Hungry for Change
March 7, 2019
Sitting around the management table, as both a professional and volunteer executive, I would think to myself “What am I doing wrong?” It’s a story I found to be familiar to many women leaders - being brought in to be an innovator and difference-maker, yet having one’s ideas routinely dismissed. Even when we have the capacity, vision and position, often women leaders aren’t being empowered to lead. Even though research shows that the transformational leadership style of female leaders can be more effective, our value repeatedly goes unrecognized.
As someone passionate about being visionary, I was hungry for more. I made a commitment to myself - that I would no longer allow what others thought to change who I was meant to become. It was up to me to live the life I’m called to live. I knew that through my transformational leadership style I could empower myself to lead the way I was meant to, and more than that, I could empower other women to be the best leaders they could be as well. I needed my work to be on purpose and be aligned with my passion. .
That’s when I discovered The Hunger Project (THP), “A global, non-profit, strategic organization committed to the sustainable end of world hunger.” In the 40 years they had invested in becoming a vanguard in the sector, they had successfully demonstrated that ending hunger was less about food, and more about the opportunity to become self-reliant. Most of all, it was about empowering women, and teaching the men that when you uplift women, you uplift entire communities. Working with a board that shared my transformational approach, I realized that I had found more than a charity, I had found a place where I could learn how to be the leader I was meant to be.
We all hunger. Some of us hunger to have our voices heard; some of us to make a difference; others hunger for the basic necessities of life. However, we need all these things to thrive. That’s why the original investors in The Hunger Project mounted the largest hunger related education and advocacy campaign the world has ever seen. They realized that ending hunger was about opportunity and strategy, and that having your voice heard, and making a difference, were also basic necessities of life.
The same hunger to make a difference that had investors standing on street corners handing out pamphlets in the beginning, has them invested in solutions today - supporting communities to self-reliance:
- Educating women in India in becoming community leaders
- Having the largest pool of volunteers in Bangladesh
- Facilitating the creation of “epicenters” in Africa as hubs for community organizing
- Community-led reconstruction in rural Mexico
THP projects work with communities to achieve their own goals, all the while advocating for wide-spread adoption of community-led development. However, even in the midst of all of their success with this approach, the biggest obstacle remains the same: convincing people that the best way to sustainably address poverty and hunger is to implement what we call, gender based (women centric) community-led development.
I am, by nature, passion, and talent, an idealist. I excel at crafting and guiding the direction of organizations. However, I am also learning how vision becomes communal. This is the learning edge of my own transformation as a leader. Balancing the importance of moving together as an organization with the importance of being bold, and unapologetic for having a strong voice. As much as we want to move together as a society, we can’t minimize who we are as visionaries. Because that’s the thing about change, it doesn't slow down for those who don’t get it.
We all need to strive toward our goals. Without this spiritual sustenance we end up numbing ourselves to life with things that don’t uplift our spirit. We retreat from who we could possibly be. Stepping into ourselves is hard. It requires discipline, support, and resources. It’s easy to get derailed and lose focus, but success is in catching yourself, getting back on track, and building up that mental muscle to continuously self-reflect, refocus on your vision, and commit to your own transformation. That is when you unleash true self-reliance powerfully and authentically, and that’s why I am committed to helping more women unleash leadership in themselves. Because when you feed that hunger in women, women empower their communities to thrive.
April Burrows, Co-Country Director
The Hunger Project Canada