Identity is important; both to view oneself in a context and to communicate that identity to others in particular contexts. The tricky thing with an identity is that it shifts, and does so according to what relations that is at stake. Depending on the relation an individual can be a human being, a man/woman, a parent, a child, a boss etc. The same dynamic shifting can be observed also when it comes to organizations. Organizations shift within their scope and life cycle.
Setting the stage (of the issue)
In the development industry organizations can take on a lot of identities depending on their relations and settings. They can be businesses, NGOs (non-governmental), CSOs (civil society organizations), FBOs (faith based organization) etc. All these labels communicate both internally and externally an important message about where they are set: in the state, in the market (corporate world), or in the civil society. Any organization can stretch into several contexts and is seldom at home in just one context, therefore rarely having just one relation and just one identity.
In the case of a church; it is at the same time both in Christ and in the world. Therefore the church has more than one relation and also more than one identity. In Christ the church with its believers is a body, and in the world it is a light revealing opportunities and pointing to alternative routes. Depending on what kind of institutional relations a church maintains its role and identity can expand into additional identities.
The issue, in connection to development agendas and networks, is how can a church understand itself and define its role and identity. The ThinkTank believes that language and concepts are important, but much more important is the quality. Jesus talked about the importance of respecting Moses and the Law, but Jesus adds something that is more than the Law. In the same way it is important to respect and press for a Human Rights Based Approach, but the Faith Based Approach goes beyond that.
For an FBO, being the extension of the body of Christ and stretching into “secular” society, the added concern of faithfulness and mercy is more than just effectiveness of a rights based CSO. Securing justice for marginalized is as important for a faith-based approach as it is for right-based approach. The faith based (or Christ based) approach can stretch further even when it comes to digging into the root causes and not stop at structural power analysis. It can uncover even “sins” and minister resolution and forgiveness. Also, not to be forgotten, the faith-based approach provides space for the workings of the Holy Spirit. This means that, as Christians, we cannot talk only about “faith-based”, we need to talk about “faith-driven” as well.
Recommendation – Maintain a wide set of role descriptions and use identity definition wisely according to the situation and setting;
In the service and ministry we must create space for the deeds of God, and the working of the Holy Spirit. The right-based approach is just the beginning. To be based on and driven by faith is to also go that extra mile, to add that extra love and concern for people and the creation.
In development business the local conditions are very often viewed as insufficient. Therefore much effort is put on developing supply chains. So, resources and distribution become focal points for interventions. And project staff becomes tangled up in delivery (output) issues rather than enabling values. Perhaps a way to solve this imbalance is to focus on value chains rather than supply chains.
To understand the supply chain is important, but we need to move one step further. And the way to do that is to look at each step of the supply chain and see how and what value is generated at each step of the supply chain? By looking at the supply chain in this way we can easily turn it into a value chain. In this way we can get more actors involved, spread the value to others and in the end become more efficient and more effective.
MDG 8, development of a global partnership, is where the “rich” world is brought into the agenda. So far there is a great failure on the “rich” side. This inability has to be remembered when we are discussing the framework of the Post2015 agenda. Presently this discussion on the global partnership tries to find the most relevant approach for future:
The old MDG was perhaps more universal then diverse and context based. A traditional top-down perspective usually results in universal models, while a bottom-up approach automatically generates diverse and localized prioritization. For a hammer everything is a nail, but the real world is diverse; solid and fragile at the same time. Thank God, we are aware of the diversity and need to act with respect of each local context. Therefore time and leadership are the most important issues: enough time given change processes and context based leadership.
Most of all, we need more efficient mechanisms and frameworks for international cooperation. If we want to encourage local innovations we must stimulate development of a well functioning global trade framework. The responsibility of the North and the action in the South need mechanisms for their international cooperation. This urgent need for cooperation becomes evident when we think of environmental issues: mobilization for emission reduction, lifestyle issues, climate actions etc.
The responsibility of the North is great even when it comes to definition of concepts.
For example; what is poverty? For long time we have said that one dollar per day defines poverty (without really considering exchange rates or inflation). Now we have raised that to two dollar. Cynically speaking; if we had kept the one dollar level fewer people would have been poor… It is obvious that the levels of poverty is decided top-down by the North; and in particular by the World Bank. How much money do people need to live a decent life? Is the equivalent of five, ten, fifteen or twenty dollars enough; and how was this right given to the North to decide?
The only real chance we have to deal with the rights of people and their nations, is to give them the upper hand for their own situations and contexts. It is important to maintain universal agendas for policies like Human Rights, Result Based Management etc., but link goals to local context. Important features in a framework like this would be: monitoring the actual implementation and secure high quality, make sure that there is an accountability framework, and establishing of coherence among policies and agendas.
Who can predict the future role of civil society? Well, not even “World Economic Forum” dares to predict the scope of the role of civil society (CS), but it does en excellent job in mapping internal and external forces that might affect the dynamic processes. It is obvious that if diverse interchange, bonding of people and groups and building of trust in CS is low, the CS institutions will become increasingly important. The report is therefore an urge to return to the agenda of mobilization. For further reading please download the report.
