doing lots of work to look at NGOs and the various ways that we work – be it via communications, fundraising, advocacy, programming. And unpacking how we work in practice right now, and looking at what evidence exists across the sector and beyond about how to make how we work much more locally led.
And so what I mean by that is things like, for example, fundraising − how can we make sure that when we’re basically trying to pull more funding into projects we're actually looking at what needs to be done from a community, locally led perspective, and getting more of that money directly to the organisations and people that are on the ground as much as possible. Because these sorts of changes make a real difference to make sure that actually what we’re doing is what's needed and is being driven and led by the very people that, you know, we say we're trying to support. So there's a whole range of issues.
Liz Carlile [07:08] So how did you get that consultation going? You know, how did people get in on the conversation? How did you get that feedback in a way that you felt was truly representative?
Maryam Mohsin [07:19] Sure. So, the piece of work that I've been leading on at Bond has been looking specifically at language. And the reason why I started by just talking about the wider remit of what we're working on at Bond is because it's really important to say that communications language is one component of the bigger picture of what we're trying to do here. Because the reality is communication sometimes can hide a multitude of organisational sins when it comes to anti-racism and decolonisation.
If you're not getting your practice right as an organisation, your comms isn't going to save you. And nor should you be thinking about it in that way. So the language guide that we've been working on basically unpacks words that we've been using on a day-to-day basis. And it's an internal document for Bond. So it guides all of our communications when it comes to kind of our advocacy work, but it also dictates how we speak to, you know, stakeholders like people in government or, you know, other NGOs. Or the letters that we write to the foreign secretary on various issues. And also just the words that we use when we're talking about, you know, projects and the advocacy work.
And when I talk about words, what I'm meaning is things that we always felt uncomfortable with, but we still carried on using them because we hadn't had this conversation about, like, why don't we actually just stop using phrases that we're uncomfortable with? Like ‘beneficiaries’, or ‘capacity building’, or ‘empowerment’. Or, you know, what does ‘Global Britain’ actually look like? Without putting it in quotation marks to make it clear that's not our phrase, that phrase belongs to somebody else, and it's very politically loaded.
So just really addressing some of the things that we didn't feel comfortable with. But also going through a process of consulting both colleagues across the sector, but also more importantly groups of membership organisations that exist around the world. You know, phrases like ‘global South’ - that was one of the really interesting conversations we had around that, but also ‘world’s poorest people’ and ‘experts’. These are words that we throw about, but actually it's important to check ourselves. But also check with colleagues around the world to see what their reflections are on these phrases that we use and whether they actually think they're appropriate in this day and age.
Natalie Lartey [09:30] It's really interesting. I'm wondering, Maryam, what type of response have you had since you started choosing to use alternatives to some of those words? I'm hearing you saying ‘expert’, and ‘capacity building’ and ‘global South’ and I'm just really noticing that there are words there that are part of our bread and butter – they’re real stock phrases that we rely on. And I'm just wondering how that shift in language use has been received?
Maryam Mohsin [9:58] It’s a really good question. At the beginning of the consultation process, if I look at, you know, the rounds of conversations that we had with NGOs in the UK – and I'll go to kind of the consultation process with colleagues around the world afterwards, but – it was interesting because there were lots of questions around whether this would mean that we'll no longer have access to government because we were no longer speaking the same language as them, or would it be problematic when we're filling in kind of bid proposals? Because, again, like, some of this language was dictated by donors.
And what we found in practice is actually it caused no issues whatsoever. And what we've actually noticed is in the, you know, the latest international development strategy, some of the language shifts that Bond has been pushing for internally – because we've not been telling our members or anyone, ‘You must be writing and using language in this way’, we've just said, ‘This is what we’re doing, if this is a helpful resource, feel free to use it’. But what we are seeing is people are actually using it.
