Holistic Community Development: A Sustainable Approach to Ending Poverty

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“The opportunity for philanthropy is the opportunity to reflect, to listen, to learn, to craft responses and solutions that are based and rooted in the ideas of people who live and work in the communities that you want to empower and help.” –Ford Foundation President Darren Walker

Many of us desire to serve vulnerable populations who are living in hard places, but without an understanding of holistic community development, we can unknowingly end up being ineffective or worse, harmful to the communities we sought to serve. An outside visitor or supporter doesn’t often understand the context, cultural considerations, or needs of the community in order to create solutions that will effectively serve the residents.

Sustainable communities that are not only surviving, but flourishing are developed through collaboration, communication, and a drive to work together collectively within cultural contexts. The center of the development should always consider the impact and input of the people who live there.

At Mission ONE, we’re partnering with uniquely qualified organizations that live in the very areas they’re serving, which allows for a deeper understanding of the unique needs and resources of the people.

When we are able to walk alongside them in co-creating opportunities and planting seeds of hope, we can empower entire communities and better anticipate the kinds of economic, educational, and spiritual projects that will be successful—or recognize when it’s time to shift.


Relief vs Development


While both relief and community development are crucial to global humanitarian work, relief is intended to be short-term, specific, and urgent. It can significantly reduce the loss of life in a crisis and ward off hunger, illness, and risk.

But when we use relief tactics to solve chronic issues plaguing communities for generations, we’re not helping them be more like the Kingdom.

Effective community development sets a foundation for that community to become healthy and in turn, the need for relief gets smaller. Holistic community development actually reduces a community’s need for outside aid, creates capacity, and increases self-reliance. It’s focused on observation, leadership development, transformational change, and hope.


What Does Holistic Community Development Look Like?


Holistic community development is collaborative and it’s meant to disrupt cycles of poverty by implementing systems and solutions. If it succeeds, it will impact individuals and neighborhoods at the same time, planting hope and empowering the people to thrive.

In Kijabe Town, Kenya we saw this change happen firsthand when the community started a pig farm business. Our partners understood the demand for pigs and anticipated the community’s capacity to supply them. After some planning they connected with Farmer’s Choice (the biggest pork meat provider in Kenya), to secure a contract and they agreed to purchase pigs from Kijabe Town if they could meet the demand. By understanding the unique needs, resources, and opportunities that already existed around communities like Kijabe Town, our partners were able to identify a natural fit and determine where the community could fill an existing need.

By implementing systems and tasks to do each month, the pig farming business in Kijabe Town has been able to consistently meet the Farmer’s Choice requirement of 25 pigs per month and is currently employing three full-time workers; but more than that, it’s creating a sustainable solution for more families to rise out of poverty. This is a tangible expression of God’s love that is giving families a dignified way to provide for their families and restoring hope where it was lost.

These efforts create a long-lasting impact and have the ability to transform communities for good. When holistic community development is consistent, it can revitalize a neighborhood and those in the community begin to see change and gain hope.

By focusing on holistic community development efforts, our partners around the world are able to collaborate with each community creating plans together and showing God’s love to our neighbors.

It takes hard work, and the change is never immediate but by starting with a plan, working together and making adjustments along the way, holistic community development can truly begin to take shape toward a direction of growth, hope and success over time.

We are not only showing compassion to our neighbor, but rather combining that with a willingness to listen, an investment in solutions that actually create sustainable change, and the long-term support of our qualified partners.

Together with Mission ONE, you’re helping to extend care and hope beyond short-term relief. You’re extending your hands and heart to those who are facing unimaginable circumstances and playing a role in making their communities more like the kingdom.

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