An Insight to the Future – Volunteering at the Bond Annual Conference 2014

Conference AudienceThe 10th November marked an important occasion for the International Development community. It was a day to discuss, challenge and prepare for the radical change that is to be experienced in the forthcoming year. The Bond Annual Conference 2014 named ‘Redefining Development: the future beyond 2015’ was a creative space for delegates to become ‘future fit’ for the advent of post-2015 agenda. The 900 delegates present were encouraged to interact, participate and respond to issues and questions posed through the conference’s 5 key themes: organisational effectiveness, policy, programmes, funding and campaigns, all of which consulted on ‘development futures’. It was a day for recognition, reflection and response to the future of our sector.

Bold statements were made with Jay Naidoo, former Minister in the Mandela Cabinet and Chairman of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), instructing the delegation that ‘The most important lesson of international development is to shut your mouth and listen’. Within the first hour of the conference, the entire sector had been put into question. Naidoo presented the current Ebola crisis as evidence for some of the failures of the sector. Proposing we are ‘still living with a 19th

century mindset’, leading to a prevailing ignorance of the current outbreak of the disease. Presenting that for some, the image of the ‘dark continent’ still frames an understanding of Africa, Naidoo’s anecdotal evidence underlined the need for change. The concerns felt towards him travelling to South Africa provided again sufficient evidence towards the ignorance of the outbreak- a view that Africa is a country, not a continent. Through such a perceptive example, Naidoo urged for a drastic change to the sector: one that would rid of ignorance; would call for education; that saw people no longer as victims and saw young people at the centre of the discourse. It was truly inspirational.

Key note speakers underlined the theme of the conference through insightful and thought-provoking presentations, workshops and debates. In my volunteer position, I was involved in the organisation of the day, helping to assist panellists and became immersed in the buzz of the event. It was wonderful opportunity to listen to high-profile individuals on their experiences, others responses and suggestions of what the post-2015 world will look like.

A particular topic that grasped my attention was the prioritisation of Disability and Development. Listening to the panellists, I was inspired by the work already carried out and the involvement of those with disabilities within the sector. Two of the panel were wheelchair users, proof that disability is no longer a barrier to involvement. In particular, WaterAid conceptualised what it meant to live with a disability and helped the audience imagine their lives in terms of the everyday of experiences of those with disabilities. As Sir Malcom Bruce (chairman of the International Development Select Committee) promoted ‘Development is for all’ and it was articulated that the post-2015 world should aim to be one that is truly inclusionary, accounts for and provides opportunities for all.

Volunteering at the Bond Conference was a wonderful experience; a real inspiration.

Article by Sarah Begg

Photo by Adriaan Bloem under a Creative Commons License

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