From Hearing to Listening: Critical Story of Change

Development agencies tend to focus on the aspects of social change that affect people in the South. However, much of ActionAid’s work on creating a space and voice for the poor takes place in the North. This story looks at how a Brussels based network of NGOs and Trades Unions works to create a space for poor and vulnerable people within the EU. It focuses on the DG Trade (The Directorate General for External Trade)’s Civil Society Dialogue, a meeting ostensibly aimed to provide the platform for discussion, and explores the issues for creating change in practice for NGOs in the North and the challenges for creating changes in policy which might lead to social change in the South. The story is of personalities and agendas, and emphasises how building relationships is key to creating development opportunities. The story would be useful for anyone working in coalition or network with governments as it tries to understand the intricacies of government policy. Interestingly the story was critical of both NGOs and government, and the story draw upon several lessons that would be valuable for NGOs’ practice.