We believe that positive change will occur in communities as a result of the work of our partners. Our experience says that is so, but is there more to it than that? Is there a logic behind the way TEAR works and how TEAR’s partners are supported?
While there are certain triggers that we can often predict will bring about known changes, there are often no guarantees that simple interventions introduced into a complex system of community, culture, power and relationships will have the expected or desired outcome.
Change happens in often unpredictable and uncontrollable ways, but there is always the potential for change in any situation. Within individuals, groups, families and communities there exist, often unseen, opportunities and capacities to either make or stifle change. In order to influence positive change, TEAR seeks to develop relationships in which it can help prepare, resource and support people to bring about change as and when opportunities arise. TEAR believes such support improves the capacity of local people to enact change that is both long-term and broad-based.
...it is important that we and our partners recognise where God is working and join the change that he is bringing.
It’s important for TEAR to think carefully about how change happens so that we can work effectively with our partners to help them establish the foundations upon which local people can build as they initiate and carry through their own development. If we can identify how change happens we can also measure it, learn from our work, become better at what we do, and help our partners become better as well.
TEAR’s International Program Team recently spent a day discussing how we think change happens in communities and what is needed to enable that change to happen (our theory of change). As a result we identified four “pillars” or prerequisites of change, each of which is upheld by the sustaining and transformational work of God’s Spirit:
Strong partners & partnerships
Local partner organisations linking with other development actors in their community
Communities understanding and advocating for their rights
Communities solving their own development problems in self-reliant and diverse ways
These pillars are not things that TEAR can create, but it’s what we hope will be developed through our work with our partners. That work seeks to build relationships of trust, provide space for partners to innovate, learn and reflect, strengthen capacity in partners and communities, and develop committed and capable community leaders. We believe that God is always at work in the lives of individuals, their relationships and in communities. Given this, it is important that we and our partners recognise where God is working and join the change that he is bringing.
The Ugunja Community Resource Centre (UCRC) in Kenya is a good example of how TEAR is working with a small local organisation to build the four pillars of change. UCRC is a participant in TEAR’s Small & Emerging Partners Initiative, receiving intensive organisational support to help it grow and mature into a sustainable and well-functioning organisation that can promote change over the long term. Through a network of Community Learning Resource Centres, UCRC is providing skills training in agriculture, helping people access rights, information and services from other agencies. They are developing community leadership and providing a forum for communities to meet, discuss and plan together. The result is a diverse range of initiatives at a community level to promote positive change and help people respond to the challenges of poverty and powerlessness.