Incoming Presidential Address
Dear ICSD members and friends,
Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words as incoming president.
At the outset, I would like to thank and honor all the pioneers of the ICSD. I would like to recognize and appreciate their hard work, their farsighted vision, and their commitment to the ICSD. We are fortunate to have Shanti Khinduka and David Hollister, pioneers of the ICSD, at this conference. There are many other pioneers and I cannot name all of them now, but it is important to recognize and appreciate their contribution to the ICSD. During the 19th ICSD Symposium, held under the leadership of Tan Ngoh Tiong, a special session—Tribute to Pioneers—was organized by James Midgley. A recorded version of that session can be viewed at the Global Institute of Social Work website (http://gisw.teachable.com/p/transforming-society-icsd-tribute-to-pionners). It may be a good idea to play a little bit of this video in every ICSD symposium. It is important to remember ICSD pioneers and their vision of social development, of well-being for the whole population.
I would also like to thank Gordana Berc, chair of the 20th ICSD Symposium; Nino Zganec, head of the Department of Social Work, Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb; and the student volunteers and their team. They have done an outstanding job in hosting the symposium. It is because of them that we are able to participate in these thought-provoking social development deliberations and see this beautiful country and its friendly people.
I have become president of the ICSD because of Barbara Shank and Goutham Menon, who nominated me for the position. At that time, when I did not readily embrace their nomination, they encouraged me, reassuring me of their help. Goutham has the great wisdom to offer help to colleagues, and there is something to learn from his helping wisdom and courage. I thank them for trusting in my abilities to assume this responsible position.
I am immensely grateful to my well-meaning friend and colleague Vijay Pillai, who was also nominated for the position of ICSD president. When I learned of this, I offered my withdrawal, as I believe that Vijay is a fine social development scholar and that he deserved to be the president of this great consortium more than me. Vijay delivered an excellent keynote address, “Social Development—A Search for Conceptual Linkages,” at the sixth ICSDAP branch conference in Kandy, Sri Lanka, in 2016. It has been published in Social Development Issues (Pillai 2017), and I am of the view that anyone interested in social development must read it. It may be worth repeating such presentations at every ICSD conference. But Vijay offered his withdrawal much before mine to support me. It simply shows his generosity and gentle manner. We are committed to working together for the ICSD.
The ICSD is a great institution, it is not an individual. There is a significant difference between an individual and institution, and it is important to understand the difference between the two. As soon as a baby arrives from its mother’s womb, the mother and others attending to them expect the baby to perform life-surviving activities. As the baby grows, expectations of it grow, from crawling to walking and from learning to a fulfilling vocation to leading a self-reliant life. Parents’, families’, and communities’ expectations of an individual keep rising as the individual grows chronologically and intellectually. Barring some exceptions, when an individual reaches a stage or age, whether it is forty years, fifty years, or sixty years, general societal expectations of an individual gradually decline or plateau in terms of what an individual can do and achieve. In the case of institutions, communities’ and society’s expectations keep rising. The greater the age of the institution, higher the expectations. Institutions never grow old, never retire. Institutions remain young, and expectations of them keep rising, never declining, unlike individuals. So it is natural for the ICSD members and friends, scholars and intellectuals, universities and development organizations, and social development practitioners to expect more from the ICSD. It is equally important to contribute to the ICSD so that it continues to meet our rising expectations.
While performing the role of the president, I would like to follow an important tenet advocated by a twelfth-century social reformer, namely, Guru of the Universe Basweshwara or Basavanna, who pioneered the first democratic institution in the world and fought against many social evils, such as caste-based discrimination and oppression and gender inequality, long before the Enlightenment. One of his fundamental tenets was “Walk the talk” (“Nudidante nade,” in Kannada), harmony between preaching and practice (Patil, 2002, p. 20). In the ICSD, our talk is expressed through our constitution, our vision and mission, and the roles and functions of the board and members, whether it is president, vice president, general secretary, and so on. When we assume certain positions in the ICSD we assume certain “talks” in terms of roles and functions associated with those positions, and we have the responsibility to make them “walk.” As the president of the ICSD, my aim is to reduce the gap between our talk and our walk. In social work and similar professions, somewhat similar tenet—not giving false hopes or not making false promises—is preached and practiced. If we reverse it positively, we must keep our promises, which is nothing but we must walk the talk.
For the first time in the history of the ICSD, we conducted a survey of the ICSD members and friends with the assistance of David Androff. A significant proportion of ICSD members (43%) participated in the survey, and this response rate in itself is very heartening. The survey participation rate shows that members are interested in the ICSD. Drawing on these survey results, we conducted a half day pre-symposium workshop in Zagreb to deliberate on the future directions of the ICSD. The survey and workshop discussion have helped us identify future directions of the ICSD. We hope to publish the results of this exercise so that they are available for all members and the public to view.
Updating our website is a top priority. We will continue the tradition of biennial conferences. We will enhance scholarly and research activities. We hope to conceptualize and implement visionary projects. Once the technical issues related to membership subscription are resolved, we hope to attract more individual and institutional members. Shanti Khinduka, David Hollister, and Goutham Menon have already generously offered funds to sponsor fourteen members from developing countries. From the ICSD main and branch conferences, we will see whether we can reach out to local communities and institutions. Most importantly, we shall try to submit our prestigious journal, Social Development Issues, and to Thomas Reuters for evaluation with the hope of gaining recognition by the Institute for Scientific Information so that its impact factor can be enhanced and measured. The journal deserves more visibility and wider dissemination.
The ICSD has several strengths. One of the important strengths is its inspirational pioneers’ vision and mission, their commitment and meaningful contributions to sustaining the organization with limited resources for more than forty years. Second is its forty years of knowledge creation and dissemination through Social Development Issues and through scholarly debate and dialogue at biennial conferences and in professional networks. Social Development Issues has published original research, and one may significantly gain by reading those articles published in the 1990s. Third, the ICSD has talented and committed members, and their sustained contributions to the ICSD are vital. Its members are a great source of inspiration, and we hope many members interested in social development will join the ICSD, which is open to multiple disciplines and professions. Last, but not the least, the consortium is ever open to constructive criticism and suggestions, creativity and innovation, a major source of growth for the ICSD and for meeting rising expectations.
I believe it is important to enhance communication among us, and the communication needs to occur both ways. When we communicate it is also important to genuinely listen to each other with respect. The ICSD looks forward to further collaboration, cooperation, and networking with like-minded people and organizations to realize its vision and mission. Toward that end it also hopes to build mutually trustful relationships. Most importantly, it is committed to acting, to walking its talk.
As announced earlier, the next ICSD conference will be held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in 2019. Yogyakarta is a cultural and intellectual center of Indonesia, and we organized the ICSD Asia-Pacific Branch’s fourth conference there. It has fascinating projects and people, and you will significantly gain by participating in that conference and visiting field projects. I look forward to meeting many of you there.
Once again, I would like to thank you and wish you a safe travel back home.
President of the ICSD
Professor of Social Work , Charles Sturt University, Australia
Patil, S. H. (2002). Community dominance and political modernisation. New Delhi, India: Mittal Publications.
Pillai, V. (2017). Social development—A search for conceptual linkages. Social Development Issues, 39(1), 1–10.