Saturday, June 22, 2013

Service Delivery Philosophy

Underprivileged. Underprivileged East Africans. The Surprised by Hope vision statement indicates that we’ll deliver biblically-based business training and education to underprivileged East Africans. One might wonder if the term underprivileged describes the entire majority world (developing countries). I suppose from an American viewpoint, being underprivileged just might. But the discerning eye will recognize being underprivileged as relative to the general population.

Still…the overwhelming majority of the East African population is indeed underprivileged. These people lack access to education, communication, transportation, health care, clean water, or even lack of access to a trading center. These are just a few of the common marks of the underprivileged. Though, it seems a majority of those living in urban areas tend also to define themselves as underprivileged as an expression of their mindset. A mindset we strive to overcome with teaching about God’s central character.

Even among the truly underprivileged, experience has revealed a few key factors that help ensure the success of the delivered content. It’s important to understand the filter through which we operate as we interact with nationals – saying no is never easy but having a clear target is essential. It’s also important that supporters understand how exactly we decide who we will serve and who we will refer to other sources.

The first criterion is that the group desire biblically based business training, training that does not result in any kind of distribution of funds. Common practice for many foreign ministries is to give nationals money for transportation, food, and lodging in order that they come to some central location for training. Those who offer such rewards often find their participants come only for that money or the free trip into town. Surprised by Hope, however, does not provide money for any reason. Instead, we travel to where the people are. Our mobility allows entire villages to participate in training rather than only select leaders.

 The second criterion is that the recipient group somehow has a ministry or charity focus. We do provide an analysis and feedback report to those who strictly operate businesses and request such, but our main target for delivering services is those who operate ministries or charities focused on developing larger communities of people.

The third criterion is that there be potential for ongoing relationship. Relationship is essential to the success of any service delivery as it offers the building of trust that leads to open doors to hear about the love of Jesus as well as course correction, encouragement, and sustainability. Going into any community to teach just one time, and never returning, does not allow the fruit to mature and therefore we strive only to go where we can observe and encourage development over time.

The fourth criterion is that there is a clear and motivated leader. We cannot be in every community we serve all the time. This leader needs to pick up where we leave off and continue to encourage and champion the ongoing application of the teachings in his or her group. No clear and motivated leader will ensure the death of every good thing sown. Further, underprivileged people often see the service provider as their savior and yet our true Savior has equipped us to do every good work and therefore, relying on Surprised by Hope for any semblance of success is misguided.

The fifth criterion is that the group served must take partial financial responsibility for our work together. For example, when we travel far we ask that they provide lodging and food for us. Usually this means staying with the pastor and his family and sharing the food the family eats. Leaders and participants do not pay for training and so sharing in this way ensure their seriousness in our investment. Now, I do tend to bring my own water and other essentials (toilet paper) so as not to be an overwhelming burden, but not so much that there isn’t some small sacrifice on the part of the community.

The final criterion is that the group is somehow referred to us by a leader already known and respected by Surprised by Hope. This criterion was implemented as a result of a high demand that could never be met and the need to discern which groups are authentic and serious and which maintain a secret hope to simply gain financial support.

God has given us a very clear picture of what he wants us to do and these are just a few of the ways he’s revealed as enabling us to identify those he wants us to serve.