Our life can be one long journey of measurement against the things and people around us. As we all probably know, comparison can actually be quite dangerous and destructive.
When you work in an industry for a while there are usually a number of words or phrases that become the flavour of the month or year or decade. Almost cliché like.
In an office environment I would hear ‘going forward’ regularly, or ‘synergy’ or ‘touch base’, ‘circle back’, ‘think outside the square’, ‘reinvent the wheel’…I could go on. Don’t get me started on the acronyms. Oh yes, the acronyms, mostly the TLA’s (three letter acronyms, there is COB (Close of Business), ROI (Return on Investment) FTE (Full Time Employee), ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival – should that not be ETOA?) or my favourite BAU (Business As Usual).
One word that gets overused and under appreciated is transformation. It sounds great but doesn’t necessarily carry with it specific meaning, thus it has become a fancy word that people use when are talking about change. But it’s much more than that.
From an International Development perspective, we talk about transformation in the lives of those living in poverty and it is helpful to define what that actually is. It is more than just change or transition, it is taking something and creating into something completely different.
Like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, the goal of development is to transform the lives of those living in poverty, which can bring sickness, hopelessness, and disempowerment, into lives that are highlighted by nutrition and health, a sense of hope and a future, and an empowerment to make decisions of their own behalf.
Transformation is a complete change into something new. Not just a better version of what was, but a brand new thing that didn’t exist before.
Now that’s a lofty goal, and one worth striving for.
Some things can be measured easily. When there are numerical values involved it is simple to compare. Like the size of your bank balance today compared to last week, you can tell the difference just by looking at it.
But measuring someone’s personal growth for example, when the indicators are not as tangible, and it requires some sort of gut feel, can be a little difficult.
It’s the same situation when we measure people’s journey out of poverty. Opportunity International provides small loans to mothers living in poverty and we measure the impact that has on the women and their family over time. The amount of money they earn is one indicator that can show they are leaving poverty behind, but there are so many other elements, like nutrition, sanitation, education, access to information and how hopeful they feel.
Some of this can be measured numerically, and some can’t. Not all elements improve at the same rate or at the same time, so how do you measure the impact?
Often it comes down to the individual. When they recognise they have the ability to make decisions on their own behalf, decisions that can change the lives of them and their families, this shows a level of empowerment which usually means they other elements are improving as well.
People are complex and cannot be measured by numerical values alone to discover what growth is happening.
How are you empowering those around you?
Often people will ask me what the best way is to raise money for their good cause.
I’ve been working with not-for-profits for 20 years and have seen countless numbers of fundraisers – some which have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and others which raised less than one hundred.
Whilst there is no secret to success, there are two things which are very helpful when holding an event of fundraiser.
Firstly, be persistent. Persistence is the outworking of passion. If you are passionate about something then you will be persistent in what you do. Just because you have asked someone to attend or donate or sign a petition once, it doesn’t mean that they are aware or fully understand what you are trying to do.
Secondly, be very clear with what you are asking. If you want someone to attend an event, tell them that is what you want them to do. If you want them to donate, make sure they know that, and how they can do that. If you want someone to sign a petition, make sure they know how and where and why.
When you are persistent and clear, it invites people to enter in and participate in what you are trying to achieve. When they say yes, they know what they are saying yes to, or if they say no, it is an educated no which is worthy of respect and allows you to move on to the next person.
It can be overwhelming. The reality of all the need in the world can be too much for us at times to know where to start, and we can find ourselves frozen in inaction, not knowing what to do.
I have always been encouraged by the story of David as he encountered Goliath. You might know it well. At a time when God’s people were overcome by the size of the enemy in front of them, God found them a hero. A kid from the farm who had no discernible attributes that would bring victory on the battlefield. There was nothing conventional about David and the way that he approached the giant that everyone else was afraid of. The armour didn’t fit, his background didn’t fit and more surprisingly, his level of faith didn’t fit that of the experienced soldiers around him.
He approached the situation with an understanding that the God he served was so much bigger than the giant problem before him. And so he stepped up – and won the battle.
If ever we need a remedy to inaction, this is it. If we can shift our focus from the problem in front of us, no matter how big it seems, to the God we serve that is the change of perspective required which can allow us to take the first step and leave inaction behind.
How do you measure potential?
How can you take something as it is and create an educated measurement of what it could be?
It seems almost impossible and I sense that we tend to err on the side of caution when we do this. To be honest most of our thinking around what could be in the future comes from what has happened in the past.
We drastically underestimate what we are capable of.
We drastically underestimate what those around us are capable of.
Is it possible that what we can achieve, the difference we can make and the impact we can have on others is being held back by fear?
Right in the middle of Ephesians, the author Paul, implores his readers to cast aside their ideas of what they think life should be like and begin to dream about what could be through the strength of God who’s ‘mighty power is at work within us’ and is able to ‘accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think’.