And in terms of the feedback that we've got from colleagues in other countries, it was really interesting because you really understand the power dynamics that are inherent around language as well. So in some contexts there had been lots of thinking that had already been done and, you know, lots of resistance to words like ‘beneficiaries’, but there was never a space to actually say, ‘Do you know what? We don't want you to use that—those words anymore because they don't reflect the reality on the ground’, or, ‘Some of the phrases that you're using are actually inaccurate, you should use these terms instead’.
So that was another type of feedback that we got from colleagues that we were working with via kind of membership organisations like Kampala Initiative. They were fantastic at both bringing their expertise because they had been working on this for years, but also giving us access to civil society groups that exist around the world that had already been doing a lot of this thinking.
Liz Carlile [11:54] Could I bring in Mpho here? Because I think this point around how language can be chosen without consultation or on behalf of different groups, you know, might end up with labelling that's inappropriate or offensive. I mean, it's quite interesting, it's like, who gets to choose the language? Mpho, tell us, I know you've been working with deaf people and people with disabilities. You have lots of experience in this. Can you share some thinking on what you have found?
Mpho Tapela [12:25] Absolutely, Liz. When language is chosen without consultation and, like you said, like on behalf of certain groups it really results in labelling that is discriminating and has negative connotations towards the people that we're trying to help. So I have worked a lot with people with disabilities, particularly the deaf community. And I can tell you for a fact that they find certain words very offensive that are used in programming.
Words like ‘hearing impaired’, they feel like those words mean that they’re damaged and they need to be repaired. So they would prefer mostly just the term deaf to say, ‘I am deaf, do not say I'm hearing impaired. I am deaf’, you know? Where it's like ‘people living with disability’, it's very offensive to them because they're not living with the disability, they would prefer to just be referred to as ‘disabled’ or ‘people with disability’, you know?
Words like ‘marginalised populations’, what does that even mean? A lot of times we say marginalised populations and it gets lost in translation when we are now in programming. If you don't unpack those words at the end of the day you don't even know who you're referring to. Instead of saying marginalised people, maybe one could say ‘when I say marginalised people, I mean people with disabilities, I mean people in less urban areas, I mean LGBTQ communities’, you know? Instead of just saying ‘marginalised’. Because I find that, you know, blanket attempts are highly inappropriate and, you know, usually they would really, really exclude the very people that you want to help when projects are now being implemented.
Liz Carlile [14:06] So I think it speaks, doesn't it, very much to Maryam’s point about, you know, kind of who does get to choose? Or making sure that we speak to the communities or the groups of people concerned when, you know, labels or language comes up. I mean, did you find in your organisation that, you know, you found good ways to do that? Or was this something that people were resistant to in your organisations? What sort of response did you have to that idea?
Mpho Tapela [14:38] Well, essentially, we would always try to include them in our programming because a lot of times they would say “nothing for us without us”. So we always try to include them in those conversations so they can be the ones to say, “No, you don't use words like that because we find it offensive”.
Liz Carlile [14:56] Yeah, no, that's good to hear, I think. It's a practice we should get better at isn't it?
Mpho Tapela [15:02] Absolutely.
Liz Carlile [15:06] Natalie, I mean, maybe this is the moment where you could say a little bit about, you know, the work you've been doing and why we chose to do this review. Because I think we—I think you sort of drove the motivation for that. But I think we were keen to kind of take this opportunity to have a bit of a deep reflection.
Natalie Lartey [15:27] Yeah, thanks Liz. So at IIED we have really built on some of this work around language and some of the challenges with language in international development storytelling. And we've started to look at actually how we frame the stories that we tell and what worldviews and perspectives get prioritised when we tell those stories. And we decided to think about that work in relation to racism and anti-racism because of the bigger conversation that was happening nationally about issues of racial injustice globally.
Now, I mean, all your listeners will know that IIED is a think tank and, as you can imagine, writing is a real core part of what we do. It's part of our kind of DNA. And so starting to think about how racism does or doesn't get perpetuated in the institute, but we decided to start by thinking about our narratives and thinking about the stories that we tell and how they do or don't perpetuate issues of racism. And I suppose we really thought that we wanted to draw on the knowledge of others that have been working in this space before us.
