Good News for a Change
March 15, 2019
Should we be concerned? When the reality around us mirrors our apocalyptic television obsessions - people walking around like zombies in the midst of global crises - we should definitely be concerned. We are bombarded daily with reports of impending catastrophes. Human rights are receding as quickly as our polar ice, and our traditional global infrastructure is seemingly ill equipped to handle the demands of the modern age. However, what I find equally disturbing is the ambivalence with which this news is received by so many. We are also experiencing a crisis of complacency.
I get it, there is a comfort in doing things the way they’ve always been done. Meanwhile, facing the harsh consequences of those choices is overwhelming. It inevitably points to a stark change in the everyday decisions we have to make in order to protect our environment and civil liberties. So people don’t think about it. It’s easier to stare vacantly at a TV screen than to actively participate in solutions. But as the news cycle and our ominous prime-time fantasies become less and less distinguishable from each other, we need to wake up and see what we can do to compose a more uplifting story.
There is value in tuning into the fact that many of our traditional approaches to big picture issues have proven to be harmful myths. As Canadians, we have long thought ourselves be more evolved than our Southern neighbours on racial issues, yet we have a our own dark history of exploitation and abuse in our relationship with First Nation communities that continues today. Even in the international development community we are still learning how conventional approaches are interlinked with damaging colonial histories and how our work can perpetuate that legacy. However, although it’s important to remain informed on global issues, I don’t put any emotional energy into it. I need that energy to do those everyday things that can bring about change. I need to choose what is going to make the biggest difference and focus on that. If I want to flip the script, I have to focus on generating some good news for a change.
My job is to live my purpose, not get distracted by what isn’t working. I have to focus on why I’m here and what I’m meant to be doing. Part of that is admitting that I’m still a work in progress; admitting that it is challenging and scary to do this job, and that my path is in stepping into that growth. That’s why I choose to focus my energy on promoting The Hunger Project methodology… because it works, and is still evolving with each of its successes. We’ve learned that international development starts with understanding the history and impact of colonialism, checking ourselves, and holding ourselves accountable. We know that we have to empower, not exploit, and that we are not saviours charging to the rescue, we are partners with communities who are working toward their own self-reliance.
The Hunger Project has been changing the narrative of international development with its successes for decades. The other day, I was explaining how The Hunger Project’s approach differed from customary practices in the sector. I used the example of the epicenter strategy. I pointed out that this was not something that we as Westerners developed and implemented in Africa. This strategy was developed by Africans for Africans with our help. That it was about cultivating a mutual relationship, and a desire to see communities thrive for themselves.
We have come to know, through evolving our everyday practices, that when you empower the women in a community, you uplift the entire community. We have come to learn that the community has to lead its own growth to be self-reliant. And that we are still growing out of the colonial roots of international development by embracing the difficulty that that comes with with humility, because we know that we haven’t figured it all out yet. There are communities all over the world who we are working with who are still teaching us what International Development is supposed to look like. That’s why Community Led Development is so integral, it helps us do a better job of being a good partner. We don’t want to fool ourselves into thinking that we’ve figured it all out because then we risk complacency. And we would rather leave the zombies on the TV screen, while we focus on uplifting the script. So we can share some good news for a change.
April Burrows, Co-Country Director
The Hunger Project Canada