Changing ideas


Of late i have been more engaged in facilitating conversation with the urban poor people’s organizations on thinking critically about capacity building and community development. One of the thing i came to recognize is the immense power of ideological inculcation into people’s minds that have been brought in a manner that seems to suggest the end of their problems but have not brought any real success. And as such we need to rethink our ideas and actions geared towards community capacity building and community development.

The real understanding is that ideas are powerful to effect real change starting from the human mind to actions. And at times some of us missionaries and even people in the church make a lot of mistakes unconsciously based on our academic and social understanding of issues. I have to a point where i had to make a decision on two prevailing ideas, one that has been presented to these communities for a long period of time and another which has been hidden from them. The first is having more focus on the processes with the hope that these processes will lead to significant milestones in developing capacity in the people’s organizations . This is the idea i seem to have problems with, when we are focused on processes we don’t get the time to ultimately look at the results, our evaluation is based on completion of the steps and not achievement of significant steps towards making positive change in the lives of the communities. At times there is a popular logic that you firstly have to be deeply immersed in the community and later take action with the people to address the problems, but i see a problem with that. The challenge is when you deeply immerse in a community you become one of them and most people then forget that their primary objective isn’t just to be in the community but to help address the challenges. You tend to see the limits of the people as your limit, their story becomes your story and their efforts become your efforts and you may not see the other opportunities existing around you to help address the problems faced by the community.

The second set of ideas are results oriented and that i see appropriate for my work in strengthening the people’s organizations in the urban poor communities. These people have made efforts to change their situation and be strong institutions but have seen no results emanating from their efforts. Let’s focus our ideas and ministry in helping people achieve meaningful results, this doesn’t necessarily mean visible but significant results to allow them to move forward.

Quite a number of people in various professional settings believe that processes are automatic and lead directly to the desired results which is different from the social sciences and working with communities. The communities need an improvement in their standards and conditions of living, are we going to focus our efforts on the process or on the results. I would take this back slightly to my African continent where the dominant belief is education automatically leads to development but how far true is that. We have thousands of educated people without the opportunity to use their knowledge and skills and what if we focused on the results could we not have moved steps ahead significantly?

In our Christian life and ministry we have to be focusing the results, at times we think of baptism and confirmation classes as crucial steps in the lives of individuals but what qualitative results come out this. God isn’t concerned about the process but the results, one can be baptized, confirmed, serve him as clergy or laity but the most important is the results of the person, what has the person done to prove his love and obedience to God. In the various ministries that we are involved in, let’s look at the results because they are significant indicators of success. Processes are necessary but not important, processes will not lead us to salvation but only the results of our work can do so.


2 responses to “Changing ideas

  1. Playing “Devil’s Advocate,” I know that you say that the process is necessary, but I tend to believe that the process can be just as important as the result. The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke once told this to a young friend:

    “…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” (Letters to a Young Poet, “Letter 4”).

    Sometimes it is the process, the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” that we find our way to God. Love is a process, and so are our journeys as missionaries.

    Keep living the questions, bud! 🙂

  2. Thanks dear for your comment. I loved your quotation and understanding. Indeed the process is also important but that shouldn’t be our only focus. The challenge when you focus on the process is that you overlook the necessity of the results. Processes limit at times our ability to move to the next steps and realizing the true meaning of what we have gone through. An example especially in work environment, processes at times don’t give us the desired results. You may be training people to transform the society but when you don’t look at the outcome, you may realize that all the people you have trained left the community for better conditions elsewhere. So the results in this case matter because they are the indicators of success or failure.

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