Back in April, the World Bank hosted an online open forum to generate discussion about, and solutions to, the global food crisis. I recently received an e-mail from them assuring me that they had listened to me and carefully pored over the dialogue generated:
Dear World Bank Open Forum subscriber,
You talked. We listened.
On April 14-15, 2011, the World Bank held an Open Forum to gather ideas on ways to overcome the food crisis and help the world’s one billion hungry people. The response was overwhelming: comments and proposed solutions rolled in from more than 500 people in 88 countries.
Bank experts read through your ideas and are now responding to the issues that generated the most discussion: land and water management, climate change and environmental pressures, agriculture and support to smallholder farmers.
You can watch expert video messages on the Open Forum response pages, where we’ve also included an interactive map that aggregates Open Forum comments by country. The site is available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic, reflecting the wide diversity of forum commenters.
Food price volatility and food insecurity remain pressing issues for policymakers, farmers and consumers worldwide. We launched the response in advance of this week’s meeting of G20 Agriculture Ministers in Paris, where the food crisis is front-and-center. Our goal? To make your thoughts and solutions part of the global debate.
These “open forums” are emerging as a new trend with aid agencies; the Bank held one on open development, unemployment, and MDGs in October, and USAID’s similarly-styled Global Pulse took place last March.
I tend to be a bit skeptical when it comes to these kinds of “town hall” type exercises. For one thing, I question the utility of diverting the time and energy of an otherwise-productive staff to sifting through thousands of messages from people who like to hear themselves talk to find a handful of useful suggestions. Also, how does anyone know that this is nothing more than a PR exercise?