So what are you capable of?
OR perhaps a more practical question – what would you would do at work, in your relationships, in any area of life right now if you weren’t afraid.
That’s the first step to glimpsing what your potential is.
What do you consider to be the worlds greatest resource. There is much debate about the value of certain items – would it be oil, gold, iron ore, lithium perhaps, what about water, air and sunshine? Ice cream? All seem to be pretty important, some more than others but which is the greatest resource available to us?
I don’t think it’s any of these. For me, it has to be people. We are told that there are now nearly 8 billion people on the planet. That is almost 8 billion resources, but more than that, individuals that carry with them such great value and incredible capacity. With 10% of the global population still living in extreme poverty then that is at least 10% that are not being able to reach their full, God given potential. When that happens, not only do the individuals miss out, but the rest of the world misses out on their creativity, ideas and ingenuity.
There is a question that haunts me.
“What if the cure to cancer was trapped in the mind of a child who hasn’t received an education yet?”
To me that talks about potential, of what is possible yet not accessible because not everyone is able to make their contribution. The sad thing is that there is so much that we can do to facilitate that and it starts with small actions. Little things that will go a long way to empowering those living in poverty.
We have some difficult issues as a world, but if we could get the most out of every person, I have no doubt we could overcome all of them.
It’s a story that you may have heard dozens of times. Jesus was in the temple, watching people put money in the collection box. He was watching them give. That sounds really odd. But this was how it happened – it was in a place where people could see it and some people used it as an opportunity to show how great they were by giving big bundles of cash caused a commotion. At the same time, a poor widow approached the box and almost ninja like, drops in two coins. Most people would not have noticed because she wasn’t there for the applause of the masses and didn’t cause a ruckus.
Jesus noticed. He took time to highlight her action. He said that she ‘had given had given more than all of the others’ because she gave all she had to live on, whilst everyone else gave a tiny bit out of their surplus.
So what does that mean? What do we learn from that story?
Here’s what I think. Giving money out of surplus, when it doesn’t impact us financially either way, whilst a good thing to do, is not generosity. True generosity is costly. There’s an old saying, ‘give till it hurts’ which doesn’t paint generosity in a particularly positive light, but perhaps that is a good place to start. If you don’t know how much to give, give until you feel it, when it becomes a sacrifice – there is something deeply powerful about a sacrificial gift.
When is the right time to buy a house, or sell one? Should I invest in shares instead?
We think incredibly analytically about our money when it comes to the “serious” things in life. But there are other elements of finance and spending which don’t bring about too much thought and analytics. Like spending it on entertainment, going out for dinner, buying new clothes…
When we give money away, generally this falls into analytical, serious part of finance, which is how it should be. But often we consider if we give or how much we can give away, depending on how our income looks at that moment. There are even times throughout the year which are considered to be the time to give and be generous. Christmas is one of those times.
We try to watch the market to figure out the best time to buy and sell property, shares and other investments. Sometimes we can do something similar when it comes to giving, when is the best time to give? When should I be generous?
The real answer to that question is that generosity isn’t restricted to a certain time of year, or fluctuation of the market. Sure, these things can be helpful in that they provide a time and opportunity to give, but true generosity is a way of life. It is something that we live and breath. It becomes part of who we are and it starts as one intentional act. What is your intentional act of generosity?
Written by Kelsie De Haan, Political Intern, Opportunity International Australia
Language is one of the most powerful tools that we can employ. Words have the power to build people up or to tear them down. They can be liberating, oppressive or bring about much needed change. That is why the discourse surrounding refugees and asylum seekers here in Australia is such a powerful one. This conversation upholds systems which abuse human rights and oppresses a vulnerable group of people and it needs to be recognised as such.
“Illegal immigrants”, “queue jumpers”, “boat people” and “potential terrorists” are just a few of the terms that have been used to describe asylum seekers and refugees. These terms have become interchangeable without anyone stopping to think about what they actually mean. They are used to portray this group of people as an enemy, an inconvenience and a threat. They are loaded with negative connotations, which can be used to manipulate the Australian public to hold particular prejudices. If we think of asylum seekers and refugees as law-breakers it dehumanises them and can shut off any compassion we would otherwise feel. It also allows those in power to deny the responsibility they have to uphold the rights of those seeking asylum in Australia. Instead, asylum seekers and refugees are positioned as a threat to Australian sovereignty and framed as a political issue not a humanitarian one.
