I have been in the non profit space for over 20 years and its been a a wonderful ride. I love it as much today as I did in the 90’s when I was a young Turk trying to do good. I have learned a few things over the years,one that’s really important- organizations count what they value. That could be volunteers, volunteer hours, dollars raised, clients served or media hits. I have said it here before and I will say it now: I love and value good, hard data and accurate reporting.
Yet sometime it feels very “one trick pony”. We can continue to just count volunteers or we can count volunteers AND the impact of their experience of improving lives and transforming communities where they serve. The lasting change I reference in the sentence above is complicated, complex and requires research and investment in things that are not so easily funded. It takes years and honestly a lot of work. So I will place a question before you.
Are we REALLY counting, what matters? I think that only one thing matters in the end, and that is that we leave communities EMPOWERED.
Empowerment refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social or economic strength of individuals and communities. It often involves the empowered developing confidence in their own capacities. It is the process that allows one to gain the knowledge, skill-sets and attitude needed to cope with the changing world and the circumstances in which one lives.
How do we empower communities?
- Ensuring they have decision-making power.
- Ensuring they have access to information and resources for taking proper decision and making sure the information is understood and contextualized as needed.
- Ensuring community members have the ability to learn skills for improving their individual and/ or group power.
- Working in partnership with community members to help increase the communities and the individual member’s positive self-image and overcoming stigma. A strong, positive identity is key.
This is grass roots, bottom up people focused work. Its the work that helps reduce prejudice,build peace coalitions around the world and helps mediation groups bring an end to conflicts. This is work that needs to happen in schools, churches all over the world. Its letting go a lot of fear, history and pain. Its being brave and stepping out in the light. This is hard work, but honestly its the only work that matters and ultimately the only thing worth counting.