Just imagine people from another planet would come and “help” you with a lot of things and ideas. Things and ideas THEY think are needed and THEY steer strategically “to create a better life for you”. Would you like it and trust? Even if they promise you a so much better future? What does it mean, “better”?
Sometimes it feels like that when we from the rich world discuss and invest in emerging countries… if you just look at it through the eyes of those in need. Wouldn’t you be scared by such campaigns the bigger and strategic they are? Especially, if there is no trust first?
Let me share some experiences I had in the past years to make a better and healthier life happen for people living close to the poverty line:
- Start small, build trust and create local networks.
- Invest in what is needed and close to the people hearts and minds, not ours. Sustainable support means starting from them, not from us.
- The world and values there look different and might differ from village to village, depending on the people & surrounding. Listen and understand first.
- For getting an idea on how life looks there you have to be with them. And to follow what you see, listen and experience. It’s not in your office that you develop your ideas. It’s not general facts and figures from reports that should drive concrete decisions. They might give you a general idea, not more. In village A the situation might be very different from village B. It’s always the local situation that you should respond to and start from. It’s learning by doing, scaling when things work out.
- Offer a kind of support that locals can deal with. Make it manageable to them and ensure tangible short term success. It’s not big “long-term business strategies” to make sustainable change happen if the basis and short term success is missing. If the people don’t understand why they should do things, if it is too “far” away ( even strategically so meaningful in your eyes) they will not go for it. Build your strategies rather step by step. Your business world is a strange planet for them. And their world for you, too. So don’t take so many things for granted.
- People benefit much more when they can own and grow their livelihood and then in a 2nd step invest also in more health, education and a better environment.
- You want to make it sustainable? Follow their learning curve and support them where needed. Not based only on what you are expert in. To grow we need to know how to write, read and to do calculations and much more. If you cannot help because it’s not your area, then help to find partners who can.
- See them as partners, don’t look at them as someone from a higher level. Are you sure you are really happier than they are? That your life is better? That you are doing better?
- Health, income generation, education, culture and infrastructures are connected. We can not invest in one of these areas only and belief it will work.
- Don’t underestimate mental health. People grow if they gain self confidence and get mental encouragement as well as the right learnings at the right time.
- Co- create closely with local Partners who day by day understand the challenges and help to overcome.
- All this together makes it sustainable. And it’s the only way to ensure a longterm change for better – a better that They define, not WE.
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