The theme of this blogsite is “Sustainable development by maximizing stakeholder engagement.” This theme maintains the idea that in order for solutions to be sustainable, as many stakeholders as possible must be involved. In other words, the greater the engagement of stakeholders, the more sustainable the solution. It is the common message that you will find behind all of our blog posts, and it is the common foundation you will find in all of TCI’s activities.
Whether in the arts, governance, economics, or social development, the importance of maximizing stakeholder engagement is clear. TCI uses research, education and technical support to maximize stakeholder engagement. It is the best way we know to promote good governance and sustainable development.
In the countries from which slaves were imported into the Caribbean, there is a strong tradition of story telling. Many of the stories are for entertainment and are woven around proverbs and wise sayings. Many are structured as riddles that require audience participation. We consider those as being “interactive”. The forms of storytelling, and even some of the characters (like the Ashante tribe’s “Ananse”, who became the American South’s “Aunt Nancy”), have survived the Atlantic crossing, the experience of slavery, and the centuries of time.
Though the forms of storytelling have generally survived, one of the important traditions did not: the traditional oral historian. The oral history tradition has been widely documented, researched, and debated. But debates about the value of the oral method for historical documentation notwithstanding, traditional oral historians in West Africa have played a stakeholder engagement role that goes far beyond historical documentation. The traditional oral historians recount, usually with the aid of music, the history of their communities in great and lengthy detail, working into their sagas many stories of individuals and families and their roles in the collective experience of the community. This insertion of individuals and families, by name, into the narrative of the community provides an emotive anchor linking contemporary community members in the audience to their antecedents and to the history of the community, and instills in them a stake in the governance of the community. In TCI’s view, local governance and citizen engagement in community affairs are the most important outcome of the African oral history tradition. The fact that the institution of oral history with a tradition of civic inclusion did not survive the Atlantic crossing and the experience of slavery is evident in the ease with which many rural folk have been disenfranchised in the Caribbean, especially in societies where autocratic rulers centralized power to extract local resources.
This is a case where stakeholder engagement was not maximized, and as a consequence sustainability and good governance were not served.