Data obtained by newspapers in the UK has shown that a summit against rape in war zones held in London and organised by William Hague, senior conservative figure and ex-Foreign Secretary of the UK government, and Angeline Jolie, actress, has cost 5 million pounds sterling. £300000 were spent in food, and £576000 in hotels and taxis. There were delegates from 123 countries. As a reference, the UK Foreign Office total budget to address sexual violence and conflict areas is £1 million.
I have no intention to discuss the intentions, nor establishing a (not very difficult to establish) political discussion.
What Hague and Jolie did was a simple addition to the long list of useless one-off, top-down, jamborees, ‘events’, high octane flashmobs. It’s ill informed information tsunami as I have described in Viral Change™ (2006, 2008) and Homo Imitans (2011). It is what I call World I in Homo Imintans: the world of top down, cascade-down (although here did not even cascade anywhere other than to the hotel bills). It’s extremely well intentioned noise, naïve understanding of the relationships between motivation and action, and a colossal, if immature, expression of hope in the ability of Noise, Inspiration, Celebrity-led Causes and Communications, to change behaviours.
In my work with organizations, I talk about the need to link the Push (World I) and Pull (World II) mechanism, not to rely on Push only. Push systems are the equivalent of flashmobs. A Hague/Jolie/Anybody/Noise/Push without a pull mechanism in place (= pre-organised, pre-trained and orchestrated local grassroots ready to get the baton) is a dramatic spending and waste.
I am not even concerned about the money waste. It is the opportunity wasted that worries me and, above all, how the failure (American Bar Association in Congo said rape prosecutions had fallen) is taking as a proof of impossibility to change, killing of hope and increased helplessness, leading to resignation and switching off.
Without Viral Change –like Pull, and scale up system in place, societal initiatives, ‘health education’ campaigns, and many well intentioned ‘advocacy’ systems fail at the same rate we know internal (to the organization) communications and change systems fail: about three quarters of them.
These type of news are sad, but even sadder because the political quarrels and point-scoring superficial political ‘discussion’ around them, miss completely the point. Neither Hague/Jolie or any other Equivalent did set out to waste time and money. It is the complete lack of understanding how people mobilization and large scale behaviors change works, that worries me.