Awareness, Empathy and establishing the Direct Connection
Creating change in the communities in which we have ongoing projects requires funding, and funding is our current and ongoing challenge.
Acquiring that funding and support is a matter of engaging our communities, here in the US, in the challenges faced by women half way around the world. Inspiring that empathy and motivating our community to be generous is our challenge.
Inspiring generosity is, in my mind, an issue of awareness, empathy and understanding. Initially, our community needs to be aware of and learn about the daily struggles of rural, poor women around the world. Once they are aware of the basic needs that go unmet, it is a matter of conveying the relative affordability and the best practices that resolve these issues.
At the same time, the organization for which I work, New Course, believes very strongly in the importance of engaging and empowering the communities wherein our projects take place. Convincing donors, granting agencies and other potential sources of funding that our methods are more impactful and more sustainable over the long term is yet another significant challenge. We must present convincing evidence that our small, partnership model is not only a powerfully positive model for local communities, but is also longer-lasting and the best use of their funding dollars. Finally, I believe that ongoing, individual support is a matter of developing empathy for women who are half a world away and whose daily existence is quite different from one's own.
We resolve this, in large part, by appealing to donors with facts and figures, with photos and with scientific articles that establish our type of methods as being long lasting and effective. We've also created a few short videos that appeal more to emotional donors. Our current methods are convincing to some, but we haven't yet established New Course as a leading organization in the field of women and cross-sector, environmentally sustainable, international development.
The potential application of Pulsewire is fantastic.
If we could find a way to share the current lives and challenges of our communities with funders - by inviting women into this community, for example, and connecting donors directly with women- I believe we would motivate many more people to support our programs. However, the barriers to this type of connection are, at present, quite substantial.
The women with whom we work do not have access to computers or electricity and many of them left school before the age of 12. Therefore, their access to technologies and their literacy levels make direct reporting nearly impossible.
Luckily, our model involves partnering with local nonprofits. These nonprofits (for example, the Tanzania Forest Conversation Group) are local and long standing. They are able to enter the field and report back in a matter of days. Initially, we will seek to have an employee of theirs subcontract with New Course, to share the pictures and stories of women with us. We can, in turn, share those stories with potential and current donors and partners.
The issue of access has yet to be resolved, but as we partner with communities to help them establish sustainable sources for water, fuel and food, we are also working to improve primary educational resources: building physical structures, bringing in books and supplies and bringing teacher training up to the national standards. This additional focus on education, especially for young girls, will cause a shift in the community. Young women will grow up with enough to eat, with clean water and with an empowering education are the future reporters of WorldPulse.
Pulsewire has also already sparked conversations with women around the world who run organizations with which New Course could potentially partner. The immediate interest and exploration of ideas has been fast and growing. We will maintain these relationships and potential partnerships beyond VoicesRising 2011, realizing that this community represents all aspects of our organization: partners, community members, supporters, idea-generators and enthusiasts alike.