So we actually partnered with an academic who was a global South academic working in the UK. And what we were able to do with her support is find out what are the global South scholars already seeing and identifying in terms of the racist narratives that are present in development storytelling? So we did a literature review to really try and understand, what is being said in this space already? And there were six kind of different dimensions, I suppose, of racism that these scholars – when we really went through the literature, these scholars – were pointing towards these kind of six different dimensions of racism that they felt are already being played out in development storytelling. So we really used those to think about how we were framing our work.
Liz Carlile [17:47] That's good. Did you find that those kind of pointers in the discussion with colleagues, did they make sense. Or was that a difficult conversation? Did people get to that quite quickly?
Natalie Lartey [18:03] Yeah, that's a really great question. I mean, the six dimensions were… some of them quite common, there were things that we know and talk about already. So we talked about saviourism in storytelling, and we talked about exclusion and this idea that some people's voices are not being heard and some people are not choosing to tell their stories. So they were quite familiar. But there were some other dimensions of racism that we used to do this narrative analysis that were quite new to us. And they were really interesting. We had two dimensions, one called being colour blind – that was really to say that in storytelling, within the international development sector, we really avoid talking about issues linked to race. We might avoid racial descriptors, we might avoid talking about ethnicity, but we also avoid talking about racial injustice and oppression.
There was a second dimension that was all about neutrality and how politically neutral we are in the international development sector, particularly in lots of our storytelling. And actually with that neutrality what we've done is avoid having conversations about colonisation, and about these extremes in wealth and poverty that we tackle and their historical roots in kind of colonial exploitation. And so those two, those two dimensions together, we found that they really actually work together to kind of culminate unintentionally in a narrative that really denied the role that racial injustice and racial oppression plays in the big, critical issues that we work on around global poverty, issues around food or hunger, climate.
So that was really interesting. And, you know, my sense is that staff were really keen to understand more about this. We talked about Eurocentrism, that was another dimension also quite well known. And we talked about the White gaze, this sense that we look at development work through a kind of a prism whereby we are kind positioning White western culture and the way that we organise our societies, for example, as something that's preeminent and maybe the ideal way of organising societies. And we look at other cultures as being lacking maybe in the way that they organise their societies.
And we ask other people to be like us and to aspire towards a White western culture. And, you know, I think one of the really interesting things we found is how saviourism kind of sits alongside or on top of that White gaze. So I think all in all there was some quite familiar concepts that we used to do the work and some new concepts. And people were really keen to kind understand them as separate dimensions and understand how they work together.
Liz Carlile [21:15] That's really interesting. And you can see they're quite challenging, you know, the silence is as big as making noise, isn't it, if not bigger? I mean, I'd like to—before we go on to that sort of question around, you know, the kind of White gaze and the positioning, do we see problems the same? – which I'd love to ask you about, Mpho. I'm just going to ask, Maryam, did—from your work around the sort of developing tools and the consultation with people, did what Natalie's just said, did that resonate with you, with your experience?
Maryam Mohsin [21:48] Yes, it really did. I think one of the things that really struck me when we were doing kind of our round of consultation process was also kind of the issue of, again, it's the power dynamics around feedback. But also this idea that there are lots of colonial undertones to the way in which the sector works, that actually colleagues in countries might not even be aware about.
So there's also a responsibility for organisations to own this problem and this agenda, and to ensure that our colleagues are part of the solution but don't assume that when we've been excluding them for such a long time during the process of, you know, developing things like funding proposals and how we do bids and how we do our comms, they're not necessarily going to know what the solution or the answer is because they don't know what they're being excluded from. So there's almost a bit of an owning what we've done wrong in the first place, and then going forwards and rectifying it through consultation with our colleagues in other countries.
Liz Carlile [22:55] I wanted to ask you about that, Mpho, because I know that, you know, your experience is, you know, quite specific here, you know, do people see the same problems? You know, what the challenge of kind of global North organisations pursuing the kinds of work they want to pursue. Are we consulting enough? Are these the same problems that you and your organisations consider to be the problems? I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.
