15 Nov

This weeks it’s the Tales From the Hood rock ‘n’ roll marathon.

Here’s the second tune in the playlist:

This one’s easy: I think that we are all far too anxious to declare aid successes or failures far too soon.

Who knew that Axel Rose would have the answer?

Said woman take it slow
It’ll work itself out fine
All we need is just a little patience
Said sugar make it slow
And we’ll come together fine
All we need is just a little patience
Patience, patience, patience
Ooh, oh, yeah…

I really like Jacqualine Novogratz’s description of “patient capital.” (read her interview on Social Edge). As I analyze it, she’s basically talking about two age-old “good aid” ideas kind of rolled into one.

1)      Look at aid outcomes in the terms of those we’re intending to help (“the poor”).

2)      Take the time that’s needed.

We’re talking about peoples lives and, importantly, their ways of life, here. How quickly does change happen in your organization? At your institution? In your family? Yeah? It doesn’t happen quickly in “the field”, either.

This stuff takes time. Yes, I get that donor funding cycles and life-of-project realities mean that we have to try to talk about results before they’re all the way ripe or describe progress that can’t really be measured yet. But as humanitarian aid practitioners, it’s our job to see past funding cycles. The rhythms of change in the communities where we work are not based on annual congressional statements, the European Commission’s budgeting process, or when the tax year ends for that wealthy area businessman who’s been a “strong supporter” for a long time.

Sure, aid is not perfect. And sure there’s room for improvement. But it works better than you think. But you have to give it time.

Just have a little patience.

One Response to “Patience”

  1. vivmcwaters 15 November, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

    Good point, J. Patience seems to be lacking in a lot of arenas. While the tools that we use to communicate (e.g. what I’m doing right now) are faster than ever, that doesn’t mean that we humans using those tools can also operate at that pace. We still need time to assess what’s going on, to explore options, to have conversations and build relationships, to decide what to do and then to get on and do it. The lack of patience means there’s an expectation that we can skip all the hoo-ha and just ‘get on with it’. Any wonder then that projects sometimes fall apart at the implementation phase? When I’m facilitating workshops (or as you call them, ‘very important meetings’🙂 there’s often a desire to wrap everything up in the final session so it’s all neat and tidy. I call this ‘premature encapsulation’ – sometimes (in fact, quite rarely, it is possible) mostly it’s a bit messy and uncertain, mainly because the issues are complex and can’t easily be manipulated into some sort of order. Our need for order, structure, to meet milestones and to report according to some arbitrary funding cycle is based on a 20th Century model of work. If work, and aid, is to operate in the 21st Century we need to consider other ways of planning, implementing and assessing the work based on an ecological model rather than an industrial model. People are not widgets and can’t be treated as such – patience is one of those human attributes that is highly under-rated. Harold Jarche summarises this well in a recent post
    Cheers, Viv

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