08 March 2010

Preconceived Ideas

Today I spend an other day communicating in various manners about the wonderful African environment, and how we work together to engender sustainable progress. In doing so, while anticipating the receiver or the communication, I am wrapping my mind around the many components enshrined in contemporary thinking. Realities of rural Africa appear so much removed from the preunderstandings of most recipients of my communications, that the barriers to be overcome are often staggering.

Being separated for many thousands of kilometers and with few communications paths or sketchy personal experiences, the information an audience possesses about rural Africa is quite limited. This is easy to solve by supplying the facts. But the disposition that most audience bring with its prejudices and biases about rural Africa is more difficult to address. Years of negative mass-media messages, pictures of disasters, and stories of mismanagement have taken their toll. It becomes even more complex when world views, and frame of references, and personal perspectives are taken into account. And, of course, than there are the approach/methodology issues.. That is where the rubber hits the road hard.

It appears that many interested in rural Africa already have figured out 'solutions' based upon their preunderstanding, even before communications take place. One wonder what is thus being missed, what is not being noticed? It is obvious the preunderstanding plays an influential role in the process of communications, and as such to challenge what one sees is an important part of the Macha Works road map. With the distinct phase of 'looking', we challenge preconceived ideas that often come unconsciously and can mask their own falsity. In the mean time, communications seem to serve mainly to either change or strengthen existing preunderstanding. With a large rift between the contemporary preunderstanding and the actual situation in rural Africa, it is imperative, though daunting, to communicate well.