Mpho Tapela [23:23] Well, personally, I'd say, yes, we have recognised that problem, but it is more like, you know, the elephant in the room that needs to be addressed. Because essentially the global South receives funding support from the global North, right? So you'll have calls for proposals that are put forward. But they're already predetermined. So it really becomes a bit of a problem because when the narrative is pre-shaped for the global South, in terms of focus areas, you have, like, predetermined focus areas to say ‘this call for proposal must specifically focus on one, two, three’.
Like, say for example, if it will focus on gender-based violence, it'll be very specific to say ‘this call for proposal is for gender-based violence, focusing on women and girls’. So, I'm just thinking: what if we want to change the narrative and maybe focus on the perpetrator, look at the perspective of the perpetrator as part of the solution? Would that be a problem if we look at a boy child as a child, as opposed to looking at the boy child as a man who has just committed a crime? Like, if we start doing that and changing that narrative of predetermined focus areas, would it be a problem? I think it would. So with these focus areas or thematic areas, as they're usually referred to, they're very restrictive.
So we always ask ourselves, like, how do these organisations know this is a problem that needs addressing? Like, really, how is this a problem? Has there been consultation? It's really difficult, you know, Liz, it's really difficult for the global South to really now criticise or openly challenge because they need the money, they need the funding. So they really just run the risk of biting the hand that feeds them, so to speak. So it essentially kind of promotes systemic racism. So I'm just wondering, is the global North aware of this problem? Which is maybe a different topic altogether or a conversation for another day. So really to answer your question, I think there is a lingering problem that really needs to be addressed.
Liz Carlile [25:35] I think it's a really good thing to say here. I think, you know, on some level, I'm sure global North organisations who work in strong partnerships with people – and I would put IIED in that category, you know – I think we are aware of the uncomfortable bias of that kind of donor journey. But what I think is important and perhaps something we haven't got a handle on, and maybe it is what Natalie said around this sort of look at—the look at development work through that prism of kind of White gaze, you know? And there's a difference, isn't there, there's a subtle difference.
And, Natalie, I don't know, do you have a sort of—or you, Maryam—do you have a sense of that? I know that you, Maryam, too, have been doing, thinking around sort of funding proposals and how people can be fully included in the process. But, you know, this balance between inclusion of voice and ideas, but in the context of White gaze, you know, there is something quite complex there.
Natalie Lartey [26:35] Yeah, maybe just to come in on that, Liz, I think that when we do work around language or narrative change, it can sometimes be conceived as work that sits quite clearly in a communications space. But actually a lot of the language that we are exploring have quite detailed concepts attached to them that are really critical to how we programme.
So, for example, just building what Mpho was saying, the concept of gender and the way that we understand that when we do development work is a very Eurocentric kind of way of understanding gender dynamics and gender issues. And while I think we’re evolving that, we're moving away from seeing gender as something that is predominantly about women and girls, we're moving into this space that's much more concretely looking at gender roles, looking at women, girls, men, and boys.
In some places where we programme that very idea of gender as we understand it in the western world, it just doesn't always translate. But we are trying to programme, still, without having, I suppose, an eye to the fact that there will be a cultural difference. One of the things I hope we can start to think about is that we can't programme in a cultural vacuum, or programme in a way that is a bit tone deaf culturally, you know?
Just bringing a White western culture with our language and our concepts and kind of pushing that through people, communities, countries of a very different culture that might conceive of that work in a very different way. And still it—still hoping and imagining that we’re going to get the type of impacts that we need in order to make the changes that we all collectively want to see! So I think that this issue of language, and framing, and narrative, it has another side to it, which is really closely wedded to practice. And that definitely came up for us at IIED when we talked to staff about narrative change. We always slipped into conversations about research and programmes. As we work on becoming more inclusive and driving an equity message through our narratives, we'll also see similar change happening in practice and in research.
