Sustainable development: ELCA World Hunger Leadership Gathering day 3

There is a huge disclaimer that I need to put on this post as I get going. I spent the day listening to an inspiring morning plenary about meaningful international engagement for both relief and development efforts. I sat in an energizing afternoon plenary that overwhelmed me with good news about the work of ELCA World Hunger and challenged me to commit to taking action in my church and synod. I went to a workshop on domestic disaster relief that made my heart break (in a good way). I went to a workshop on advocacy that stretched and challenged me to be more courageous in my public witness. I went to a workshop on international development and decided that the new "only thing I've ever wanted to do" was to do work with international development partnerships (and it gave me a serious case of international wanderlust!) I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner with new colleagues and partners in ministry. I learned about other hunger leaders as I sat next to them on the bus. In short, it was a FULL day, and my head is filled to capacity. I could write from now until next weekend about all I learned - even the "quick" summary of my day is already a giant paragraph! So my disclaimer is that this post isn't a full summary of my experiences, it is merely a reflection on one tiny sliver of the day.

One of the highlights of my day was my last workshop of the day on international development.

We talked about six principles of sustainable development. Sustainable development is the process of engaging international communities at a local level to work toward development goals such as improving hunger and nutrition, improving poverty, improving class and race relations, and helping communities work toward sustainable self-improvement. These six principles all get at the idea that we don't just go in and fix things for communities, but that we help communities develop themselves and understand themselves as agents of change. This is how development continues past missionary or World Hunger involvement.

After we did an overview of the six principles, we were each given two or three pictures from various global communities that the ELCA has been working with. We were asked to tape each one to the wall next to the principle we thought the picture best expressed. So here are the six principles, and bad pictures of our work. :)

Participation: this has to do with intentionally inviting active involvement of all - development leaders, community leaders, community members - in every stage of the process, planning through evaluation.

Empowerment: this has to do with helping people build strengths, investing in local, long-term solutions, and making informed decisions as a community about the community's development and future.

Sustainability: this has to do with working toward localized activities, stable funding, and sustained results; that is, this is all about setting the stage for ongoing development rather than one-time projects.

Rights-based: this has to do with helping communities understand that they have a right to know (and exert) their own human rights (such as the right to basic needs such as food, water, shelter, clothing, safety, etc.); this comes from an understanding of development that sees people as capable participants in development rather than objects of charity.

Asset-based: this has to do with recognizing and utilizing community strengths, and helping community members see their own useful gifts and talents.

Transparency & Accountability: this final principle has to do with being good stewards of the time, effort, and money that are invested into development projects, and keeping open and honest about the process to both participants and donors.

All of these principles drive home the point that ELCA World Hunger, and other relief and development organizations in our world, are doing the best work in the world when they accompany the communities that they serve, and help lead those communities into self-sustained development rather than simply offering charity, imposing structures from outside the community, and focusing on one-time projects. I am quite interested in international development, and curious about ways that individual congregations and the larger church can get more involved.

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