There's a traditional model of global outreach. It's a model that supports the notion of reaching out and giving resources. It's a model that creates a gradient - those with resource and power and communities of need and people marginalized from opportunities. It's a model based on the principles of charity.
The charity model focuses on "giving" and places the giver at the center of the relationship. It's an alluring and sexy model because it puts a premium on the notion of "making a difference" and "doing something." We all want to make a difference, and doing is the perfect way to massage our own egos. Look, giving is a heart-felt approach . . . but it's not sustainable.
I hope this blog doesn't sound like a denigration of the notion of making a difference or giving. That's not my intent. However, before we make a difference we must be certain our "difference" is the "difference" the people we intend to serve are seeking or requesting. We must ask the communities we serve what they need, and invite them into a relationship of collaboration. Collaboration that focuses on the notion of doing with - not doing for.
I've struggled with the notion of charity. On one level it seems clear the world exists in a gradient that pushes some into a "have not" experience and others into an "abundance" experience. My issue with charity is the presumption that charity focuses on the idea that people need our help to build the lives they deserve. Perhaps they do. But we will never know unless we ask. Unless we build partnerships.
We all need relationships. We thrive in community. But - community is about sharing more than it is about giving. Community means we ask people what they want. And we work together. It means we invite one another into a relationship. A relationship that is just as much about serving as it is about receiving.
For me, charity focuses the power on the giver - and, because of that, it is never sustainable. At any time, a giver can decide to stop giving. Charity places the recipient at the mercy of the giver.
Rather, when we view our role as creating connections and building relationships - when we view people as the drivers of their own futures, we must give up the notion that we will be the "change" people need in their lives. Relationships and bridge building in global outreach shifts the focus toward sharing power with people and continually focusing on allowing people to define their own lives. A collaborative framework of global outreach requires us to slay our egos. It means we must move away from doing and driving, and toward being and listening.
Good intentions are great, but charity doesn't work. Sharing power is about working together. Working together requires deep relationships - and this is the key to collaboration. And the true mechanism for sustainable change.
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.