Liz Carlile [29:15] So I think what, you know—what a lot of this leads to is this, you know, where are the kind of safe spaces or platforms for discussion around language? Mpho, I think, am I right in thinking that, you know, you’re not so sure that we do have the right platforms, you know, that the discussions can be uncomfortable?
Mpho Tapela [29:34] Absolutely, Liz. There really aren't any specific or right platforms. Because, you know, issues around language are usually discussed in workshops and on digital platforms. But, you know, these are very uncomfortable conversations that I feel need to be tackled head-on specifically, you know? Not in between other unrelated conversations.
So I think that we need platforms that are backed up by intensive and targeted consultation, and by research, you know, leading to informed guidance on language that is appropriate and does not discriminate. So we need language that is more anchored on positivity and empowerment. So issues around language are not directly discussed. It's usually really passive and in between conversations, and that is a real—that is a real problem.
Liz Carlile [30:28] Mm, we can't kind of get to the heart of the issue. I can see it can be difficult. We’re getting to the stage in the conversation now where we are sort of drawing to a close. And on the Make Change Happen podcast I always ask people, you know, what's the change they want to see right now? Or what's the big change they want to have happen next?
Or what's the single biggest change they think that would make a difference? So I'm going to ask each of you that before we say goodbye. We know that this is a journey that we—many people have started and done terrific work, and we know that it's a journey that many more people need to join in on. But what do you think the changes need to be? Maryam, what's the change you would like to see?
Maryam Mohsin [31:19] I think, for me, the point you made around being brave and owning it, and… I think that's so important. We come to this sector because we genuinely want to do something good and positive in the world, but I think sometimes as part of that we can be slightly defensive when we’re criticised for getting something wrong. And we really need to let go of that way of being that I do think exists in some parts of the sector – not everywhere, I think there are some organisations that are doing such incredible work on this. But I think in other parts there is a slight defensiveness that, you know, they're not getting things, you know, as—they're not getting things wrong, or there are things that they need to change. And that needs to be addressed and owned up to. But also there's a question around us thinking about, why are we in this in the first place?
Like, are we actually here to perpetuate our own existence as organisations based in the UK, or actually are we genuinely trying to push forward a world which is equitable and sustainable, and actually we don't need to necessarily do the type of work that we are doing right now? So there's a real question around us actually doing what we’re saying that we want to do and living our values. And then I think the other thing is just very quickly that you are completely right – we need to be okay with getting things wrong.
So there shouldn't be any naming and shaming around this as we learn and get things wrong and make mistakes. We all need to help each other out and be forgiving and kind in this process. Because it is difficult, you know, people will feel uncomfortable saying what they think because they're not sure if they're getting it wrong. And, you know, as colleagues, we need to be supportive of each other and just help each other along in that process.
Liz Carlile [33:00] So what's the next step for Bond then? What are you going to be focusing on after all this good work?
Maryam Mohsin [33:07] So we—we’re actually launching a guide in a few months’ time, which breaks down all of the kind of facets of being an NGO – so advocacy, communications, fundraising – and we're looking at, what does that look like? When we're saying we want you to become locally led, what does that mean in practice for NGOs? Because what we're hearing a lot of is that, “Yes, we really want to embrace this agenda, but we just don't know what it means in practice”.
So we're hoping this guide that we will launch in September will help unpack that. And again, you know, that's been informed by lots of colleagues through our various working groups that have been looking at locally led, and are very well informed as well as doing lots of consultation. But it's a live document, so it's not going to just finish once we launch it in September, but we're going to continue to update it. And hopefully as people use it, it'll evolve and become a much more useful and helpful resource over time.
And then we've got a conference that's going to be happening in September called The Power and Development Conference, which will—again, lots of the stuff that we've been discussing on this podcast right now, it will unpack all of those different segments to just air a lot of the thinking that exists, but also give our colleagues in other countries a platform to once again voice, you know, what their concerns are, where they think change needs to happen, and where we need to get to on this locally led development agenda.
Liz Carlile [34:26] That sounds really interesting and lots to watch out for. Mpho, what about you? What's going to be, do you think, is a sort of a big change? And kind of where are you headed next?
