Relying on our network
This is Part 2/2 of excerpts from my presentation about rigorous humility. Part 1 is here.
In 2016 Spirit in Action celebrated our 20th Anniversary. It was 20 years ago that Del Anderson – then aged 90 – a retired businessman, realized that he wanted to do more to support businesses in developing countries. Del was a man who really practiced rigorous humility and was always learning.
Let me share a favorite quote from Del: “I am not the Del I was yesterday. I can’t eat yesterday’s stale manna. Yesterday’s manna is not good enough for today. Manna has to be fresh. It’s an ever-changing world.”
Expanding the vision
Spirit in Action started with Del writing letters to people. He had been a successful entrepreneur and he wanted to help other entrepreneurs around the world. The first grants were given to people in Del’s personal network; people he knew well from years of correspondence. We are still working with some of those people.
Since 1996 we have expanded a lot, and we are currently supporting hundreds of people through community organizations in African countries.
We have started almost 700 Small Businesses through our Small Business Fund program which provides $150 grants to families, and also provides them with training and a local mentor;
We have also impacted thousands of people through 26 grassroots organizations in over 8 African countries and 2 South American countries and 2 in southeast Asia.
Giving up the role of expert
So with this growth, how do we stay connected? We place a greater emphasis on relationships than 5-year plans. This focus on the long-term relationship gives room to work towards the best results, expecting the best each person can give. And it also leaves open the door for faith and personal growth. Humility comes when we embrace the mystery of social change.
Another aspect of rigorous humility is “giving up the role of expert.” That means I don’t have all the answers. It means that the network is stronger than the individual.
The Small Business Fund program is designed to allow for local context and local adaptation. The local coordinators in Malawi, Uganda, and Kenya each tailor the workshops and the meetings in a way that makes the most sense in the community. We like the local coordinators to work directly in the communities where they are living. And when that is not possible, we have coordinators form partnerships.
Women from 8 SBF groups in Korogocho. Wambui, the local coordinator stands behind Tanya. Josephine is pictured left of Tanya.
For example, we have a wonderful coordinator in Nairobi, named Wambui, who wanted to work with the very poor families living in the information settlement of Korogocho outside Nairobi. She didn’t live there but she knows someone who does – Josephine. And so Wambui and Josephine are working as a strong team. Wambui has the training skills, which she uses in her career of peacebuilding and healing-from-trauma workshops. And Josephine is known in the community as being a mentor and a “mother” to many of the women. Wambui can help me get the reports I need. And Josephine helps Wambui get the access to the community. This teamwork is vital to Spirit in Action.