Today in doing new things and finding inspiration in the places you least expect it, I attended the International Development 2014 Conference on Innovations in Development at University of Toronto. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect but I’m interested in both innovation and international development and always eager to learn in areas that are outside of my normal realm. During the morning panel there was a question asked to the audience and a response that really got to me:
How would you introduce an innovative project into a local community to enable relevant, context specific and sustainable change?
“I wouldn’t. I would step back and ask the community what they need. When people go into developing areas they go in with their ideas, as opposed to the local communities ideas, and when they eventually leave their ideas go with them. That’s not sustainable. “
Really changes the way you think about things, doesn’t it? I normally jump into situations head first trying to remedy problems and teach communities how to see things through my vision. My lens isn’t sustainable in communities that I am not always in. Having impact is a community is one thing but the key to leaving a lasting impact is being sustainable and sometimes that means changing the way you approach the situation. A little less “here’s how I can solve your problems” and a little more “here’s how I can support those that are already solving the problem.”