You come to a certain age when the word ‘engagement’ becomes prevalent in your daily conversations and when it happens it is almost at an alarming rate. As more and more colleagues, friends and relatives make formal agreements to wed; water cooler chat or social media posts are largely focused on future nuptials as is planning your schedule around attending said events. If we were able to garner as much discussion and subsequent activity with regards to engagement of societal issues we might not need such conferences as R2E. But I digress.
The engagement that the R2E conference is proposing (no pun intended) is similar to the wedded sense of engagement in that it is working towards establishing an agreement between people. Indeed they both also lead to a relationship that requires a lot of hard work, active listening, trust, understanding, flexibility and (yes, even) compromise as well as planning for a safe and fruitful future for our children. True, too, within both types of engagement is the inevitability of misunderstandings and disagreements. While responsibilities may differ in nature as per relationships, like who left the toilet seat up for a couple, to which corporations are responsible for emissions and pollution for a country, the point remains the same. However, what differs between a formal agreement to wed and a formal agreement to engage responsibly on matters of law, politics, the economy and the environment is that it is on a much greater scale and, arguably, there is far more at stake. Nonetheless they both should still engender the age-old vow ‘until death do us part’ because these engagements should not be merely life-giving and life-sustaining but long-lasting and sacrosanct.
The reality that the R2E is attempting to foster consists of the engagement of various spheres and stakeholders within a community, one that takes root in action and is founded in the ideals of ethicality and mutualism. This form of community action or “responsible engagement”, as it were, stems from the idea that, in order to be responsible toward one another, toward our planet and toward our future, responsible community partnerships must cultivate equity, equality and be reciprocal in nature This is more than just a series of platitudes, but rather, acts that respond to real needs within our civic relationships, our work, our respective religious or secular communities, the law, the economy, and the environment. This “open door” collaborative is a coming together of friends and allies in a tactical context and fostering a relationship defined by developing needs and concerns. That is engagement and that is the penultimate goal of the R2E conference and community based initiatives the world over.