2011-11 Bellagio Summit: Word Play Or Meaningful Conversation?

Bellagio Summit: word play or meaningful conversation?

Posted on 29 November 2011 by Lu Bo

I found a very interesting phenomenon during my participation in modules 3 and 4 of the Bellagio Summit– participants like to use different terms for a certain concept. So from time to time they had to stop to identify the exact meaning of a basic concept before further discussion could take place. Sometimes they couldn’t convince each other even after debating, and insisted on using different words. Here are some examples: well-being vs livelihood, innovation vs transformation, philanthropy vs social investment, ecosystem vs production chain, society vs community. To someone like me who speaks English as a foreign language, the discussion felt more like a play on words.

From my point of view, different language habits provide only a partial explanation of this phenomenon. More important in such disparity of expression are the different historic backgrounds, traditional customs, development phases and areas of focus. As a result, an unreserved and constructive conversation is actually more meaningful than a convergence of opinion about terms, especially in a field as diverse as development and philanthropy. I shared my observation with some other attendees, and they agreed.

The Bellagio Initiative Summit was such a wonderful platform to bring together professionals with different backgrounds and experience to brainstorm and to enhance mutual understanding. The Rockefeller Foundation, Institute of Development Studies and Resource Alliance team have tried their best to prepare for it over the past months, and I believe they did it perfectly. As one of the few delegates from China or other emerging countries, I was glad to attend the summit and contribute my own views.

Lu Bois the deputy executive director of Beijing Vantone Foundation in China and the managing director of World Future Foundation in Singapore.