To Bless Africa

How can we make the biggest impact with the most efficiency for the greatest good?

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On Taking that Next Step

Are wombs not wonderful? Strange way to start a post, sure, but think about it – they’re warm, safe, comfortable, loving enclosures where we ideally experience no want, no deprivation, no challenges, no pain. In them we are protected, cherished, and nurtured. We may only be able to grow so far in them, but while we’re inside, who needs to think about what the cold, hard outside world is like? We live in the moment, and love it.

I remember what I hope was the end of my formal education as if it were yesterday, when in fact it’s been almost 10 years. I didn’t realize until I was done how easy life was while I was in school – there was a set curriculum I had to learn and follow, I got tested in straightforward ways, and every year followed the other in linear progression. I knew exactly where I stood and what was next – the lack of need for any major decision was so warm, safe, comfortable…

By contrast, graduating from University is like running along a straight path right off a cliff and into thin air. All of a sudden there’s a wide world around you, and there are no markers, no signs saying ‘this is the best way!’, no way at all in fact. All of a sudden you realize that if you keep running you’ll end up a pancake, and you need to learn to fly, pick a direction, and try your best to avoid smashing your face into a rock without even knowing if the direction you picked was the right direction. Maybe you’ll find out… someday… down the line…

It’s so much easier to stay in the womb. No wonder babies cry so much!

I feel right now like we’re at another of those birthing moments in our lives. We’ve been puttering along nicely through these last few months – researching ways forward, finding what we think is the better way, making sure it’s ok, trying to learn more, trying to make connections, etc.; all the while comfortable and content in the safety of our ‘womb’ of learning, but not actually doing.

Increasingly though, we begin to find stretching difficult. Our movements become more constricted. We realize that if we’re going to keep growing, we need to ‘make like a baby and head out’. If we’re to keep moving forward we need to step off that cliff; and so, ever so grateful for this warm, safe time we’ve had to gestate in, we feel the time rapidly approaches to take the leap off that cliff and actually get back to doing. Time to learn to fly.

Don’t worry, I hear births are a breeze…

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Oh the Pain of Accountability…

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” -Lord Acton

It strikes me that a great chasm seems to exist between who we are as people and who we would like to be. It further strikes me (one more and I’m out!) that humans desperately need accountability to ensure that we are moving towards becoming who we would like to be. Built with an innate need for companionship/community/society, it would seem to me that though the rubbings and friction caused by being around others (and the closer we are the more friction we generate!) are often a pain and sometimes our least favourite thing, they might be a lot more necessary than we realize in keeping us in check, in keeping us accountable, in keeping us human.

Wise groups of people though history have realized this, ensuring that principles were laid down in constitutions and systems of government so that those with the greatest power and the thus the greatest freedom to make decisions, were still kept accountable for their actions. Sometimes those systems break down – as they did in central Europe in the late 1930s, leading to a small group of people who sought to become who they thought they should be even if it came at the expense of others. It took the intervention, labour and sacrifice of many of the world’s nations to hold the Nazi party in check and to bring them to account.

A series of similar breakdowns seem to have taken place in Africa through the last few decades. Though the continent has seen inspired, wise and sacrificial leaders like South Africa’s Nelson Mandela or Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, so many of Africa’s leaders have tragically left a legacy of self-seeking, self-serving, selfish behaviour – from doing whatever it takes to seize and keep power, to using national budgets as personal expense funds, to brutally crushing any dissent. The International Criminal Court (ICC), established to investigate charges of crimes against humanity and genocide, is currently investigating 8 situations worldwide – all of them sadly in Africa, several of them tragically against current or former heads of state. Even more heartbreaking is that some of these leaders are now accusing the ICC of being racist and pushing for the African Union to withdraw from the ICC. Accountability isn’t fun.

When it works however, accountability can be a powerful motivator. It can keep neighbours from harming each other, nations from invading one-another, the powerful from stealing/hurting/exploiting the weak. It can help people strive for and attain astounding goals, it can help ensure the development and growth of people, communities, and nations.

If we are to establish this company through which to bless communities in Africa, accountability would need to be hardwired into it – accountability to the public in North America, ensuring that our workings were transparent, honest, and true. Accountability to our partners in Africa to ensure that we truly did seek blessing for their communities, and not just profit. Ultimately though we would need a commitment to model accountability and transparency in all our business dealings, to mentor, foster and encourage accountability in all we did and all we worked with, and to require that accountability of those we partnered with. Before accountable leaders can be elected, accountable leaders have to be cultivated.

This, it strikes me, could be a good thing. That’s three and I’m out!