Being a mom of three I have read the same books numerous times, but there is a firm favourite (so much so that I can recite the entire book!). It is called “Cave baby”, by Julia Donaldson. In it, the cave baby paints on two sets of cave walls; his parent’s and a grey woolly mammoth’s. Both exclaim, “Look what he’s done!”, one furious and one with pure joy. Both are the same pictures, but they are received differently by the parents and the mammoths. So too is the work of NPO’s, businesses and government. We need to find the correct context and partners so that we receive the excited, “Look what he’s done!”
In reflecting on the “Aligning perspectives panel”, it reinforced the marriage analogy that Nationbuilder has developed over this past year in the collabs. I believe many of the panelists were talking about it inadvertently. Even in their conclusions they alluded to long term partnerships being the solution to seeing sustainable social change. However, I want to lay the challenge to each partner. What was described as struggles in the partnerships between the role players in the form of problems in dealing with NPO’s, the power struggle and even in working with the government is immaturity. The key to a great partnership is not finding the right “one”, or good chemistry between donor and funder, or great M&E structures, or even trust. These things are wonderful but tend to be a symptom of something else, something far deeper. I would suggest the key to beautiful, sustainable long term change in partnership is in identity. Umemulo. If we are truly serious about seeing complete social dignity, social health, in SA, I think we need to grow up. We need to know who we are and what we have been called to do. No one organization, business or system is going to bring dignity to all those who are suffering. We need to become mature in what we do and no longer play childish games. The games we play indicate our immaturity, in the corporate world, government world and the NPO sector. The games we play are the begging game, the changing game, the blaming game, the hiding game and so many more that are unbecoming of adulthood.
Umemulo. The person is ready to marry. They are an adult. They know who they are, what they are doing and where they are going in life. If a person knows their true identity, they are attractive to all around them, they accomplish much in their short years, they are focused and we are in awe of them. Expectations are clear, and communication is easy – there are no games. Their “yes” is yes and their “no” is no. The same for business, government and NPO’s. Being an adult does not mean you are free of flaws and you do not make mistakes, it means that you know who you are. We are all still growing and learning, but if you know who you are, you are able to be responsible and powerful in your decision making processes.
There can be no power playing when a mature business enters into a relationship with a mature NPO. The two are partners. One may be the “breadwinner” the other is the “helpmeet”, the goal is the extension of the gospel through giving dignity to those in need, to the helpless and the hopeless of our time. The breadwinner is created for the purpose of funding; the helpmeet is created with the purpose of meeting the need but they both have the same ultimate goal in the relationship.
Trust, they say, is earned, but there are definitely some who are more trustworthy. A mature business and NPO are much easier to trust – communication seems easier, there is no need to hide or blame as there is active growing in both. Both develop together in a way that is healthy and beautiful and they are better at what they do because of their relationship with each other. M&E flows freely when it comes from a mature helpmeet. It is a minor technicality versus the focus of their effort.
What they achieve together is always way more than what each would have done on their own. If, in Cave Baby, the mom had painted with her baby, the artwork would have been enjoyable to both and would be enriched by the experience. Let us look at who and what we are, stay focused on those things, and build partnerships that will last a lifetime as we tackle the issues that we are faced with together.
This is a blog Linda Morrison wrote for Nation Builder, after their In Good Company Conference last month. It is a commentary on one of the sessions held there and will be worth your while reading some of the other posts around the session as well as their marriage analogy in order to fully grasp what has been said here. http://www.proudnationbuilder.co.za/single-post/2017/09/15/It%E2%80%99s-time-we-grew-up