Scaling Up Humanity & How to Strengthen Yours

With billions of dollars spent every year on official development assistance and poverty reduction, why isn’t the current model of development assistance having a bigger impact? There are lots of reasons and theories but based on my experience, I believe it’s because we aren’t factoring our own humanity into the equation.

We come to this work with fire, passion, big visions, and hopes. But somewhere along the way, we lose our dream. Our fire. 

I believe to be of service to another person and to maximize the impact of that service, you need to be able to fully connect and understand yourself.  

I often think of small scale, local initiatives that change lives and communities. There is a lot of debate about the probabilities and challenges of scaling up and replicating local initiatives. But what if we scaled up and replicated the critical element of their success – the humanity behind it all?

What if we scaled that up in ourselves? What if we dared to bring our own humanity to the problem as part of the solution?  What if we allowed ourselves to be known, to be seen, and to empathize?

I bet we would relate differently to what is happening in the world.

Change one part of the equation and you change the outcome.

What we know matters but who we are matters more – Dr. Brene Brown

How can we begin to bring ourselves differently and more fully to our work?

1. Prime your brain. In development work two things are always simultaneously occurring- a problem and a possibility. Cumulative stress, and disheartening experiences, often leave us unable to see a full picture creating perspectives often skewed toward the broken, the down trodden, the crisis.
Practice priming your brain to see the problem + the possibility. This will help keep your mind and your heart open. Openness is the prerequisite for connection. Here are a few ways to practice priming for problems + possibilities:

  • Seek evidence. For every problem or negative view of the world you have, actively seek evidence that disproves it. Look for articles, speeches, news that proves there are possibilities to resolve the problem.
  • Amplify. This is not denying a problem or turning a blind eye. Instead it’s making the powerful choice to also see and amplify possibilities. Often we need to go to extremes to be able to appreciate the gradation in between. If you are operating with the extreme view of all the world’s problems, practice taking the extreme view of the possibilities and amplify them. You have evidence that possibilities abound, now practice amplifying them in your own world. Do good. Everywhere and at every chance you get. Here is a source of inspiration for you – this is what amplifying looks like in action.

2. Know your context–Cultivate your ability to bring awareness to your inner world so you can bring yourself fully to their world. Here are two ways to do this:

  • Self-Preservation Inventory– take some time to notice in your life where you disconnect, keep quiet, numb out, and shut down. Make a list of your self-preservation practices- all the ways in which you build walls, push away, or retreat. Becoming mindful of these tactics gives you the power to consciously choose to soften your edges, open up, and be present in your own life. To shift your energy and mindset from evasive maneouvres to being present, and all in. Or partially in if you choose. Just try and choose to bring more of yourself to your work than you did yesterday. Not to be confused with do more. Instead BE more.
  • Change the questions you ask yourself. Discover who you are, who you have become, who you want to be. Understand yourself so you are able to understand others.Here are a few questions to get you started:
    • Why do you love what you love?
    • Who’s dream are you working for?
    • Where does your compassion end?
    • What do you inspire in others?

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