About twenty of us spent three days with Dr David Korten last week. What a challenge!
Korten's book, “Getting to the 21st Century: Voluntary Action and the Global Agenda” is both easy-to-read and disturbing.
His basic thesis is that the world faces a crisis of which global poverty and environmental degradation are the most obvious symptoms.
One of the main causes of this crisis is a thoughtless belief that the world has an infinite capacity to absorb our garbage.
This results in an economic system in which one billion over-consumers (that includes us), are extracting resources from four billion under-consumers. It is an unsustainable process.
Real change must address issues larger than problems of individual hunger and personal need.
Starvation is Somalia is just a symptom. The causes include the legacy of colonialism, poor government, the arms trade, capacity to deal with drought, and more.
How is World Vision going to deal with the underlying causes of world problems?
This is a question we continue to take seriously. Last week, International President, Graeme Irvine wrote to the un Secretary-General urging un intervention to bring reconciliation at a political level in Somalia.
Personally, I hope that World Vision will never lose a balance between the individual and the global. There is a danger of becoming so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly use. At the same time, there is the opposite danger of being so focussed on the symptoms that we never deal with the causes.
The challenge we embrace at World Vision Australia is how we can become even better at empowering the transformation of our own society.
Keeping the Family Together.
From my talk to Managers on 28 August.
Over the next year we are going to be talking about keeping the family together. Some of this talk will be about our supporters. How can we keep supporters as part of the family for longer?
Some of this talk will be about how we work together. We describe ourselves as a family at World Vision of Australia. In the mid-80s we decided to experiment with the idea of strategic business units (SBUs). Our theory was that by creating fully resourced business units within World Vision of Australia we might improve productivity and customer responsiveness. The most apparent sbu has been Western Australia. But there have been others. Indeed, the biggest SBU in World Vision of Australia is the 40 Hour Famine. Originally, it was a matrix organisation, borrowing people from the regular structure. Increasingly, it has become more and more fully resourced. It now has its own store, dispatch procedures, telemarketing, management and staff.
Since 1989, with the clarification of our vision and values and the development of the New Information System, we have discovered the power of these initiatives to create synergy and productivity. As donor service teams have begun to work more openly with marketing departments, new and better ways are emerging. As managers work with finance people as information providers, cost control is powerfully enhanced. And so on.
There has been a discernible (but unmeasured) shift away from a hierarchical organisation to a networking organisation. Manuals & Procedures are being supplanted by Vision & Values as tools for decision making. We are increasingly seeing our task in empowering transformation definitions. The old definitions of efficiency, cost control and doing things better, are not lost, but are given meaning and purpose under a greater calling.
What's this got to do with Keeping the Family Together?
It is clear that organisational effectiveness will come by cooperative, collaborative effort empowered by a common conviction that, whatever our desktop focus, we are all in the single business of fighting poverty by empowering people to transform their worlds.
A case in point: Dealing with the 40 Hour Famine response is like handling a television special every day for six weeks. How do we do it? We employ 150 new staff and volunteers (save for some supervisory staff) and dedicate them to the 40 Hour Famine. At one stage this year we found ourselves with a backlog of many thousands. It was clear that our full 40 Hour Famine capacity could not easily cope with the backlog and the constant flow of new business.
Yet, sitting around the organisation, working away at our other business, were around fifty skilled keyboard operators. They knew the system. They didn't need to be trained. The result of our commitment to multi-skilling and job expansion over the past few years. When these operators were asked to work collaboratively with the 40 Hour Famine people the backlog was cleared in a single morning. The impact of this extra and unplanned work was managed without any severe degradation of our other work.
I believe we are emerging into a new phase of management thinking.
We shall look for synergy and collaborative effort as a paradigm for organisational effectiveness. I need to say this is not top-down. Our emphasis on this in FY93 will be the result of what we have learned from the bottom-up. My own visible commitment to this process is merely placing the corporate seal of approval on a direction that is already showing results.
Please pray for me during this next week as I travel into Somalia (11-14) and then to the WVI Council in Guatemala (15-20).