May 2012

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A number of years ago, after speaking about the value of collaboration and partnership at a conference in Ivory Coast, a leader from Cameroun sat down with me to tell his story. Following some 20 minutes of conversation, he told me that his country has a relevant proverb about how to have a successful life. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

There is a myth with multiple iterations that is believed by the masses in the USA. “You can be successful alone.” “Be a lone ranger.” “It all depends on you.” “Be your own person!” “Change comes though individual genius.”

Many organizations and church groups enter into mission contexts seeking to do their own thing. Or they seek to work with one local entity unaware or indifferent to other players and relational networks of the community. The results are devastating. Distrust. Duplication. Dependency. Waste. Failure.

The Dutch consulting company Synergo Ede was asked to evaluate the impact of foreign church groups working with African communities to assess their effectiveness in helping the locals to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS. After several months of research, they came up with a startling finding. When an outside entity works only with one local institution and does not build up the relational networks within the community, “it blows up the community. The situation becomes worse.”

Are you aware of the diverse actors and networks in the communities you enter? Are you strengthening the relational networks of the communities? Are you fostering trust and a spirit of unity between the local leaders and various institutions? Do you want the local residents to go far in their development? Then help them to go together.