The Good Lobby Summer Academy is a special event. Not many settings see practitioners, academics, and actors of both public and private sectors gather around contemporary issues to reflect on ways forward.
I’m Adriana Cerdeira and here are some of my insights from this unique space.
Attention is powerful
Alberto Alemanno, the founder of the Good Lobby and main presenter of our discussions throughout the week, started on the first day with a forceful reminder: “We need your attention but also intention”. With this type of event, intentional attention makes all the difference. Some attendees engaged with panellists during Q&A sessions, but most of us spent a lot of time listening. I felt that, throughout the week, the energy in the room was one of powerful attention, perhaps as we all reflected on the potential symbiosis between the discussions held and our personal experiences.
Small-scale is powerful
There is power in small-scale formats precisely because they provide the necessary outlet for the individual listenings to turn into a reflection that is also exchanged, debated, potentially rebuked, but always, enriched. Events like the SA must strike a balance between large-scale intense discussions and small-scale settings to protect this dynamic. This balance also allows attendees to engage in deeper interactions with one another, while also breaking the more formal, top-down format of panels.
Intergenerational exchange is powerful
I believe I was the youngest participant in this year’s SA. I knew that I would mostly listen: my curiosity to learn from others had been what had led me to apply to this event in the first place, but I also realised my lack of experience compared to other participants. Yet, with the SA’s Leadership Groups — a daily format where three to five people gather to discuss their professional journeys and challenges — I listened, but also shared and exchanged a lot. A rhetorical transaction opened, and I discovered that the intergenerational dialogue happening within my group was a powerful tool. Our discussions were always very diverse, yet, by valuing the perspectives of individuals at different stages of life equally, our ability to come closer to answers was greatly amplified. The SA’s effort to make time for social events (be it meals together or other activities) was also key in facilitating these exchanges, and the conversations I could hold during those times are probably my favourite memories from the whole week.
The political delicate can get rhetorically superficial – Sounding good or doing good
I appreciated the SA’s mission, vision, and format immensely. I must note, however, the tendency throughout panels of warding off deeper, more politically delicate, nuances. The SA gathers a diverse group of actors, all differently opinionated about what makes lobbying positive, or about which dynamics and actors are beneficial to the protection of democracy, equality, and the environment. As such, disagreement and diverging views are inevitable. Regrettably, I sometimes thought that authentic positioning by panellists was being replaced by performative consensus. Following the formulation developed in our last workshop, I observed a bit too much of “sounding good”.
Rather, I would encourage us to face the debate, embrace the confrontations, and recognise that only through the authentic expression of our individual positions can we figure out the substantive distance between us. “Sounding good” is also a weak illusion. It did not convince me, and probably did not convince others. Identifying and calling out this “sounding good” would, in my opinion, strengthen the SA’s transformative force.
What about those targeted by lobbying?
A last thought, is the absence of discussions on the second (and necessary) part of the lobbying transaction. The SA appears to somewhat overlook the fact that lobbying is a two-way exchange, between a provider and a receiver. What if we also put energy into ensuring that this latter actor is endowed with the necessary tools to distinguish the negative from the positive lobbying? The “sounding good” from the “doing good”? The bribe from the socially and environmentally compelling appeal? This is all the more relevant given the recent Qatargate scandal. I believe such discussions would greatly help The Good Lobby’s mission, and I hope to see these themes discussed more extensively soon.
Overall, The Good Lobby’s Summer Academy has been a fascinating event, providing an excellent opportunity for actors to be connected and for ways forward to be conceptualised. Its potential for growth and change leaves me very excited, and I cannot wait to see what future editions bring to the table. Many thanks to them for having me this year.