A moral purpose
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Date: August, 2006


Lev Eakins asks why the Government has got involved with this year’s Greenbelt festival

Would you expect to see Her Majesty’s Government represented at your festival of choice this summer?

I didn’t, but I did have the opportunity to find out why the Department for International Development (DfID) braved the mud and portable loos to mix with the great unwashed at Cheltenham Racecourse.

I met Rebecca and James from DfID’s Information and Civil Society Department for a coffee where they expertly described why DfID was at Greenbelt, and what it hoped to achieve.


Busting the myth that “aid doesn’t work” drives DfID’s purpose at this festival, with the additional aims of presenting an accessible face, answering a myriads of questions and engaging with the public all thrown into the mix as well.

DfID's strategy is to showcase the many success stories of aid achieving sustainable improvements. This positive strategy is in fashion amongst the charities as well, with Christian Aid notably using both humour and success stories to deliver it's message and raise funds.

Greenbelt (GB), it thinks, is an obvious platform where DfID can effectively achieve this, but this isn’t the only reason why GB was picked.

If DfID is to help eliminate global poverty, it needs to maintain the huge support the public gave to the Make Poverty History campaign.

But trust in the government is low, so DfID needs to team up with organisations the public trust, and this is where Greenbelt comes in.

Research has shown that trust in faith based organisations is huge, making a platform such as Greenbelt incredibly attractive. Put simply the public are more likely to trust the friends of organisation they already trust.


But how much of GB’s agenda is shared by DfID? Why are GB and DfID friends? Why does GB trust DfID?

Rebecca and James explain that the reason why DfID exists at all is because the British government believes that great wealth brings great responsibility, and it has a moral obligation to assist poorer nations.

I found it deliciously exciting to hear civil servants make the moral case for their existence, and even more to hear how this inspires them in their work.

I got the feeling that these guys get a real kick out of their work, evident when James told me with pride that for every £1 raised in tax revenue, 1p is spent on aid.

And how about the future, will DfID come to GB next year?

Sadly that decision hasn’t been made yet, as this is a trial feedback will need to be analysed, but by the reaction of the many punters I heard making approving noises, if DfID did return next year it won’t be short of friendly supporters.

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