This week was the kick-off of a new
academic year and a new Oxfam Novib Academy batch. In a three-day introduction we
learned more about Oxfam’s mission, its staff, the different departments and
our role in the organisation.

Our first morning started with the exciting
opportunity to meet Oxfam Novib’s executive director Farah Karimi in a Q&A
session. With enthusiasm, she answered questions about her background in
politics, her perspective on Oxfam’s mission and the implications of the Dutch
government’s changing attitude towards development aid.


Photo: Farah Karimi with the interns | Photo Credit: Oxfam Novib Academy 

Like Farah, all Oxfam staff members showed
us an open and welcoming attitude when sharing their knowledge and expertise
with us. In specific, I was inspired by Marije Visée, a campaigner who (amongst
many other activities) works on the Fair Finance Guide. Marije used the
following video as an unexpectedly good example of a successful campaign


Photo: Marije conducting the Digital Campaigning workshop | Photo Credit: Oxfam Novib Academy 

In the video, a somewhat eccentric “dancing
guy” successfully starts a movement by getting other people to dance with him. He
shows all ingredients needed to mobilise people such as; being where the
audience is, setting the example and connecting to the public.

 But how is it that this guy is not just
some weird person dancing on his own, as the one filming him initially must
have thought? What makes him a leader? Derek Sivers argues in his TED talk that
it’s a
ctually the second dancer who takes a crucial role in starting a movement.
This first follower, the one who joins the dance first is an example to all
followers to come. He is one that turns a crazy loner into a leader. The first
follower sets the example of how to join and after that, it’s only a matter of
time before everyone wants to be part of this cool new movement. 

Over the last two weeks, the refugee-issue
has received unprecedented attention after some horrific incidents shocked Europe.
All over the Netherlands and other European countries, initiatives have sprung
up to help the refugees. People hope to make a difference by collecting
clothes, baby milk formula, toothbrushes and other helpful items. They deliver
these personally at refugee camps; in some cases traveling from their Dutch
homes to refugee camps like Calais or Greek island Lesbos.

I think it is great that people are taking
the initiative to act where governments fail to do so. However, it might be
worth thinking about the value of followers. Isn’t a lot of energy and money
wasted when everyone acts individually? Can’t we make a bigger difference in
working together? Last Sunday, NRC reported that many well-intentioned initiatives miss their target. A striking
example is the donation of hundreds of toys to a shelter
that hosted only male adults. This made me think of the video of the dancing
guy and his follower. Keeping him in mind, I can decide to be a follower and
support existing organisations, rather than necessarily trying to be a leader myself.

Renée Hagen

is an intern with the Global Call to Action for Indigenous and Community Land
Rights Campaign team and a Masters student at Leiden University.  Perhaps, the only thing overpowering her
passion for land rights is her obsession with rowing. Once a national team rowing
member, she has now retired to (amongst other things) blogging her adventures
at the Oxfam Novib Academy.


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