Building capacity in others is a key to creating sustainable growth, in any field. But building capacity also means allowing people to “rise to their own microphone,” as TMS “Teddy” Ruge, Co-Founder of Project Diaspora says, when they are ready, to tell their ow story, in their own way.
Sometimes this idea of letting people rise to the microphone can be lost. We can become so impassioned about a topic or a cause that you cannot help but want to share the stories of survival, resiliency, and success. But the truth is, that those stories, are not really ours to tell. Ruge reminds us that, agency of the story,belongs to the characters in the story, not those watching on the sideline, and especially not those that are inserting themselves into villages or developing countries, in the name of development.
The idea of agency is such an important one. Think for a minute of your own story. What would it look like through someone else’s eyes? Would someone telling my story have told my cancer story differently? Would they have cast their own judgments on my divorce or maybe my hysterectomy? Even something as simple as my marathon or triathlon journey…would someone else’s words convey the same feelings as mine, the same emotions, the same hopes and fears, or would they super impose their own beliefs, maybe even without intentional malice onto my story?
Even the simple act of helping….by doing a service project or participating in a social good campaign requires thinking about agency. Those acts of giving are not about the people who do the giving. They are about the people who do the receiving. Our trip to Haiti was not about what we did or didn’t do for the artisans and women’s groups we met. It was about them. The same holds true of the Toyota Women’s Influencer Network Service project that I participated in last week in Santa Barbara where we bought supplies to donate to a food bank. It was not about how much we spent or what we bought. It is about the families who will now not have to spend time worrying what they will feed their children.
The stories are not about the so called “heroes.” The heroes are the ones that wake up each day ready to start again, ready to do whatever they have to do, ready to learn and work. The heroes are the people whose lives are impacted by sustainable progress that puts them on a path to self sufficiency. The stories of day to day life…like recovering from depression or surviving a life threatening illness.
The stories belong to those who live through the experiences. The story of women, the story of children, the story of patients and survivors. The only thing we can do, is to tell the story of our own perspective as we learn about the stories. But also? We can help foster development and growth, not based on what we think is needed, but in the areas that are important to those impacted, so that those microphones–can be handed over to those that need or want to tell their stories.
Empowering others to rise to the microphone is the best way we can foster self sufficiency in others. Whether we are encouraging others to share their experiences and perspectives, or engaging in development or social action…what could be better than fostering the voices of many to tell their own stories?
There are many ways that we can build capacity and foster growth to empower others to rise to the microphone. Join me next week when I share some of the easiest ways to get involved.