I have heard several people praise Time to Listen for its thoroughness and depth, yet also state that there is nothing new in it. “We’ve heard it all before,” they say. Of course they are wrong. There is much that is “new” in Time to Listen in the sense that the book frames the gathered experiences in a way that points toward real and practical change. That doesn’t come along everyday and to miss that is to miss the whole point of the book.
However, I want to take on the specific idea that “we’ve heard this all before”.
In fact, if you listen closely to people in recipient societies – as the Listening Project did – what people are saying is that we have not heard them. That is the basic message at the heart of Time to Listen. Indeed, if we had heard them, we would not be acting as we act. If we had heard, people said, then we would not continue to fail so egregiously and continuously.
Yes, these concerns and issues have occurred to you. You have direct experience with them, having seen them or done them. You have probably had conversations about them. But you have not actually heard them.
Time to Listen is more than a collection of stories or yet another report that makes us chuckle ruefully and squirm a little in our chairs while we remind ourselves that we are the good guys.
Time to Listen is a call to action. What are you going to do today to make someone in a recipient society’s life better?
“We’ve heard this all before.” That is a phrase we all have heard before and we have seen the results. The denial of the possibility of change in those words in no longer tenable. Time to really listen, and then act on what you have heard.
By Marshall Wallace, Director of the Do No Harm Program, CDA