Once upon a time there was mass marketing. The idea was that one product could be produced for everyone. So we have Coke and Big Macs.
Then there was niche marketing. The idea is to find small groups of customers who have similar needs or wants. Make a product for the group. So we have boutiques.
Now there is one-on-one marketing. This is seeing each customer as unique - one-of-a-kind. Isn't that what each customer is, anyway?
By dealing with each sponsor or donor as a unique customer, we come closer to being able to build a relationship that can have transforming potential.
It makes a difference in little ways as well as big ways. Here's one of the little ways:
A Victorian sponsoring couple is linked with a child in Zambia. A clerical error in Zambia means they get the wrong introductory letter. It is for another sponsor in Queensland.
They call us and Debbie Johns works out what has happened. They agree to forward the letter to the correct sponsor. They wait for their precious letter from their sponsored child. It does not come.
Letters and phone calls are exchanged. Debbie always explains as much as she can. Memos and telexes to Zambia don't produce any letters from the child. The sponsors are very disappointed as they have written five times.
In the end, I talk to the sponsor. Do they want to cancel? Not at all. They feel they have a personal relationship with World Vision. They want to help us to fix the problem.
There are some important lessons here for me:
1.     A relationship that is open to share the problems breeds commitment and understanding.
2.     Our best friends are customers who will take the trouble to tell us what is wrong (we should not call this complaining).
And now some theology:
3.     For God so loved the world ... what? He sent His Son to have a personal, one-on-one relationship with me and you. Can our relationships with sponsors and donors begin to model His example?


The meetings of the Partnership Team were very successful. There was much on our agenda. Here are some of the highlights from my notes:
The first time that any ordinary meeting of the partnership senior leadership has been held in a field country. Why has it taken us so long?
On the first afternoon, Peter McNee and I walked up to the market square of Antigua. Two soldiers stood on every street corner with machine guns. We said "Buenos Dias" as we passed and they seemed surprised to be addressed. Maybe it was our accents. [Don Marshall has explained this phenomenon. Since it was afternoon no-one, soldiers included, would expect anyone to say "Buenos Dias" to them!]
The Sunday market that Peter and I walked around is a sensual pleasure. An acre of indigenous embroidery. Later I heard that the Spanish actually introduced the distinctive Indian embroidery, and it is based on Spanish designs. The colonisers required that Indians from each village produce and wear a different uniform. So the indigenous art much loved by tourists like me, is actually a mark of an oppressed people.
Our agenda included discussion on our understanding of poverty and development (2 days including a project visit); advocacy; the West Bank; Directors' Conference; China; Eastern Europe; FY91-93 Management Plans; Egypt; Korea; the Sponsorship Action Team report (very exciting new directions); Evangelism commission; South Africa; Commission on Women; Partnership Review Committee report; and future partnership meetings.
Our venue was the Hotel Antigua. Not a grand international hotel, but something better. A hotel of individual bungalows scattered around a courtyard of palms, flowers, and birds. A big swimming pool surrounded by alfresco (or whatever the Spanish equivalent is) dining tables. As a step in the direction of identifying with the poor in Guatemala it was hesitant and comfortable. It was not expensive, nor lavish, by Western standards. At U.S.$47 a day (all meals included) it was very cheap compared with the United States or Australia. I guess it was a few steps closer to the poor on a journey of many steps.


On the radio today I heard a commentator say that we should convert all our coal-burning electricity power plants, into nuclear generators. The reason? Because nuclear power is more environmentally friendly!
We know that one of the main causes of the greenhouse effect is increased levels of carbon dioxide in the air. And power plants that produce electricity by burning coal are the main culprits.
During a visit to a project I was hearing how they planned to bring electricity into the village for the first time. Natural fuels and expensive battery power would be replaced with cheaper electricity. But at what environmental cost.
"How is electricity produced in Guatemala?" I asked the guide.
"From water falling down," she said. Her choice of words was much more graphic than hydro-electricity. "There's enough water in Guatemala to produce electricity for the whole of America!"
I don't know if that is true. If it is, imagine what would happen to the world, to economics, to third world poverty, if all the coal-burning power plants were closed down and the rich countries bought their electricity from places like Guatemala. Or Tasmania.