BB Training Camp – Day 3 – Faith, Conflict and Public Policy
Session 9: Discussion on faiths and what it means to us
By Kanwalpreet Kaur
The session focused on an abstract concept of faith and spirituality, considering it in a larger sense, without relating it to a particular religion. A somewhat lively discussion followed, with many of the participants challenging conventional beliefs and belief systems. One could feel some sympathy towards Ms.Kaur, discussing spirituality and faith with a set of (mostly) self-proclaimed atheists. Although in the end, many agreed that there was need for spirituality in our lives and faith, whatever it may be, should be a path designed to get us there.
Session 10: The Winning Game and the World Café
By the Sri Lankan BB Team
Our session kicked off with the screening of the BB SL festival documentary ‘Start to Finish’ which induced a lot laughter, energy, and spontaneous name calling from our audience each time someone they knew appeared on the screen.
After the screening we facilitated ‘the Winning Game,’ which most SL CGMs are familiar with. Despite lot of discussions and arguments, the Indians CGMs failed to realize the objectives of the exercise, and all of them only managed minus points on the board. After the scores had been put up, we showed them a few pre-prepared slides on the objectives of the game. After which we asked the audience to form three groups and discuss themes such as competition and collaboration. To make the discussion more focused and methodical we used a technique known as ‘World Café.’
World café is an interesting methodology in which large groups of people can interact, share and explore ideas in an informal setting. First the group is divided into a number of small subgroups, and each subgroup is given a question. Preferably each group should be given a table with chairs around it where the actual tablemat to be used as a canvas where the participants can formulate their thoughts. Each group thereafter is given a question to discuss, with each group being given a different question. Their thoughts/answers should be written on the canvas (table-mat). The participants are encouraged to be creative in their exploration with the use of diagrams, pictures or any other form of expression. Each group will only get a limited time to answer each question, and once time is up, each group should move onto another table to answer the next question, leaving one person behind. The idea is that the discussion from the next group can build on the ideas already discussed, thus saving time, and also enabling the group access the ideas and thoughts expressed by the other groups. It’s quite a new and innovative way to collaborate, and could be used in workshop settings.
The questions put forward for our audience, were: Is Competition Healthy? How does the Competition & Interdependency Inter-relate? and Is collaboration a sustainable Philosophy of Practice? After much debate and discussion the audience came up with diverse views on the topics and competition at corporate level as well as at an individual level were discussed and presented by the audience.
Session 11: Diversity (Religion, Conflict and Secularism)
By Mukul Kesavan
Professor of History,
Jamia Millia Islamia (National Islamic University), New Delhi
This session turned out to be one of the most interesting sessions in the camp. The theme discussed was a central theme of BB itself and religion, conflict and secularism were all themes extremely relevant to both India and Sri Lanka. Mukul Kesavan, an expert on secularism is also very well read about the conflict in Sri Lanka. This was quite refreshing since at times, during the life skills camp, the Sri Lankan team felt that the context in which the topics were being discussed was a bit alien to us.
The discussion on diversity largely focused on secularism, seen through various examples worldwide from the recent Pope’s comments, Jack Straw’s comments, and the controversial Danish cartoons, to the Da Vinci Code. Mr Kesavan also spoke about state secularism and ethnic hegemony found in various countries including Sri Lanka. He spoke at length about the concept of Self-determination, and about states such as Israel defined on purely ethnic lines, and consequences of such moves. He also explored the scenario of the Indian Partition, and also took the time to explain at length the form of secularism that is practiced in India, which he said was what kept India in its present state.
He went on further to elaborate on other forms of secularism in countries such as the US and France. He further stressed on the point that states which are formed around ethnic and/or religious identities will find it difficult to become secular and purely democratic. He used the example of Pakistan where he said that some argue Mohamad Jinnah, when he formed Pakistan, wanted it to become a secular democracy, not an Islamic state but when a nation is founded on an ethnic or a religious basis that becomes nearly impossible.
Kesavan also discussed the forms of nationalisms around the world and the sort of effects they are having on citizens of those countries. He discussed at length about the types of nationalisms based on racial, religious or otherwise ethnic identities, and the forms that are unique such as the ‘Bhumi Puthra’ concept practiced in Indonesia.
He talked at length about the Indian freedom struggle, and the tactics used by congress to create what he called a “Noah’s Ark”’ nationalism, which led to a unique form of Indian nationalism which ultimately became successful in creating a secular state.
The discussion was truly thought provoking, and managed to captivate the audience from start to finish.
Session 12: Public Policy
By Dr. Parth J Shah
Centre for Civil Society
The workshop started with Dr. Shah giving a small introduction into public policy and asking the participants to identify some pertinent issues and come up with policy solutions for them. The audience was divided into subgroups, each working on two issues. BBites came up with diverse issues – from issues faced by the auto-rickshaw (three-wheeler) industry in India, and the solutions for them, to the problems regarding the cleaning of the river Yamuna.
The subgroups came up with interesting solutions, and thanks to perhaps some participants being exposed to a seminar by CCS, most solutions were market-oriented. Dr Shah then gave his input on the matters, and we went on to a lengthy, and an animated discussion on public policy and government involvement in the life of its citizenry.
He elaborated on the degree in which it should be desirable, and the byproducts of too much involvement of governments via regulations and laws which acts as a deterrent for development.
The discussion was vibrant and provoked novel, innovative thinking and prospective missing in mainstream policy debates. It was established to an extent that the best thing governments can do in most instances is to just get out of the way, and let the private entrepreneurs take the lead on the path of development.
Session 13: Skills Training – Theatre
By Huma Qureshi
Former CGM, BB India
The theatre training exercise was more about having fun than any serious work about theatre. A few games were which remotely related to theatre was played, which were entertaining.
Session 14: Film Screening – a second hand in life
By Ravi Gulati
The film screened was about e-waste, which has damning effects on the social fabric of urban Indian poor kids, well below the legal working age, engaging in sorting e-waste, which is ‘dumped’ into India from European companies. Indian workers (mostly children) try to extract valuable metals from this electronic equipment, and the procedure is extremely harmful to their health. The film dealt with the issue from the view point of kids who engage in these activities, as well as the circumstances that lead to it.
The screening followed a lively debate and discussion between participants as well as the host, numerous measures such as strict government regulation was discussed. There were no consensus on how to deal with the issue; some novel approaches such as corporate initiatives such as creation of green-friendly computers were discussed as remedies to the larger issue of e-waste.