Mpho Tapela [34:36] I think for me, let's say, in about 50 years I would like to see Africa more self-reliant and self-sustainable. I want to see a world where we don't need outside funding because we have created social enterprises for sustainability and we're able to solve our own problems, you know, using our own resources. And, you know, in terms of next steps for my organisation, I think we're going to focus perhaps on creating such platforms where we're able to have uncomfortable conversations. And they will probably be both at a national level and district level.
So in terms of the national ones, because, you know, you want to create a platform where people are able to speak with ease, we are going to be looking at different players and make sure that we include everyone. Maybe we'll have a representative from the public sector or the government, we’ll have someone from the private sector, a representative from civil society and, you know, the media because you need those messages to be going out as well. And maybe an educational institution for research purposes so that all our conversations are informed and backed up by research. Like, I really think that we're going to do these platforms.
Whether they're going to be in the form of panel discussions or workshops, we'll see how to tailor-make them. And at district level it would probably be consultations like focus groups in less urban areas because, you know, you always want to have tailor-made platforms so that people are comfortable in their setting. So it would take a different form for the district level, we'd probably have consultations at kgotla meetings. Kgotla meetings, that’s a Sechuana term, it means a place where people… It's a traditional setup, which is highly respected, it's a meeting place where discussions are made, you know, decisions are made and people are able to voice out their opinions freely with the silent protection of the kgotla values and norms.
So I think this is very important because it really creates a level of comfort where people are able to have these uncomfortable conversations with ease. So I think going forward from my organisation we are going to definitely create those platforms to specifically address these issues, Liz.
Liz Carlile [37:02] Brilliant, that sounds so good. And building on something so tried and tested and then we'll be, you know, sharing the learning for what you've managed to build will be brilliant. Natalie, last but not least, of course. What's the sort of a big change and a next step you’re wanting to see?
Natalie Lartey [37:21] I think the big change and next step I would love to see is having some influential organisation and, you know, heavy-hitter voices in our sector, have them build on the work that's happened around language in narratives so far, and start to really create alternative and new narratives for our sector that do two things.
I think, one, it really needs to embrace and be open about the roles that race and power and injustice play in causing poverty, and really getting clear that we will have to tackle issues of race, power, if we're ever to really reach our mandates, and have that evolve and come through our narrative and be really live in our language. I think that that's one thing I think that our new narratives need to have. And I think at the same time we really need to make them much more inclusive, you know, really looking at different cultural perspectives, different racial perspectives, writing for very different audiences that come from different cultural backgrounds. You know, getting out of the echo chamber in a way. I think those two things together would be really exciting.
And I think we can't underestimate how important it is that influential voices and organisations take up the mantle because we need these new narratives and these new words to have traction, you know? They need to be widespread. And so we'll need some of our big figures in the sector to step in and step up with that. And I think it's going to happen.
Liz Carlile [39:16] And on that note, we must say goodbye. I think it's going to happen too. And when I've been listening to all of you today, with your frankness and your honesty and your commitment to this, I think it can happen. And the more of us out there who can buy into that, the better. So just remains for me to thank you all, that’s Mpho Tapela, Maryam Mohsin and Natalie Lartey, thank you so much for a great conversation.
And I should thank IIED for letting me host Make Change Happen. And it's time to say goodbye, and I hope you enjoy both this episode, and previous episodes, and future episodes. And just to say that the—we are having a little bit of a summer holiday from the podcast and we will be publishing again in September. So thank you all very much.
Mpho Tapela [40:14] Thank you very much, Liz.
Natalie Lartey [40:15] Thank you.
Maryam Mohsin [40:16] Thanks, Liz.
Host [40:18] And you can find out more about today's podcast, our guests and their work at www.iied.org/podcast, where you can also listen to more episodes. You can leave us feedback or follow the podcast at soundcloud.com/theIIED. The podcast is produced by our in-house communication team and Tom Evans of particlesound.com. For more information about IIED and our work, please visit us online at www.iied.org.