Why do we cooperate?
To answer this question, perhaps it is convenient, first of all, to reflect on the following: What is cooperation? Cooperation is a concept (and a reality) that covers many aspects. Regarding its definition, cooperating means coordinating the behaviors of independent actors so that they mutually benefit. It stands in opposition to heatstroke, conflict, and competition. Cooperation occurs at different levels; the family, local, regional, national and international environment. In turn, you can cooperate in different areas.
Fisios Mundi cooperates in the field of physiotherapy. It does so through the exchange of knowledge and skills, whether in the national or international territory. Our cooperation projects are designed with the aim of bringing physiotherapy to everyone. For this reason, we focus our projects on groups in vulnerable situations. The organization is made up of volunteers who are convinced of the benefits that cooperation brings to all the people involved in cooperation projects; whether they are the promoters of the projects, the volunteers, the counterparts, or the beneficiaries of the projects.
But, how do we cooperate?
Cooperating supposes, on the one hand, exchange. Exchange of ideas, knowledge, experiences, etc. On the other hand, it involves a series of social interactions. Among them, the emotional ties and trust relationships generated in the cooperation process stand out. In addition, throughout the process, dynamics and power relations are established that should not be ignored. These power dynamics are marked by inequality and/or difference (understood as diversity, but also as an element that generates distance) of knowledge, the difference derived from cultural diversity, or the same attitudes and behaviors of the people who cooperate. An example of these power dynamics is well-intentioned actions. It is very common, among volunteers and cooperation professionals, to carry out actions based, merely, on the intention of helping, without assessing the repercussions and impact that our actions generate in the lives of those people whom we want to help. The practice of cooperation, even if well-intentioned, has often led to harmful actions.
We believe that, for everyone to receive the benefits of cooperation, it is necessary to leave behind the savior complex, that arrogant tendency to help because we believe that our help is needed, even when we have not even been called. This paternalism only feeds the differences between people and perpetuates unequal power dynamics, intrinsic in relationships between people who belong to different and complex cultural contexts.
Along the same lines, it is also important to take into account that people carry a cultural backpack full of ways of thinking, imagining, and interpreting our reality. When carrying out international cooperation, that backpack becomes very heavy and should be left at the airport. In this way, we will be able to carry out a practice free of cultural loads that limit our cooperation and learning experience; both professional and personal. It is also convenient to unlearn. Unlearn in order to learn. Anthropologists call it the "transformation of consciousness." This allows us to leave room for new ways of doing and understanding that are alien to our ontological and epistemological logic.
In short, cooperation that contributes to the full development of people in accordance with their needs, interests, desires, and values, implies collaborating, co-constructing, co-generating knowledge, co-innovating, co-learning, co-evolving, co-improvising, and adapting In conclusion, it implies knowing better in order to do better.