Jan 14 2016

Knowledge helps creating an enabling environment for change in Jordan

Published by at 11:26 am under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

Behavioural experts have been studying what makes people change the way they think and work. Change management has become a popular field people are trying to figure out how to operate and refine.

Some argue that societal change needs to begin at the bottom and rise to the top, while others insist that only a few elite persons can effect change and, therefore, it needs to take place at the top and work its way down.

In all cases experts agree that for change to occur it requires an enabling environment that supports and rewards, rather than discourages and fights change.
A crucial element for change is the human element.

Change, however, is not always easy to accept. Resistance to change is often listed as one of the biggest obstacles that cause delays and sometimes the abortion of ambitious and strategic plans that require change.
People at the bottom as well as leaders often voluntarily or involuntarily become change obstructionists.

Obstructionists are usually ready to stop change with boilerplate formulas. It is coming from abroad, it does not fit our cultural way, it is against our values: these are some of the ready statements that delay and sometimes stop change.

On the other side, there are people and organisations that encourage change and are ready to build on kernels of change until they snowball into a genuine success story.
A country like Jordan, with limited resources and well-educated and talented human resources, can be a perfect arena for strategic change if it is able to overcome these impediments.

When I think of change my mind always goes to change agents, individuals who are willing to step out of their comfort zone and take a stab at an effort that people are not used to.

They are often met with attacks, criticisms and scorn, but they persist. Business entrepreneurs, creative artists, professionals of all walks of life are all potential change agents.

In the coming year and a half, Jordanians will participate in elections at three levels: to choose a new Parliament, municipal and decentralised councils.
Many are hoping and praying that we will be blessed with new leaders who personify change for the better, with strong agents of change willing to run for office, that communities support and voters will be willing to make that crucial decision of voting for them, irrespective of tribal or family ties.
For change to occur and be effective, the public needs to be given correct and accurate information.

Media can play a huge role in this effort, helping the public know about candidates, challenging candidates to address the country’s real needs and scrutinising candidates to ensure that the public knows all about them and can make a wise and informed decision.

Jordan’s participation in the Open Government Partnership and its access to information legislation allows media practitioners to do a lot in deciphering the plethora of information that is now available.

New media forums and techniques are available, such as data journalism, that allow complicated data to be translated into easy-to-understand charts and infographics.
Some of this effort by courageous investigative journalists has already yielded impressive results in uncovering problems that were kept in the dark.
Jordanians are more knowledgeable today about “Article 308”, which waives punishment of rapists if they marry the women they rape.
Information related to Syrian refugees produced changes in how the government and UN agencies work.

Change happened in other fields as well, leading to stopping doctors from taking advantage of families of autistic children, violators of timeshare tourism packages and abusers of engineering practices.

In other cases the new technology simply make information more readily understood such as using data journalism to track loses of Jordan’s national carrier, the effects of rise in energy costs on industry, calculation of the travels of the King or the number of times that parliament has to cancel sessions because of lack of quorum.
In some cases this information was a trigger to make appropriate change, in others it rattled people who are still unwilling to accept the need for change.

No one has a monopoly on truth. However, seeking and circulating information in a user friendly way is certainly a key component to creating an open society.
How a society deals with change and change agents is crucial to deciding if we are simply spinning our wheels or on the way to create a better country.

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