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Moving from Charity to Intentional Development - Understanding Collective Impact

Categories: HEADLINES, Social & Community, Transformation
By: Lorenzo Davids, National CEO
One of the great challenges of our time is the need to understand the true cost of what it will take to impact the education, health and employment challenges we have in our society. We are all aware of the burgeoning pressures these issues are placing on our  economic survival.

The lack of skilled citizens and those who are in a state of poor general health do not create the opportunities for stimulating the high end of economic development. Thus, the prospects of successful development die a slow death – and so too the hopes of the children who are born into such a society.

For too long philanthropic initiatives have been about two things only: size and numbers. The bigger the charity the more money they could get and thus the more people they could help. After 20 years of democracy we know the foolishness of that level of thinking: Size and numbers do not change anything.

The Community Chest, as a leading funder of over 340 non-­‐profit agencies annually, has over the last 8 decades seen this devastating reality from the front lines. In order to create the change we all want to see we have prioritised 4 areas on which we will focus our intellect, innovation and interventions on: Health, Education, Income-Generation and Community Development. This is an outcome of a dialogue and engagement strategy called the 8 Values process:

1. Initiative
2. Intention
3. Intelligence
4. Innovation
5. Intervention
6. Influence
7. Impact and
8. Integrity

These 8 key words describe our approach to understanding Collective Impact.

Government, Funders and NGOs must move from a transactional relationship to a transformational relationship. And non-­profit and the government must cease to place themselves at the centre ofthe intervention. We must allow those whom we serve and engage, the Homeless Community, to occupy the centre of the dialogue. Therefore the 8 Values are important questions we must ask ourselves. Because these questions will help us to understand “collective impact” (measuring the impact of several NGOs in relation to asocial problem as opposed to trying to find one super NGO to address all the issues.

So what do we intend to state with these 8 Values:

1. Firstly, in wanting to shift the culture of poverty to a culture of prosperity, we must consider which INITIATIVES are strategic for us to focus on? There may be 50 pressing challenges, but two or three initiatives have the power to dramatically shift or solve the problem.
2. What is our declared INTENTION with our strategy and areas of engagement? We must never invest money or people or time until we have stated very clearly to ourselves as to what our own intentions are with what we are funding or doing.
3. Who and what is influencing our INTERVENTION? Who is behind what we are doing? Who is ultimately in the driver’s seat and what is the agenda?
4. In designing strategies to create change how are we addressing the power VS INFLUENCE challenge that often strangles development? In development we know it’s not just about having power. You must have influence at a number of levels to effect change.
5. What new INTELLIGENCE are we employing to address the issues we want to solve or shift? Action that is not based on intelligence is dangerous. We need to develop new intelligence all the time to address the issues of our day.
6. Are we being INNOVATIVE with what we are doing or are we merely regurgitating what others are doing or what we ourselves have always done? What are we doing that is based on our own contextual realities and not just a “one size fits all solution”?
7. How are we planning to measure the IMPACT of what we have designed as an intervention? Do we have the skill sets to go back and monitor and evaluate what we have designed as an intervention?
8. Can we speak with INTEGRITY to the donors and the community about what we are doing?

Therefore, the next decade of work which is before us will not just be about charity and size and money and numbers. It’s about how we have taken these 8 strategic values and shifted our work from just charity to intentional development. There are many people who simply want to do good.

That’s great.  But what we need is the ability to take that need to do good and filter it through our 8 Values process so that we end up with not just a nice charitable outcome but a high impact intervention.

The tragedy is that often social intervention are predicating on social biases. One of the primary biases is the perception that homelessness will always be with us. That perspective undermines the outcome of solving the problem of homelessness and the very people who are addressing the issue have a view that the problem will never go away.

A further challenge is fragmentation of services, with too many agencies who are doing the same work or bits of the same work, without correlating with one another on strategic outcomes. The lack of proper analysis and definition of homelessness is also problematic, for e.g. not everybody who is defined as homeless is necessary without a family and their problem is better defined as one of houselessness than of homelessness.

Robert D. Lupton in his book Toxic Charity refers to interventions by social agencies of running the risk of dumbing down or diminishing personal responsibility. When we do for others what they essentially can do for themselves, we have diminished personal responsibility for change.

We must also look at funding models and donor engagements. We must ensure that we are able to present solutions that are not just piece-meal and that match funders’ budgets, but in fact reflects the true cost of solving the problem.

Homelessness is not just about social welfare. It is about health, education, housing, incomegeneration, town planning etc.
Homelessness is a condition of detachment from significant social structures and forming bonds with those who share a similar detachment. This is not just a policy issue. We have to get people to migrate from detached social structures to a significant level of reattachment to social structures. Let’s stop just training homeless people to make beads and wire toys and let’s challenge governmentto create the largest in-house homeless persons volunteer programme, where they are able to job shadow public servants and can learn job skills through government led initiatives.

What we are calling for is new intelligence and new innovation to address an issue that is refusing to respond to current interventions.

What Should We Focus on Today?

1. We must engage our homeless partners and each other more strategically on education,income generation and health, and be careful to avoid placing ourselves as charitable organisations at the centre of that dialogue.
2. We must align ourselves to strategies that can deliver on change and collective impact. We must find creative ways to strategise and engage homeless people in our dialogues and asset development strategies. Agencies must not over estimate their value ad and must be realistic about their intended compassion and generosity. To ignore this is just sheerfoolishness.
3. When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them. Dependency reverses the process of power. And so instead of aid being transformative, aid becomes a trap. These relationships between giver and recipient
becomes built on a downward flow of power instead of mutuality. If aid is not built on reciprocity it destroys responsibility.
4. The power of the recipient to navigate and populate his/her own transformation is often held ransom by the demands of the donor or NGO. These relationships are purely transactional and not transformational.
5. We often mean well and our motives are good, but we have neglected to conduct duediligence to determine emotional, economic and central outcomes on the receiving end of our charity. Why do we miss this crucial aspect in evaluating contributions?
6. We must grow a performance based culture – if you as a non-profit can’t fix it, admit it and move out so that those who can are able to move in and fix it.
7. We must form community wide conversations to tap into collective concerns and aspirations. We must elevate and have significant responses to critical issues instead of mediocre responses to the plight of the poor. Therefore no one NGO can be at the centre of  this dialogue. We need multiple service providers engaged with multiple sectors of  the problem and holding each other accountable to not just focus on service outcomes, but arecommitted to collective impact.

The human spirits need to do charitable work is an indomitable one. It’s a powerful drive within people to see good happen around them. Our task as The Community Chest is to take that energy and resource and turn it into the most impactful intervention possible. That is what we will do with your ideas, your money and your time : Charity that transforms itself into Intentional Development,
not in isolation, but on a platform called Collective Impact.

Our country needs to see the 8 Values applied to its Health, Education, Income Generation and Community Development challenges.

Whilst many people intend to do their charitable good deeds, we must ask ourselves : how can our good deeds lead to maximum impact?

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