Experiencing the Myths
His name was Andrew. He had a friendly smile, clean-cut looks, and the seat next to me on the plane back from Los Angeles.
"What do you do?" he asked. It's the question everyone seems to ask once they know your name.
"I work for World Vision."
"Great. I sponsor a child. In Chad. We began sponsoring as something to influence the kids. My church also sponsors kids." How unusual, I thought, to meet an Aussie on a plane who actually goes to church.
After this, the questions came in a predictable pattern.
"I've always wondered what happens about kids who are not sponsored. I mean, it seems a bit unfair to single kids out for special treatment."
I gave him a mini-lesson in community development and participation.
"That's great to hear. What about that big building you have?"
I explained it was the cheapest building possible for an organisation of our size. Cheaper than any alternative.
"I never realised World Vision was that size." No. People never do.
And then, the question I was waiting for.
"What about overheads? How much of the money really gets to the children?"
I answered him with the 70:30 goal, around 6% general admin, balance on fundraising, education, advocacy, no money actually "to children", no standard reporting, therefore difficult to compare agencies.
I was getting tired. Seemed to me I had discussed these matters once or twice before. Although not with him.
There was a moment of mutual silence. I spoke.
"What do you do?"
He was a doctor with the bone marrow unit of the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
"Cool," I said, genuinely impressed. "That would be very satisfying work."
"Yes. Yours too." I agreed with a nod.
"That's got to do with leukemia and stuff hasn't it?" I asked.
He explained it to me rather better.
"How do you decide which patients to treat?" I asked.
It was clear the question confused him. He just treated the ones who came for treatment.
"Uh-huh. I suppose you have all the latest equipment?"
"Isn't that wasteful? I mean I've always wondered about that."
He defended well. After all, we are talking about human lives. I agreed there was no debate on that value.
"What about administration? How much of the bone marrow unit is overhead?"
He paused for a minute.
"I have no idea. I don't think I've ever been asked that question before. Why do you ask?"
"I don't know. Why did you ask me?"
The Emperor was lost on a journey and a member of his entourage stopped a boy herding horses to ask for directions.
So impressed was the Emperor by the clarity of the boy's reply that he said to him, "You seem a smart lad. Tell me, if you were the Emperor, how would you rule the Empire?"
"I have no idea, sir," replied the boy, "I only know about tending horses."
"Well, tell me about that then."
"When we are tending the horses, we make sure no harm comes to them. We put aside anything within ourselves that would injure them . . . Can ruling the nation be very different from that?"
Structure for the Year 2000
Alignment means that the right things are more likely to happen by themselves. The new ways of doing things will appear to emerge spontaneously in organisations.
A key part of the alignment process is communicating purpose so that it provides a touchstone for groups or teams to judge what kind of attention, time and energy to give to their initiatives.
Our mission statement, Fighting Poverty by Empowering People to Transform their Worlds, and the ideas it contains, is this touchstone for us.
"The image often given to this kind of coherence is 'resonance'. It is not 'singing from the same song sheet', but a celebration of diversity and different gifts feeding back to each other.
"The apparently spontaneous movement together of a shoal of fish or a flight of birds is a good example.
"One colleague suggests that organisations need to change from being whales to shoals of fish." (From "The Enhancement of Ministry in Uncertainty" by Gillian Stamp)