Monday 29 December 2008

The learning contract

In a recent conversation with Charles Shamas, humanitarian law expert with a background in cognitive sciences, we discussed connections between “law” and cognitive development. We believe that the success of a development programme depends to a great extent on cognitive development processes, i.e. the acquisition of new perceptions and knowledge systems, i.e. learning, among the actors involved. In a nutshell: if you want to gain fresh insights and skills, or support others in their learning processes, you must leave the safe territory of familiar knowledge so as to accommodate new, previously unknown mental objects. “Old” certainties may be shattered by new discoveries. “Can you live with ambiguity?” is a key question for job interviews in development NGOs. People deal differently with change. Individual life histories shape people’s ability to accommodate, to welcome the sense of destabilisation that comes with cognitive change. Situational factors play a role, too: experimentation feels less risky in a friendly, stable environment than in an oppressive or very unpredictable one.

Monday 15 December 2008

German CEDAW Report - the personal remains political

Today, experts from 28 German NGOs have submitted the 2008 CEDAW shadow report to the Ministry of Family, Senior Citizens, Health and Youth. Given our demographic structure, this Ministry should be the most powerful of all, serving the majority of the population... It isn't. What if someone sneakily added "Men" to the Ministry's list of clients? Would its budget see a steep increase?