Thursday, July 24, 2008

Essence of Uncommon Ground

As I write this, my first blog ever, on the eve of the TV show UNCOMMON GROUND, I admit much trepidation. Will today’s viewers want to see such a show? Will they watch a dialogue between two people on rather serious issues?

I am betting that the time has come for such a platform, even on TV. UNCOMMON GROUND has emerged from my experience as a journalist, from my knowledge of the corporate sector as Nandan Nilekani’s wife and also from the direct work in the social sector that I have been involved in over the years. It seemed to me that there were too many elements in our society that simply did not interact.

And so the show is conceived as a ‘let’s talk and understand’ rather than a ‘let’s fight and score points’ conversation between the leaders of the corporate and social sectors, one on one. The goal is to deepen a national discourse on critical issues on which there is currently much polarization, some of it unneccessary.

For several years, our government has been seceding its traditional space to both the corporate and the social sector. Look at education, health, and many other public services. In that process, companies and NGOs have become more powerful than ever. And they have also been changing their attitudes to each other. What does this all mean for our country going forward?

It was really hard to select the people for this show, because it was so important to get leaders who would listen. Interestingly, every one of the 16 people I approached agreed almost immediately to do the show, even though there were some risks with doing something new in a very public space. And I hope people who watch will engage with what they are saying, will give their own views on these very difficult questions and the many choices we as a nation have before us, and I hope they will do so in the spirit of the show.

There are no simple answers. But sometimes, the right questions are very important – What must we all do , each one of us, to get the government and the society we think we deserve? I hope the answers will emerge from a constructive debate.

- Rohini Nilekani

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