Behind the Brands Face to Face and the curious thing we call knowledge

In my second week here at Oxfam Novib I had the opportunity to take a peek “behind Behind the Brands” as they call it, by attending the Face to Face meeting which was held here in the building. The Face to Face meeting is an opportunity for members of the global Oxfam Behind the Brands team to get together in order to evaluate what has happened so far, and make new plans for the near and far future.

Since I will be doing my internship within the wide reach of the GROW campaign, including assignments for Behind the Brands, it was a good opportunity to get some first impressions and simply to be thrown into the deep end. And it was a deep, deep, deep end. Of course I had done my preparatory readings, for my internship as well as the meeting itself (and they served me well during the Behind the Brands jeopardy game: 704thousand and something actions taken so far, yeah! Only the intern knew this one!).

Also content-wise I am not new to our political economy, the role of multinationals, value chains, smallholder farmers, climate change, gender, and questions of water and land. Putting these things in relation to one another and into a global perspective: also not such a challenge. However, as soon as the evaluation, campaigning, and strategy talk started, I was lost (again, sorry to the group I was supposed to be brainstorming on strategy with…).

Amongst others this was attributable to the high content of abbreviations and strategy-terminology (of which I am pretty sure half was made-up…), but also the fact that University has taught me nothing with regard to the question: I know all this stuff, but how can I use it if I actually want to do something about the inequalities I care about? And this is exactly what I, as an aspiring and idealistic change agent in this world, am curious to know more about. Being an academic is interesting; I get to gather, synthesise, or even generate knowledge.

I get to learn and write about the inequalities, the villains and the heroes, the past, and of course where it all went wrong (it’s so easy to point fingers). But at the end of the day I felt like a first-year Bachelor student again, who comes in with their bounded knowledge and who is discovering the wide world for the second-first time. So I am looking forward to what I feel is my University-2.0 student-life. And of course, what is a blog-entry without an inspirational quote that captures the moral of this story:

“Knowledge is like an unsurpassable ocean. The vastness of knowledge should always humble its seeker. However, many a times people turn arrogant after acquiring mastery over some skill and therefore, one should work hard on maintaining ones humility and stay grounded.”

Lisette Nikol


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