GenDev Team Intro: Jonny on the struggle between pragmatism and idealism
Jonny from team GenDev sums up his hopes for GenDev this week in our first Team Intro blog. Watch this space for more introductions from the rest of the team!
It’s been a frantic few weeks at GenDev. In the middle of scrutinising some amazing applications for our new global team, starting a new job (alright, not so relevant to GenDev I admit) after almost a decade in higher education, Tim then asks that I step up to his industrious blog-writing with an entry of my own.
Because given the inspiringly wide reach our website appears to be extending to, I thought I’d write a little something about myself. Since if we’re going to mobilise young people in discussing international development policy, we better know who’s saying what!
So here it goes. I’m Jonny, that’s me up there in the picture. Yes, that’s right. The guy shouting and waving his hands up and down. I’m a junior doctor in my first year in Bristol, England and like to spend my time out of work maximising my time and energy for when I get a chance to jump up and down on the spot about some old or new global health injustice topic. Over the last few years I’ve spent a lot of time in and out of the student global health community in the UK, particularly with a group rather close to my heart known as Medsin but have finally been forced to close the door to student life and start a career in medicine. Though a good job, I do feel sometimes the life of frontline work in development or healthcare can distract from speaking out against social inequities.
Which brings me to what I wanted to talk about in fact. For many of us who want to change practice in international development, there is I believe always a tussle in which approach to adopt. Quite simply, do we make change at the grassroots, or take our case to the policymakers who set the agenda? The obvious answer I can hear you saying is probably both. But that’s too simple, and I remain to have issue understanding how we can think big but make small changes daily all at the same time.
So, if you look back up at the photo above, you’ll see just next to me a good friend of mine. Having gone to school together, joined forces now and again over the years to fight some global injustice crime, and travelled overseas, I hope he doesn’t mind being mentioned on a global forum such as this. (If he does, he shall remain nameless to all but those who shall obviously recognise the back of his head.)
This friend of mine and I were chatting one afternoon years back; there we were, excited and about to go off on our ‘gap years’ just before starting university. (For all of those who don’t know what a gap year is when you see one, you can read all about them right here.) Rather wonderfully naive to the politics of social change, eager to get out in the world and try our hand at changing it, I recall our shared zeal for what was going to come. As we chatted about what we thought we could do, I enquired as to how he thought he would maintain an uplifting spirit yet determined cool in the face of the injustices he was about to see abroad.
He told me then two things. One, we need pragmatists in development. Feasibility, effectiveness, quality, tangible change. We’ve all seen the effects of the business and quantitative approach on the field of development, and right he was. But it was his second point that stuck more. Idealism is the important driver; impassioned idealists are the ones who shall change the world. I like to think there are people who get up in the morning and look out at what they think isn’t right, and set about changing it. Not to make this friend of mine out as a wise ascetic, though I’m sure he’d love to hear he was, but the idea of the pragmatic idealist stuck with me ever since.
Because, if we are looking for anything in GenDev, it’s the idealists out there who have something to say about changing the world. Of course we need people who understand international development policy, who can engage with the systems that provide services and support to communities the world over. And that includes the people working on the frontline in services the world over, who understand the reality of the problems we’re talking about. But most importantly, we need those who can demand what’s right, when the systems we have are so clearly delivering much that is wrong.
That’s why I’ve stayed involved with GenDev since the start. From a small idea that Tim and I shared at a student global health conference, we have now a website with a growing number of people beginning to also question what’s right and wrong with international development. It’s why I grow hopeful, even after a long hard day at work, in returning home to the messages and enthusiasm of all that have joined GenDev so far, that we’re going to kick up a loud storm and make ourselves heard in the halls of development institutions in the next few years. So basically, here’s my chance to use that loud hand-waving I talked about.
What’s next for GenDev?
We’ll be announcing our new global team very soon, with new plans, ideas and opportunities coming straight to your via our website shortly after. In the meantime, we’re looking for anyone with something to say about international development, the Millennium Development Goals, or even just a story they’ve come across in their country or locality.
If you want to get in touch with us we’re always here to listen at [email protected]. Drop us a line and tell us your thoughts on our work so far!
Otherwise it’s over to the next blogger for another interesting treat and analysis of some other global or development topic. Look forward to writing to you all soon!
In solidarity and hope,