Advocacy and consulting: conflictual or compatible?
Something that has often held my attention the past couple of weeks is the conscious and unconscious roles of advocacy in futures work. This is particularly so in the context of where I currently work: a consulting firm that is specialised (at least on paper, the reality often seems different) in sustainability, or sustainable development - along with the often uninspiring area of corporate responsibility. As someone who has been a passionate advocate for these issues for many years and an activist it is clear to me that advocacy (along with toned-down activism) often creeps into my work... sometimes without me "knowing", other times because I want it to; because I feel nothing less than a compulsion to get people/organisations to ACT NOW to help address the myriad challenges that we face.
In analysing the current and emering issues facing a client I could, for example, only want to pay attention to the ones that are likely to lead them to embrace the concept of sustainability or to help create some aspect of the my preferred future. This may or may not be, strictly speaking, good advice (which is what a consultant is asked to provide - to lead to actions in the best interests of his or her client that will help them to achieve their objectives). Or it may be. Increasingly detached, unemotional analysis - which is the kind that I typically have to write in formal reports for clients - leaves me feeling cold... the meaning is lost in the translation... and it makes me want to join an international NGO and do some campaigning or advocacy work. What about you - do you ever grapple with this? How do you resolve these kinds of conflicts if you encounter them> What are the ethical dilemmas in amongst all of this??
A chance run-in to Sohail Inayatullah a week or so ago gave me the opportunity to ask Sohail his views on the topic...