Shifting Perspectives

Small Business Fund training in Uganda.

Small Business Fund training workshop in Uganda.

My work with Spirit in Action is not only about “making the world a better place” and running the daily operations of an organization, but also about struggling to understand how each of my interactions can bring more peace and equality into the world. This means constantly striving to put myself in another person’s shoes.

That might sound like either a lofty goal, or a throwaway promise. Yet, if I can keep this goal in the forefront of my mind, I am reminded to honor the dignity of each person I work with; to listen to peoples’ needs and desires; to trust them to send in grant proposals that they believe will be successful; to honor our partners’ service and respect their time.

Shifting My Perspective

How do I begin to imagine putting myself into our partners’ shoes? On her blog Good Intentions are Not Enough, Saundra Schimmelpfennig asks us, “to imagine being on the receiving end of aid, to try to think of aid from the recipient side rather than the donor side.” In this post, she introduces the Listening Project, which “interviews aid recipients, local government officials, religious leaders, and community organizations to find out their perspectives on international aid.” Through their fascinating testimonies, I can begin to shift my perspective.

Beyond just listening, Saundra also explores some of the social costs that are associated with receiving aid. For example: “Social stigma – Imagine how you would feel having your neighbors or coworkers see you using food stamps or waiting in line at the local food pantry.” Click here to read the rest of this thought-provoking list.

Being Accountable to our Beneficiaries

How can we put this new perspective into practice? On her blog How Matters, Jennifer Lenter asked her colleagues about how they would change “the system” to make foreign assistance better.

Perusing through the answers, a response from C.D. in Swaziland particularly struck me: “Let the intended beneficiaries of development take the driving seat from identifying their only priority developmental issues, to planning, designing, implementing and monitoring. Let the beneficiaries define the priorities and let the donors be accountable to beneficiaries for quality, appropriateness or adequacy of the assistance delivered.”

Part of SIA’s mission is to empower individuals and grassroots organizations to choose their own grant project and decide what kind of small micro-enterprise they believe will be successful.

More than this, C.D. calls on donors to be accountable to the beneficiaries. Del Anderson, our founder, often wrote about everyone being channels of God’s love in the world. “God has made us as God’s instruments and co-creators, so as we take our responsibility to be God’s channels, we are empowered and the fruit of the Spirit is brought forth through us.”

We, at SIA, have a great responsibility to strive to better understand the people we are serving and consider the many ways they are serving us. Let’s shift our perspective. Each person has something to give. What is the gift you receive from SIA partners?

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4 Comments on "Shifting Perspectives"

  • wafula Ferdinand[BIOGI] says

    Dear Tanya,

    Thanks for your work.The world is in need of people like you who can provoke thinking and act on what you say you live for.
    From your writings above,I got inspired and touched by the simple ways to communicate and share ideas about the life of ordinary smallholder farmers who strive to make a living.The power from simple training programs such as Bio Intensive mini farming is an eye opener to a different way of doing farming.We learn to be humble and allow nature to work for us if we are also ready to support it.
    The shift is a form of transformation inspired by observations and a strong feeling from the actions of SIA.
    I wish you [SIA ] truly good learning as you transform and develop.

  • Boyd says


    This is a great post!

    “Let the intended beneficiaries of development take the driving seat…and let the donors be accountable to beneficiaries for quality, appropriateness or adequacy of the assistance delivered.”


  • admin says

    Thank you for the feedback, Boyd and Wafula!

    I found this other very relevant article:

    Again, it talks about aid from the grantee’s point of view. Consider this, “The idea that poor countries and capacities have capacities is not new. But the idea that donors have “needs”?”


  • Trackback from Positive Change in Uganda | Spirit in Action International
    Tuesday, 13 March, 2012

    […] How people and organizations present their work is as important as the work itself. Is the grant recipient downcast, child-like, and dirty? Or are they smiling, confident, encouraged? […]

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