Sunday, March 14, 2010

Preconceived notions hurt advocacy:

Preconceived notions hurt advocacy:

"It's amazing what ordinary people can do if they set out without preconceived notions." - Charles F. Kettering

Many of us in civil society involved in petroleum development usually go to the negotiating table of our government or private sector partners with already preconceived ideas about the outcomes, such as; “they usually don’t listen”; “they won’t take our advice seriously,” “they don’t have respect for us” “they treat values as secondary, their primary concern is profit”…the list goes on and on. This situation is a few times based on genuinely past experiences where these partners have demonstrated to us such tendencies.

However most of the time, these preconceived notions are only “a hunch”, based on nothing other than heresy, mere stories (genuine or false) that our fellow CSOs have communicated to us. Yes, we maybe ordinary, we may not have comparable financial or political power, but our different type of power is deeply rooted in those undeniable and unwavering values that unite us all. Whether you are in government or private sector, you don’t want to be a victim of corruption, you want to be trusted and deal with trusted partners, you would like your partners to be transparent and honest; you don’t want to spend your life running looking over your shoulder; instead you desire peace and good governance in your life, your home, community or nation. CSOs involved in petroleum development must therefore grow a culture of trust and faith that each time of negotiation, dialogue or interaction with government and private sector is different and comes with a different opportunity.

You may not have got the reception you wanted in the past, but things could have changed now; the hardened oil company officer or government agent you met that time could have moved on and in their place is now another officer who is willing to hear and consider your position seriously. However, if you approach each new circumstance with a vision darkened by your previous bad experiences, chances are that you are only going to turn another great opportunity into a missed chance. Yes, Charlse is right, "It's amazing what ordinary people (read CSOs) can do if they set out without preconceived notions."

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