Director’s Blog: Turning words into action

I was in a meeting that focused on an application for a government grant. Grant applications can be complicated and time consuming. We spent most of our time on the “Logic Model,” which includes ultimate outcomes, intermediate outcomes, outputs and activities. I understand the reason why donors, especially government organizations, require organizations to go through this process and I am not opposed to them. However, that said there is need for caution for those of us who are involved in caring for the vulnerable of this world.

I came across “A Letter to a Young Activist” by Thomas Merton and it came to mind as I was working through the Logic Model.  Merton told his young friend, “Do not depend on the hope of results.  When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on… In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”

In this day and age it is easy to get caught up in the institutional language of the NGO world; so much time and energy is spent on Vision and Mission Statements, Core Values, Codes of Conduct and so on. We spend large amounts of man-hours doing strategic planning. I am not saying these things don’t hold value, but eventually we have to move from talking about it to actually doing it.  As Thomas Merton went on to tell the young activist, “You are fed up with words, and I don’t blame you.  I am nauseated by them sometimes.  I am also, to tell you the truth, nauseated by ideals and with causes.  This sounds like heresy, but I think you will understand what I mean.  It is so easy to get engrossed with ideas and slogans and myths that in the end one is left holding the bag, empty, with no trace of meaning left in it…”

Too often organizations, under the pressure to raise the much needed resources, feel they have to create unrealistic outcomes in order to attract donors and pressure to achieve these outcomes rises. Organizations begin to lose focus and their vision becomes too broad. I am a firm believer in narrowing the focus and keeping it simple. Otherwise as Merton cautions, “we begin to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and witness,” and “that is not the right use of your work.”

As the Executive Director of Villages of Hope – Africa Society I am committed to keeping to our call to bring hope to children at risk. Yes I will continue to do strategic planning and yes I will complete the logic model, but I will strive to not let words but rather our actions define who we are.

“The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see.  If we can do His will, we will be helping in this process.  But we will not necessarily know all about it beforehand . . .”

Until next time,

Sergio Bersaglio

Executive Director – Villages of Hope – Africa