Winnipeg is mosquito heaven. One problem that comes with losing your hair is that is gives the mozzies a more expansive feeding ground. My head now looks like I’ve done five rounds with Mike Tyson. Yesterday it rained and now the sun has come out – which will bring the little bugs out in force. I’m trying not to take it personally, but, today I think I’m going to stick my head in a bucket of chemicals…

The summit of religious leaders began yesterday afternoon with a welcoming ceremony by some indigenous (First Nation) Anishnabe Nation people who lit a fire in a tent, spoke, sang and used drums to ‘send the word out’. This was preceded by two introductory speeches, the clearest coming from a man with authority.

Dr Alberto Quattrucci is here from the St Egidio Community in Rome. This is a remarkable communitywhich cares for poor, disabled and marginalised people – a visit there while we were in Rome last year for a communications conference made a huge impression on our group. Alberto is not only impressive, but is also a very nice man. He spoke quietly, firmly and with humility. He made the point simply that

the struggle against poverty means solidarity with poor people… Transformed structures do not change hearts; transformed hearts change structures.

This raises an important question about conferences such as this: what do we want/expect to achieve? Yes, we can add a voice and make a case for a different way of living in the world and running the world’s economies; but how is the making of that case likely to impact on the politicians who will gather for the G8/G20?

This question is one I will need to push at this gathering over the next two days. If we are to follow the process through France in 2011, the USA in 2012 and host a similar conference in 2013 in the UK, we will have to have a better and clearer idea of how we might achieve what we want to achieve (or think is worth achieving). Simply to make a statement – however powerful or worthy – is redundant unless it is heard and understood by the intended audience.

Given that the G8/G20 summit is always a photo-opportunity for the political leaders – the work has already been done and dusted long before they get there – it feels a bit late delivering a statement to a charade when the business was completed before we got there.

This means that we have to face the challenge in future: do we want profile concurrent with the politicians’ event or do we want to influence the agreements they come to before they get here? I side with the wish for effectiveness in influencing the content and process (by doing our work earlier, pulling together fewer people, keeping statements tight and light, getting effective media traction and maximising the impact whilst minimising the work involved).

Today we get down to business with a focus on ‘Extreme Poverty’ in relation to economics, peace & security and climate change. Some impressive speakers will focus our thoughts. I’ll report later on content and process.

Back to the other world, yesterday saw an interview with CBC about the World Cup. I gather the press in the UK and elsewhere have picked up on my latest World Cup prayers – some even recognising humour where they spot it. One Slovenian website has picked it up and made a comment which looks funny, but I can only work out a little of what it says (not the crucial bits).

Today France will probably get their flight tickets back to Paris. England will prepare for tomorrow’s showdown in the light of the severest UK budget cuts since the Second World War. If anyone can tell me what the Slovenian piece says (even if it is rude – I am getting used to that), I would be grateful!