Jacob Okumu, Tatua community organizing lead and campaigns’ manager, and Mishack Chege, one of our newest fellows,* were two hours into a meeting when Jacob finally asked, “So what do you expect from us Mishack?” Mishack smiled and expressed his surprise that it had taken so long for this question to finally come up. “Aside from the training and the coaching,” he responded, “What I want from you, is the company: just to know that there’s someone walking with me in this journey.”
I couldn’t help but smile at this response: it suddenly became very clear why Jacob had waited so long to ask this question. When thinking about social impact work, our temptation is usually to diagnose the problem, analyze it, and prescribe a solution. Typically however, our first solutions are about the collection and redistribution of resources. Strangely, this comes even before we think about who will join our movement for change.
When Mishack first came in, he presented a three-step proposal for his campaign: it was strategic, measurable, and it was proven. There was nothing to object to in the plan, but yet Mishack had come to us because he had felt that this was not enough. What was missing, it emerged, was the community of people who shared his belief in the urgency of the problem he was trying to solve and shared his investment in crafting a solution.
As an experienced organizer, Jacob must have immediately guessed what was missing, and so he took the conversation a step back from the campaign and opened up the meeting as a space for Mishack to reflect on what had brought him to the work in the first place. As the conversation went on, Mishack grew increasingly animated, and Jacob and I had the pleasure of witnessing him reconnect with the passion that brought him to his work in the first place. His growing excitement was allowing Mishack to think through how he could ignite the same kind of passion in potential supporters.
“I hadn’t realized that the solutions I was coming to you for were here in me!” Mishack declared triumphantly as we finished working on his engagement strategy. Jacob laughed in excitement; his joy expressing his eagerness to watch Mishack’s campaign continue to grow.
The doubts that brought Mishack to Tatua in the first place, highlight the crucial importance of finding the people who will stand with you in the fight for social change: without a community in solidarity, when a particular solution fails, the initiative is a declared a failure. However, in solidarity there is resilience. When there is a shared investment in a community outcome, it emerges that there are ways to move beyond a failed approach.
This is the model of sustainability that Tatua is helping our fellows and their communities work towards. We work with leaders who want to spark not just development, but a movement, within their communities. Over the next few weeks, we’ll sit down with all of our eight incredible fellows for this cycle and share their stories, and invite us to be a part of the change that they are building. Stay tuned for regular updates to our blog to hear their stories.
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*For more information about Mishack’s campaign, look out for his profile in the next few weeks.