The Future Role of Civil Society (World Economic Forum)
To appreciate and inquire about a situation is a way to work with change. The method is usually named Appreciative Inquiry (AI). It strives to focus on values and believes and ways to find synergies, or winwin situations, between the components of the system (of the organization) and the links to context. It does so by starting at looking for the strength and ability of each actor. Therefore it does not view organizations as problems to be solved. Rather AI views organizations; as solutions and answers to needs and as expressions or realizations of available resources.
This might sound fuzzy, but the meaning is that if access and value of resources change; the organizational expressions will change. Based on this, organizations are viewed as hubs for vital connections and links. As hubs they assemble knowledge, action and various combinations of strength, and in these connections they frame relations, partnership, alliances and networks. Both the “hub” and the “link” are important aspects of the system. For instance, in a network one can combine strengths and make up for limitations. The network therefore becomes an important sphere or arena for production and change. In any given situation organizations “live” and have multiple options and capacity to construct itself in various ways.
The basic challenge is both external and internal. One cannot focus on only one or the other. The internal challenge is about engaging or involving what is already a potential factor that can help change the situation. This is a kind of scaffolding or building on what is available. Depending on what part of the context of the situation one is linking to everything can be valued either a benefit or a disadvantage. The road from one state to another passes via a narrative culture – a narration about resources, methods and perspectives. In the stories one can unveil what has previously not been linked to in the organization, and thereby establish new links that can change the situation.
In working with finding new links to what is already available (although so far not used), AI is rather practically oriented. It is a united and cooperative search for the best and to appreciate it: the individuals, the structure, the nearby resources in the context, and the processes and their aims. This search can sometimes be structured and use check lists to find out about internal potential resources that perhaps can be linked differently.
The process of working with AI is generally expressed in five phases of D:s. The Definition of what needs to or can be developed; Discovery of people’s experience of their daily life; The Dreaming together to envision a better future; The Designing of appreciative systems and structures to support the realization of the dreams; The Destiny or the delivery of appreciative learning and other outcomes from the positive loops. Each phase is equally important, and no one can be excluded. In a structured way one “D” is leading into the next “D”, but at each phase one has to keep the other “D” alive and present in the mental process of reflection and design. The structure of the working process can therefore be described as parallel rather than step-by-step linear.
The process of AI needs to have open ends and openness of minds, and it needs to be outcome focused and have positive phrasings about the outcome. From the very start of the process every stakeholder has to be involved, which is strengthened by selecting themes and topics that excite all the stakeholders.
It is important to emphasize the long-term perspective where PMU is aiming for sustainable change. This approach of a faith based community must be given time. There are many right-based laws in Sweden that are not fulfilled in countries where our partners work. This lack or gap (to Swedish standards) does not make us stop (if so we would only be able to work in countries that were exactly like Sweden); but rather to continue to work for change. The gaps and the lack of fulfilled rights motivate us to press on. And we salute all our local partners that strive for building better and fairer societies.
Yes, development processes based on this kind of attitude is risky. The risks relate to the fact that we work with people and movements in the diverse and dynamic civil society. Therefore we have to press for the value of handling higher risks, since we thereby are able to reach the most marginalized. If we are to eliminate risks we can only work in urban areas with good access to qualified staff, people that have already reached another level etc. But now we are dedicated to forgotten, marginalized and rural areas and in particular with fragile states. And in the same way as there is a different set of agenda for fragile states (New Deal) there has to be another way of mitigating risks for fragile organizations in fragile contexts.
Excerpts from “Ask Africa Now” (link to full text is found below)
1. Children: The HLP needs to consider developing a framework that addresses structural child poverty…
2. Women: The achievement of gender equality, the protection of women’s human rights including sexual and reproductive rights and support for women’s empowerment are critical to the success of the entire post 2015 development agenda…
3. Farmers, workers, traders, the informal sector (joint statement): Inclusive and sustainable growth, underpinned by a rights-based approach, which must include citizenship participation and empowerment through education, training and skills development, increased decent employment for all and universal social protection.
4. Youths: An unemployed youth population significantly increases the danger of major structural unemployment for many years to come. This is a massive inefficiency to both them and to global society in terms of costs to government and lost potential wages…
We agree that a comprehensive international youth policies must rest upon four pillars:
- The provision of more and better education, including formal education, informal education and vocational trainings;
- Active and dignified insertion of youth in the workplace ensuring them a good wage and jobs as part of a career path, as well as liberty, gender equality, and security;
- The provision of career centers, knowledge exchanging facilities among youth nationally and internationally by the establishment of youth workers union.
- Social dialogue to facilitate a successful matching of labor demand and supply, to ensure successful programming and to foster youth hiring.
5. Aged and disabled people: The post-2015 framework must enable focus on the poorest and most marginalised groups, such as persons with disabilities and the aged…