The first in a series that explores how and why MAMA HOPE remains invested in a people-first approach.
Early last month, in the midst of ongoing and necessary global conversations about the future of development and what our role in that should or could be, we were given a timely reminder of what has always been at the core of Mama Hope — our people.
In 2016 Denis Muwanguzi, the Programs Manager at BIC Shanti requested $156 to visit the Community Action Fund for Women, who among other things had a focus on strategies around increased food production and environmental restoration. Fast forward to 2021 and BIC Shanti now has 400 households practicing population, health, and environment (PHE) strategies with a focus on permaculture principles and environmental care, while simultaneously increasing their household yields and creating food sovereignty. With this reminder from Denis last month, we have a renewed sense of focus for the year ahead.
Of course, we are well aware that $156 did not single-handedly (or even significantly) contribute to the success BIC Shanti sees today. There are numerous minds, hearts, and bodies within their organization, behind that! But that’s really our point here, an investment in the people already doing the work is the greatest one the sector can make.
Money is fundamental, yes, but there is also time, knowledge, skill and experience, proximity to the community, social capital, political capital, the list goes on. These are foundational and unfortunately often underrated forms of capital in the global development sector, particularly when it comes to investing in community-led organizations or in the community leaders closest to the work.
Our partners consistently reference the (relative) ease in which they might find a donor or partner who will fund classroom renovations, or school uniforms, or hospital upgrades, versus the challenges they have in finding someone who is willing to support their teams with salaries, professional development, or the benefits that are afforded to staff in most International NGO teams.
“I feel that with our partnership with MH, I’m not only the leader, but we also impact other coworkers to be leaders as well. We’ve really produced fantastic leaders out there.” — Kilines, Founder of Queen Elizabeth Academy in Mlali Tanzania.
Infrastructure is important, but what’s the point of building a classroom if there isn’t any support for teachers? It is not the hospital building that delivers babies and tends to patients, and BIC Shanti didn’t develop an effective and holistic household-based healthcare model without the locally rooted expertise they’ve engaged with.
We reflect on instances where we’ve provided space for our partners to access training like the one that Denis completed or mentorship opportunities from our oldest partners to our newest, where we’ve brought people together at conferences and focused on strengthening relationships, where we’ve provided opportunities for well-being, where we’ve put PEOPLE first, there’s always been success.
“I learned a lot about myself and the community I am serving. I learned about how to work with people of different ideals, knowledge, perspectives and cultures. I learned how to be a good community facilitator.” — James Kirima, Founder of Boresha Jamii in Moshi, Tanzania.
As this reflection continues, it’s become clear that the investment in people doing the work is a huge part of the conversation we need to keep having. When we invest in people, we build trust, we create change that lasts past the implementation of a singular project, we fuel growth in communities.
When we put people before projects, the foundations for long-lasting, effective, and ethical change are laid.