Keep reading and carry on

One of the first things that stood out for me when I was introduced to Oxfam Novib, is its complex organizational structure through all the ‘advisors’, the multi- and subdisciplinary teams and the different, overarching departments.Although I still don’t get the whole picture (I informed my colleague the other
day about a woman who took a seat in our office and had a chat with us at ease.
It turned out to be my boss. I really thought it was a man… ) I reckon the
complexity of Oxfam Novib’s structure as an effect of
its own complex mission. Succinctly stated as: “A just world, without
poverty”, it obviously is one of the hardest missions there is to
accomplish. Ever. From my experience, all those brave and talented people
around me, resolutely committed to bring the mission a step closer to
reality, are in a constant struggle with a huge distraction. Namely, reality itself. It is disguised as
procedures, reports, a mindboggling amount of internal documents, countless
meetings, inexhaustible filling inboxes and sick colleagues. All facilitated by
a failing ICT now and then. Wait, doesn’t this sound similar as the course of
events in pretty much every other organization? Yes, indeed. Well, we have to
take it for granted then.

However, one can hardly deny that our everyday shackles
corrupt our motivation to build on this very mission. Hence, we must not lose
our focus. Hereby, inspiration can offer you a helping hand. Since Oxfam Novib
has been around for quite a long time, there is an impressive track record of
inspiring achievements. So, when you are feeling numb and worn out through all
the time-consuming banalities, you just have to know a (couple of) inspiring
stories which Oxfam has its share of, to get you reassured that your work is
really to bring about something good. Hello motivation, good to have you back!

Even if you can
barely notice your share in the whole afterwards, it’s still nice to know that
reality also shows its sunny face outside your office, down in the South. Luckily,
I am in the pleasant position to get inspired by beautiful stories at the same
time I sit behind my desk. To be more exact, I currently conduct a qualitative
analysis on the so-called “Stories of Change
from Uganda. My work takes part within a team that’s named the World Citizens Panel. Its
objective is to measure the impact of projects, run by Oxfam Novib’s affiliates
in a vast variety of developmental countries. Therefore, WCP uses a unique
methodology of quantitative and qualitative research. The quantitative part
includes a survey, conducted into the areas Oxfam’s partners are active. Its
results form archers from where interesting changes in people’s lives can be
explored more in-depth through structured interviews (stories of change). As I
said before, I am on the latter, so I may enjoy all the described improvements
by reading and interpreting these beautiful stories of change. My purpose of
this blog post is to get you inspired with some stories, especially at times
you lose your notion of what you are working for!

image

Implementing the methodology in Uganda, 2012 | Photo Credit: World Citizens Panel, Oxfam Novib

In Uganda, some of Oxfam Novib’s partners introduced a
method, aimed to empower local Ugandans with some easy-to-obtain tools that
could significantly improve their lives and make them less dependent from
aid-givers. It is called the Gender
and Learning System-methodology (GALS)
. During workshops, local people were
made familiar with several tools. They have been taught, for instance, to
envision how they wanted to have their lives over a certain amount of time. By
encouraging them to live up to this vision, people should be experiencing more
guidance in their lives and get a better sense of self-control. In addition,
people have learned how to save wisely and use the savings to invest in assets
which contributes to sustainable life improvement. How did this turn out?

Maduro, 42 year old male, farmer, living in the Zombo
district, Uganda: “When I attended a GALS training meeting by
ESAFF ( Eastern and Southern Africa
Small Scale Farmers Forum) Uganda in our district in early 2010, I was exposed
to trainings on bulking and savings and the tools such as visions and challenge
action trees which seemed interesting. I was later also tasked to draw my
own which actually made meaning since it opened up my mind to working alongside
my wife and also plan for the future together. Though I was hesitant to narrate
to my wife and other members of my family, they all felt it was a good way to
move forward if we were to improve our ways of life in terms of health, better
education, nutrition and better living conditions. Ohhh, at last I have an
organization I believe in!!!! Right now all our children go to school well as
my family members are able to have a balanced diet. We have actually just moved
into our iron roofed house which has improved the status of my wife and I in
the community. I am now even trying to explain and convince my fellow men whom
I find at the drinking places talking about how good the methodology is.”

image

Implementing the methodology in Uganda, 2012 | Photo Credit: World Citizens Panel, Oxfam Novib

Agnes, 31 year old female, commercial farmer, living in
Arua district, Uganda: “
CREAM’s
(Community organization for Rural Enterprise Activity Management) GALs
methodology where visioning tool is used as a planning tool has made my husband
and I to draw our vision road journey in which we have jointly evaluated at our
past, current situation and set future targets and strategies to reach there.
This practical visual aid which we evaluate annually has inspired us to work
together and use the land for achieving our vision. To us this was a break
through yet we had the land but did not know how to make good use of it before.
So we give credit to CREAM for opening our eyes to see far and become role
models in the community. Currently being a farmer and a business woman I am a
source of inspiration to many other women who look up to me and have since
started similar business. I rent from other group members more land that
together I use for the expansion. The husbands have since realized that we the
women can champion development in the community if empowered and allowed to
apply farming skills like crop rotation on the available land. They can now
trust us with big chunks of land like never before we joined Aliondemara
group.”

That feels good, doesn’t it? Some real stories, from real
people. Very helpful to remember, when your computer has a breakdown as you
were finishing the last powerpoint slide of tomorrow’s meeting on the
reorganization of your department.

Rick van Lindenberg

To respect the privacy
of the storytellers, all names have been changed.

Rick is an intern at the World Citizens Panel
at Oxfam Novib and has a Bachelor in Psychology. He is now finishing his
premaster of Political Science at the VU University in Amsterdam and hopes to
begin his Masters in the same soon. His switch into the world of new
institutionalism and global governance was prompted by the dissatisfying answers
Freud and Jung gave him on how social change occurs.  

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