While I was swimming, biking and running during a half ironman triathlon last October, I constantly faced at least one of two main obstacles: time and fatigue.
Both of these challenges nearly took me down during the swim portion of the event. My time was so poor that I battled against the clock during the bike portion of the race. Fatigue caused me to wonder, during the last let of the run portion of the event, if I could continue.
I started repeating the phrase uttered so many times by none other than Dory the fish in the Pixar movie, Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.” In my case, I told myself to just keep going, just keep putting one foot in front of the other, just stay upright!
Long-term endeavors – whether a race, project, campaign or plan – can be grueling. We need to continually encourage each other to “stay the course.”
Almost two years ago, Food for the Hungry (FH) restructured the way we work with communities around the world. We developed a new model called Child-focused Community Transformation(CFCT), and it is being rolled out at this very moment in FH countries and communities around the world. I believe this is a critical moment in this long-term endeavor to renew our energy so we can see CFCT through to a strong finish. There are three key reasons why I believe we are on the right track and need to remain firm in our resolve.
1. We are seeing some good early fruit in our training of community leaders.
Last month, I visited a new program area in a remote region in northeast Nicaragua. I heard and saw amazing examples of the new CFCT model at work. Community leaders had only been in training for two and a half months. I heard things from those leaders that I have never heard before in my 22 years with FH.
These leaders were excited, motivated and empowered. They are already putting into action the training they have received.
This new training module for community leaders is producing the kind of local leadership we need to sustainably transform communities with a focus on the well-being of children. These community leaders are counting on us to stay the course with the new model so they can experience the transformation that they so desperately want and need.
2. We are seeing some good early fruit in our conversations with donors.
Donors increasingly want to fund the programs of organizations that demonstrate large-scale, sustainable impact at low cost. In today’s rapidly changing world of philanthropy, donors are no longer content to merely send checks and trust us with the results.
The CFCT model allows FH to scale our activities using cascade groups so that we can greatly multiply our impact at a reduced cost. If we want to grow our budget and our programs, the best way to do this is to stay the course with CFCT programming.
3. We are seeing some early fruit in our ability to measure impact on the well-being of children.
FH has developed indicators that tell us if children are thriving, in the areas of health, nutrition and education. These indicators give us the information we need to direct more of our programmatic focus toward the things that produce the greatest change in children’s lives. We’ve given ourselves goals for how much change we hope to see by the year 2020. Just last month in Nicaragua, community leaders shared with me that after only a few trainings on how to engage the government in their development efforts, they have actively sought – and in some cases already received – increased support for children in their communities.
FH deeply cares about seeing the lives of poor children transformed. We want to inspire them to dream about a brighter future, and then walk with them as they strive toward that future.
When I crossed the finish line in my half ironman race last October, I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment. As we stay the course with CFCT, I am convinced we will see many more examples of change like those I witnessed in Nicaragua, knowing that the effort was worth it as we cross the end line in 2020.