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PabsyLive: Cass Sunstein on “The World According to Star Wars”

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The Force for Good is Strong in International Development

When she was a little girl in the Philippines, World Bank communications officer Pabsy Pabalan was barred by her brother from touching his impressive collection of Star Wars toys. But with the stealth of a Jedi warrior, she once managed to spirit away the Millennium Falcon for an epic adventure.

The Star Wars franchise has a strong following in her country and Pabsy became, as she put it, “a mild, mid-range fan.” (Her colleagues suggest she’s closer to a Hard Core fan with her own collection of toys and some rocking fashion accessories.)

Which explains why she was so excited to interview the renowned law professor and author Cass Sunstein about his most recent book, “The World According to Star Wars.”

Pabsy showed up well prepared for the interview. She had two books about Star Wars, her own unique Stare Wars T-shirt and some serious questions about how the Star Wars Saga can provide lessons in international development. She asked Sunstein if we need heroes to end extreme poverty and wanted to know what villains they encounter in their epic quest. She also asked the author how Star Wars can help us mobilize and engage people to tackle issues that affect the poor.

Sunstein was prepared with some interesting plot twists in the narrative of development. For him, the real heroes are the ordinary people around the world who try to make a better life for their families every day, even though their strength and sacrifices are rarely recognized by a large audience. As for the villains, they are the individuals who prey on our fears.

“In a way this book is a validation of my own life experience,” says Pabsy. “I was in the Philippines working in the entertainment business and I had never envisioned that I would work at the World Bank in Washington DC. And yet here I am. It shows that no matter how much planning we do, life takes its own path, the important thing-as the book says- is to be prepared for the forks in the road and be flexible and adaptable.”

The other message that resonates with her: That human beings are flawed and complicated, and yet we all crave love and acceptance.

These lesson from Star Wars apply to the work of the World Bank. Here, we focus on data and numbers and results - which is how we measure our work. But we always try to remember that at the other end of our data are real people. As Pabsy said, “In a way, to use a Star Wars analogy, we here at the bank are part of the ‘core’. We have to make sure to give voice to people in the ‘outskirts’ and to bring them to the core.”

Watch Pabsy’s interview with Cass Sunstein to learn more about how Star Wars applies to our work and mission. And May the Force be with all of us!


Etta Cala Klosi

Multimedia Team Consultant

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