The actionability of sustainable development and social change: A rural community perspective

Wed, 24 Feb 2021 Source: Evans Jakpa-Johns

After six hours journey across the rough, stony ground from Accra to the Ashanti Region in Ghana, I sat quietly under the sunshade in a social distance setting in adherence to the tenet of the covid-19 protocols. On this bright sunny day, I looked vacantly at local dancers, wearing fanciful apparel, handmade jewelry with beautiful, cheerful smiles, who came out in their numbers (both men, women, and children) to welcome us.

Albeit, during a collaborative charitable water project commissioning for the people of Afoako, in a remote village in Kumasi, Ghana, and as I listened carefully to my friend and brother, Emmanuel Kojo Jones-Mensah (Entrepreneur and Founder of the KJM Foundation) opening speech, including several distinguished speakers, touching succinctly on every facet of the community and everyday life of the citizenry.

As fondly called, Kojo Jones spoke oratory briefly well on his unrelenting commitment to "positive social change" and make a case for every individual to access clean and potable drinking water in a sustainable environment. Prompted by his noble generosity, I carefully jotted down a few communicative, effective, and direct keywords. So pardon me if I write-read from my reflexive note because I wanted to be somewhat pithily.

I then pondered the Sustainable Development (SD) Interventionist phenomenon, its complexities, and the Situational/Participatory Leadership paradigm. Therefore, the critical question is, 'how does a leader go beyond the status quo and set the agenda for effective change?' Specifically, (i) what leadership characteristics support a change agenda's development and forward momentum within an underprivileged community? And (ii) is there a single leadership style that lends itself to most generosity effecting change in a heterogeneous society?

Notably, I have read extensively on SD, Universal Basic Income (UBI), and Philanthropy in Africa and other developing countries vs. the Welfare Systems in the United Kingdom and several western regions. And despite the extensive literature that provides multidisciplinary logical guidelines for SD deriving theories from text and data, there's still no universal recipe for successful intervention, supporting the development and forward momentum of the implementational agenda. Generally, the SD phenomenon is consistently fraught with contradictory and contrasting symbolic rhetoric.

And this is particularly noticeable as change agents/leaders continue to lack a clear and comprehensive understanding of SD in community intervention, its antecedents, effective processes, or the ability to engage stakeholders in SD initiatives necessarily for improvement successfully.

Sustainability is a good thing but devoid of operational definitions; therein lies the ethical paradox. Nonetheless, as a scholar-practitioner, having the internal momentum to integrate theory, research, and practice is fundamentally essential for practical and useful SD. Accordingly, I aim to redefine and elaborate the term SD and its underlying philosophy toward "positive social change" and propose a new collaboration process towards an agile mindset that would awaken our consciences to do right in the present and by future generations yet unborn. Therefore, I adopt the approach that;

Sustainable Development is emancipatory, period!

• Sustainability dictates that we must invest in the citizens' future to liberate & free them from dependency to an end of hope & light and assured inheritance for their future generations to generate wealth and wellbeing.

• Create a changing environment that is dynamic and enables a plausible wealth creation mechanism that is revolutionary.

• An elaborate evolution that induces a paradigm shift; equity, thus, agile community mindset and forward-thinking cocreation cohorts (actionable, community development trust, cooperatives, microfinance, etc.).

• Meaning, central government handouts and spoon-feeding charitable work are beneficially unsustainable.

To be sure, emancipation is the true definition of CHANGE; sustainably, a Stewardship and a Servant Leader must aim to unite and liberate, based on the concept of "freedom."

Put merely, SD's role is to mitigate these paradoxes and provide a rapprochement to cope with the ecological catastrophic (sustainability) while preserving economic growth (development). Transformational and community leaders must seize the moment, facilitate holistic mapping, ensure diversity of thought, organize, and turn emergent possibilities into reality collectively.

A young fellow once asked; When would he know to make a move to step out on his own?. The answer was "yesterday," you have to "want" it because the most difficult decision to make is the decision to do it now, the ability to be intentional and resilient. Getting the underprivileged communities involved to "help push the peanut up the hill" that's giving back to society- that's the future.

And that confer a powerful source of legitimacy on leadership, which must be open and dynamic, responsible decision-making, defying-the-odds; staying-the-course; succeeding through resilience and robustness, tolerance and flexibility, and navigating an uncertain environment for the common good. Each transformative readiness gives rise to continuous improvement, fostering a compelling case for more robust, iteratively cross-border, and multidisciplinary collaboration among stakeholders from governments, academia, businesses, and civil society.

As we advance, African nations and their rural communities must take charge of their future and entirely in the pilot's seat of their individual and collective Social, Political, and Economic integrational ambition. Arguably, this can be facilitated and accelerated by sustainable community development, inclusive workforce development, innovative initiatives, investment, education, natural capital stock, and resource management, setting their trajectory to commandeer the benefits they define and desire collaboratively.

In conclusion, a scholar once explains pragmatism as; 'any difference that makes no difference is no difference.' Be pragmatic and public-serving.

Columnist: Evans Jakpa-Johns