The most blatant lie we are fed is that seeking asylum is illegal – it isn’t. Rather it is a basic human right outlined in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” The international community has time after time condemned Australian asylum seeker policy, deeming it an abuse of this basic human right, specifically the practices of indefinite mandatory detention, children in detention and the separation of families in detention. In fact, in 2012 Australia was found guilty of 143 violations of international law regarding their treatment of refugees. Further, Australia’s current approach costs $400,000 per-refugee, per-year and costs for running the offshore detention program between 2013 and 2016 cost $9.6 billion. We spend horrendous amounts on an oppressive and unjust system that violates human rights rather than using these funds wisely to ensure the protection of this vulnerable group.
But, rather than empathising and caring for refugees and asylum seekers who have had to flee their homes, we call them illegal and imprison them indefinitely. We treat them as criminals rather than victims and instead of protecting them, we physically and mentally abuse them.
How did we let it come to this? We underestimated the power of words. Dehumanising and threatening language is used to place these people outside of our scope of justice. Asylum seekers and refugees have been placed outside of our moral boundaries, meaning we have been influenced to believe that fairness and justice don’t apply to them. We have been taught not to care.
With over 22.5 million refugees in the world, fleeing from war, persecution and violence, we need to expand our scope of justice again to include them. We need to care. Every day, 28,300 people are forced to flee their homes, running from war and persecution into systems of oppression and injustice. The refugee and asylum seeker threat is not to our national sovereignty, but the threat is to their wellbeing. Change is needed to ensure the safety and protection of these people; we need to ensure our government policy upholds the rights of this vulnerable group.
Written by Kelsie De Haan, Opportunity International Australia Political Intern
Everyone should have access to the most basic of rights. That much we can all agree upon and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights backs me up on that on. It outlines what people are entitled to simply by being born human. It also outlines the responsibility the state has to uphold the rights of their citizens and provides a guideline to moral and ethical behaviour.
In 2005, a report was released outlining the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) which demonstrates how rights and responsibility play out at a global level. One of the key components of this is the state’s right to sovereignty which is forfeited if they do not uphold their responsibilities to their citizens. For example, to protect them from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It doesn’t stop there. Those who uphold the first responsibility are then given the added responsibility to help other states uphold it. Again, if they fail to prevent these atrocities or even perpetuate them, the international community assumes the responsibility to protect through intervention.
The right to sovereignty carries enormous responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of the citizens and we rightly expect this from our leaders. We readily criticise leaders who perpetrate human rights abuses and citizens pressure their own governments to take up the responsibility to intervene. For states to have the right to self-determination and self-government, first they must demonstrate their fulfilment of responsibility to promoting peace, protecting citizens and caring for the environment.
Somehow, things seem a little different at an individual level. The concept of responsibility tied to rights is often overlooked. We tend to be so quick to declare our rights and then dismiss our responsibilities. We expect the right to welfare as a citizen but we don’t like the responsibility of paying taxes – some even avoid paying tax and therefore impede on another’s right to receive adequate welfare. We love that we have the right to free speech, but are quick to shoot down other opinions that are different from ours – even attempting to silence through intimidation and violence. We revel in the right we have to live in freedom and safety but bemoan a speeding fine we receive when we put the safety of others at risk.
When we claim our individual rights without considering our responsibilities to those around us, it becomes very dangerous. It can lead to a place where the responsibility to respect another’s rights and protect their freedoms is overshadowed by the idea of ‘my rights over your rights’. Or in other words, ‘me first, you are not as important’. When this rhetoric is used, conflicting rights become the norm and solutions become less clear. It’s complicated. We see this daily in Australia where an individual’s right to seek asylum is in direct conflict with a state’s right to sovereign borders, or the right to free speech versus the right to live free of fear and hate speech, and even the pro-choice versus pro-life debate as it reflects the conflicting rights of a mother and her unborn child.
How do we justify privileging one person’s rights over another? It sounds awful when it gets stated like that, but we do it every day. I’m sure we would like to think that the ‘good guy’ always wins, but unfortunately it is more often the person with the most power who has their rights recognised and prioritised. When the responsibility to consider the needs of others is removed from the equation, conflicting rights are resolved through oppression of the disadvantaged by those in power. History shows us that oppression of a minority and the suppression of their rights appears to be the default setting, changing only when someone in a position of power draws attention to the injustice and allows an oppressed voice to be heard.
If being powerful is the prerequisite to exercising rights, this leaves women and children in a very vulnerable position. Fortunately, there are organisations like Opportunity International Australia and others whose sole purpose is to uphold their rights and empower them to a life free from injustice and poverty. Yet for many other minorities, oppression and silencing of rights is a reality they face every day as a result of our reluctance to accept responsibility – responsibility to care for others, to make sacrifices for those in need, to listen to others and to simply be a responsible global citizen.
So, know your rights. Ensure that you have access to them. Make a stand for them. But don’t stop there. Know the responsibilities that you have because of your rights. Ensure others have access to their rights (no matter who they are or if you agree with all of their opinions), and make a stand for them. Use your rights to uphold those of others, not to oppress them.