Finding the Good: Conference Seeks to Generate New ideas for Ethical International Development
How can ideas that begin in the classroom grow into real-world solutions to attack poverty, hunger, and gender inequality around the world? And – on the flip side – how can front-line practice inform the way students and researchers comprehend increasingly complex challenges to fundamental human rights?
International Development scholars and practitioners from across North America will convene at Okanagan College next month for a unique conference aimed at finding innovative ways to advance social justice, inclusion and human rights in development efforts around the world.
The conference – Finding the Good – happens June 8-9 at the College’s Kelowna campus. The first day will offer thematic workshops, discussions, and networking, with a focus on developing a book project on the theme of Ethics in International Development.
"Finding the Good is about bringing people together for dialogue focused on bringing about real change in this field and out in the world,” explains conference organizer Dr. Rosalind Warner, who teaches Political Science at Okanagan College. “The idea behind the conference is to create a space where scholarly insights and practical development work collide. Hopefully, the result will be solutions that improve the lives of people experiencing marginalization, discrimination and oppression."
"It’s a conference focused on generating big ideas but even more importantly it’s about coming up with a plan for how we put those big ideas into practice."
Sessions will cover a host of topics from public-private sector partnerships to women, gender and feminism to putting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations in 2015 – into a local context.
"The SDGs are indivisible, universal and aspirational goals and they apply as much at the local level as they do at the global level. The conference will therefore be of interest to those working to solve problems right here in the valley,” notes Warner.
Day two of Finding the Good will see keynote presentations by renowned International development professionals Chloe Schwenke and Michael Simpson.
Schwenke, a former Director of the Global Program on Violence, Rights, and Inclusion at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), brings more than three decades experience as a human rights and social inclusion scholar and international development practitioner.
"There is a lack of effective, structured discussions on the current moral and economic climate in international development,” notes Schwenke, who currently serves as Interim Executive Director of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), based at the University of Maryland in College Park.
"Our partnerships with the developing world are changing rapidly and there is a definite need for scholars and practitioners alike to come together and discuss how we can inform new public policy, and how we can spark conversations that fuel paradigm shifts."
As an educator, Schwenke says she has noticed more and more students stepping forward to join that conversation.
"There seems to be a growing interest in social inclusion issues and marginalization populations, from women to the LGBTQ community. Young people really relate to these topics and obviously we want to inspire and encourage them to add their voice to the conversation,” adds Schwenke.
Those interested in hearing more about Schwenke’s life and work as an LGBTQ scholar can also attend a book launch for her new memoir SELF-ish: a transgender awakening on June 8 at 5:30 p.m. at Infusions Restaurant at the Kelowna campus. Schwenke will share excerpts from the work in which she shares her experiences as an openly transgender Quaker woman whose life’s journey includes living in five countries and working on projects in more than 40, mostly in Africa and the Middle East. The event is free. Attendees can register in advance on Eventbrite.
Michael Simpson is the Executive Director of the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC). Prior to working for BCCIC, Michael was the Executive Director of One Sky – The Canadian Institute for Sustainable Living. His work with One Sky varied from leading major bilateral projects in West Africa including Nigeria and Sierra Leone to working in Latin America on projects ranging from forest conservation to leadership development. He is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker who has worked extensively in conflict and post-conflict areas around the globe.
Registration for Finding the Good is open online until June 1. Attendees can choose to register for a single day (Friday or Saturday) for $130 or both days for $170. Both days are open to public registration.
More information is available at okanagan.bc.ca/findingthegood. Follow this event on Facebook and on #ocfindingthegood.