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Interventions in Life

August 2, 2010

We’ve been spending the last few weeks of training looking at interventions (aka projects) in the  development sector – how they’re planned, how they should (or shouldn’t) go to scale, failure modes, how they are monitored, the list goes on and on.  I’m beginning to understand interventions on new levels and with much greater complexity then ever before.

At the same time,  I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what my relationship to an intervention in a rural Malawian community will actually look like.  In a session on Friday, we were presented with the following quote:

Change done to us is debilitating.  Change done by us is exhilarating.

Although I fully agree with this statement, I’m wondering how many development interventions out there can honestly be catagorized by the second phrase? and how many, despite the best of intentions, actually fall into the first?  (where ‘us’ refers to the communities in which the intervention is implemented).    More importantly what role can I take to balance the influence for change that I would like to have, with the desire for stakeholders to take an active role  in that change.

As these ideas have been bouncing around in my head, I thought I might move the internal discussion into a more public forum, and see what all of you have to say.  Specifically, when have you had the opportunity to create change within a individual, group or organization?  How did you balance your role of change agent with the participation of those who the  change affected most?  I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences.

Interventions in my Life

I’m also starting to realize is that besides learning about interventions in development, the interventions in my own life over the past couple of months have been fairly substantial.  Here’s just some of the examples of changes that have happened to me personally:

  • From living on my own in KW; to becoming a member of a family of 8+ others in downtown Toronto.
  • From working a full time job;  to thinking full time about development and change.
  • From relying on a car; to taking the opportunity to bike everywhere.
  • From racing along in my everyday life; to diving into a culture of feedback and reflection.
  • From having a closet full of clothes; to living from a backpack of belongings.
  • From a broad range of interests, activities and events; to a tight-knit  community with focused objectives.

All of that, and I haven’t even left the country yet.  Look for exponential growth in the coming weeks.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2010 5:28 pm

    I agree with the quote as well. In my experience as a chapter leader, and trying to plan for the year or even upcoming initiatives I find I can sometimes fall in to the trap of running short on time and just wanting stuff done – so I do those things myself.

    Unfortunately, in doing so, I’m taking away the ability of others to have a say in the direction of events, or the chapter as a whole. This means that they no longer feel ownership, and will not take initiative in the future unless somehow prompted.

    In the short term this makes sure stuff gets done but it’s not a sustainable way to run a chapter. It demotivates people to take the future into their own hands.

    • August 3, 2010 6:06 am

      Thanks for the thoughts! Have you thought about how that learning is going to play out in your placement in Ghana? I like the long term perspective for future action, which I wasn’t really considering before. George gave us a metaphor this week of being both on the dance floor and the balcony at the same time. In other words, balancing a bias towards action, with the a bigger picture view. I think that I’ve tended to be on the dance floor person in the past without that longer term view. I’ll be working on that.

      • August 3, 2010 6:28 pm

        Hmm. no I don’t fully understand the dynamics of where I’ll be working so it’ll be hard to imagine how I’ll apply that learning but I’m sure I’ll figure it out when I get there 🙂 .

        How about I just promise myself to dance on the balcony?

  2. Pat Dunstan permalink
    August 6, 2010 3:23 pm

    I find this intriguing. You’re probably living my dream, were I 40 years younger. bravo ! I’ll be following you closely.

  3. Mer permalink
    August 13, 2010 9:57 pm

    Congratulations again Buddy! The emotional, psychological and intellectual growth that you have already described is incredible. It is going to be exciting for you as well as your friends and family to see you develop into your future self. I wish you all the best and I send my love!

    I can’t wait to read more of your adventures 🙂

  4. August 18, 2010 8:42 pm

    Hope things are going great after the biggest intervention for awhile! Departure 🙂

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