Lessons Learned From Phase I Curriculum
by Yunfai Ng
The Global Advocate Fellowship consists of 3 phases: professional training, hands-on experience in Mama Hope’s global partner communities, and the final global impact capstone. This post is a continuation of Tuesday’s post on some of the things I learned during the professional training phase aka fundraising and curriculum.
Alongside fundraising during phase 1, Advocates participate in a 10-week educational curriculum, which, for me as a micro major, was VERY necessary, informative, and eye-opening. Through reading diverse material, completing assignments, and engaging in open discussion with fellow Advocates and Mama Hope staff in weekly conference calls, I gained a more open-minded perspective of global community development and a better understanding of what my role as a Global Advocate should/needs to be to best serve the local Gujarati people. 4 learning modules in total. 4 (out of many) incredibly powerful lessons learned:
1. The widely accepted narrative of global development is inaccurate. 2015 marked the deadline for a pact of nations to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a series of eight target areas for the reduction of extreme global poverty. This 15-year ambitious effort, according to the UN Development Program, produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history. That same year, the UN Millennium Campaign sponsored an “End Poverty” poster competition. The winning poster is shown above. The contrast between the world leaders of the G8 summit on top and dusty, shoe-less African children on the bottom is compelling, but the tagline is highly misleading. “We are still waiting” …. this seems to insinuate that underdeveloped countries and communities are just sitting around, twiddling their fingers, wishing for hand outs, waiting to be saved. And “Dear World leaders” …. makes it seem like only global institutions have the answers to solve the issue of global poverty. Both these assumptions and narratives are incorrect. There is so much innovation and creativity within communities on the African continent and beyond, and none of this began with waiting for the assist from government institutions. In Dayo Olopade’s book, “The Bright Continent,” she describes the ingenuity of exchange that takes place on congested roads of Lagos, Nigeria. Sitting in the middle of traffic, you can literally buy anything from mobile phone airtime to live animals. “Congested roads aren’t an opportunity for self-pity but for marketing.” Check out this Stop the Pity campaign showing the entrepreneurial spirit of tech-savvy business women in Kenya. (from International Development History & Circumstances)
2. Always accept a cup of tea when offered. An article we read in this module outlines five principles for community service that resonate with Mama Hope’s model of Human Centered Development. The first principle, Stay for Tea, resonates the most with me because the writer’s initial experience as an outsider in a Bolivian community is one I will surely relate to once I arrive in-country. I may have a sense of the community I am joining through stories and pictures, but I am still a stranger with a title and a position who has built no connections with the local people who I will be working and living alongside. “Staying for tea” is so important because taking the time to listen and connect with the community on a deeper level can be a powerful asset in collaboration and partnership. I look forward to my transformation from a community development volunteer to essentially, a new neighbor. To Stay for Tea means recognizing our place as outsiders coming in but still deeply respecting and learning from the people in the communities we serve. (from Connected Development)
3. Get some perspective. Get on the balcony. An excerpt we read in this module from “Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading,” written by two Harvard faculty highlights the first rule of surviving as a new leader: gain perspective. This is not a particularly easy thing to do, especially in stressful, high-stakes situations. As Global Advocates, we sit on a tight rope, constantly balancing our servant and leadership roles. But to step back, remove ourselves from the equation, and get on the metaphorical balcony to objectively view the situation is the only way to gain a clearer view of reality and our place and role within it. Not only does getting on the balcony change your perspective on what is happening around you, but also it can make you more self-aware of flaws in your leadership. Hence, to all leaders (new or old), “get off the dance floor and onto the balcony, so you can see what is really happening around you” (from Leadership Development)
4. Even manure can be an asset. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Upon entering any developing community, your initial thoughts should not immediately jump to all the things that are lacking or need fixing. Instead, focus on the positive! I don’t care what community it is, you WILL be able to identify assets and build upon them. This model of asset-based community development works best when we view others as equals. Not only should we be connecting with our communities to assess their needs, but we must also take the time to understand what they feel their strengths and assets are. It may not seem like an obvious asset to outsiders at first, like the waste materials in a permagarden, but drawing out local knowledge will build their confidence and our understanding of how to best support a community better. (fromProject Management & Assessment)
Also, I know i’m late with this post, but I hope you all glanced at the full moon last night. HAPPY MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL!