By Álvaro Iniesta Pérez (Spain)
“Good governance calls upon the intelligence of everyone.” That was the conclusion of an activist from Reunion Island who participated in a workshop about governance in July at the ATD Fourth World international headquarters in Mery-sur-oise France.
Since Joseph Wresinski’s passing in 1988, ATD Fourth World has been in an ongoing search for a method of governance that would allow it to keep moving forward, while at the same time remaining loyal to ideals of justice and peace, and to the encounters that strengthen people and families struggling against the ravages of extreme poverty on a daily basis.
What do we mean by ‘governance’? We mean the way we organize ourselves. How we progress as a movement. How we evaluate our action and make decisions. Which is to say, ATD Fourth World is like a laboratory for experimenting to find the conditions necessary to include the participation and support of everyone in building our world.
We are searching in our own history for reference points to help us remain creative and ambitious with regards to our own practices of governance. But we also want to share our experience with others. This is why, since July, ATD Fourth World has held a series of workshops on governance, in preparation for a seminar being organized in November. The goal is to bring together everything we have learned over the years and to analyze the lessons alongside politicians, philosophers, religious leaders, sociologists, researchers, and activists.
Each workshop approaches the theme from a different angle. In July, we discussed our work on building a governance anchored in freedom and diversity of people and commitments. Eugen Brand, part of the ATD Fourth World International Leadership Team for many years, has been at the center of this whole process. As part of a shared effort, Eugen is putting words to the experience of those years at the head of the organization. This experience serves as a basis for discussion and questioning through the lens of our own experience and vision of what has been done and is being done in the field of governance.
There are many lessons that remain from my participation in this workshop, too many of them for such a short article. I will share just a few of those that stay with me:
- There is a profound link that unites our governance and our identity, with each interacting with and influencing the other.
- Each person, no matter that they live in extreme poverty, has valid ideas that deserve to be developed, checked, shared, and taken into account. This conviction goes along with a refusal to let anyone else define “who you are,” closing you in with their definitions.
- As a movement, we are not focused on solving problems, but on experimenting with the necessary conditions for all of us to escape poverty. Which is to say, governance is a project for all of society.