Another word that gets overused in the not-for-profit sector is development. Which is tough because it describes the work that many, including Opportunity International, are involved in. But this means it gets used frequently and loses its meaning along the way.
So what is development?
A key theme of development is this idea of cultivation, which means creating something. Not in a mass production type of process, but bringing something to life and growing it over time. Creating a space for something to flourish and develop. It is very much in line with building relationships and getting the best out of people.
But at the same time, it is bespoke, as individual and unique as the people we work with. Sure, there may be many similarities but development is not a copy and paste mentality which assumes that just because an idea has worked in one area of the world then it will work in another country. Sometimes the same idea doesn’t work in a neighbouring town.
True development is a complex process which works with what already exists and finds a way to enable growth of people, agriculture, infrastructure and community engagement.
That’s how I think development should look. Which is less about the specific actions and more about the environment and culture an organisation brings.
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.