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McDevelopment - Over 2.5 Billion Not Served
Scripture: Ephesians 4:14-16
Track 7 of 8 in the When Helping Hurts series
Running time: 1 hour, 11 minutes, 49 seconds.
Participation by the poor in their own solutions is key to helping them. Participation is not just a means to an end but rather a legitimate end in its own right. What is important to understand, participation is not just a means to an end but the most important end.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

McDevelopment: Over 2.5 Billion People Not Served

What positive things have McDonalds given to society today? What are the negative effects that McDonalds and fast-food chains brought to society? Has our society in the United States been affected by the fast-food stores? How has our mission as a church been affected by the fast-food mentality?

True or False: When working with the poor and messy people, your life changes and there are no more clear cut answers to life and the answers to poverty?

Can anyone guess how much money has been spent on helping the poor in the world and yet, it seems as though there are more and more people every day. One would think that after all that money spent, something good would be coming from it. Why is poverty growing bigger and bigger each year? How do we stop the tide of people being devastated by poverty? These are questions that plague world organizations fighting against poverty. It seems the harder we work, the worse things get.

Can you name for me one country or nation that was totally poor and today is a thriving nation all due to the help of the world nations?

We can go back into all the countries we helped and we will find that most of our efforts went unnoticed in that the problems that caused the community disasters still remain as the problems. Equipment we brought in to fix problems are either sitting unused, totally broken down or in many cases, stolen or taken by governments and not being used to help the poor at all. The tragic fact is with most relief efforts, as soon as the non-profit organizations leave, their projects disintegrate soon after they leave.

It is estimated that 2.3 trillion dollars in foreign aid came from Western countries in the post-World War II era and yet more than 2.5 billion people (1/4) of the world’s population still live on less than $2 per day. The story is the same in the United States as well. When President Johnson launched his war on poverty in the US, the poverty rate was at 12%. Today, 45 years later the poverty rate continues to hover at the 12% rate. There has been a slight improvement in the over-all world poverty rate but “bang-for-the-buck” is appallingly low. There are a lot of machines rusting away in fields that were designed to help the poor, why?

Reason: Inadequate participation of the poor people in the process

Learning Process vs. Blueprint Approach

For many years several large non-profit organizations used what we call, a “blueprint approach” to poverty alleviation. In a nutshell, the non-profit group develops the plans to help the poor; they go in and do the plan to the poor with the ultimate goal to develop a standardized product that can be replicated in several other poor communities or countries on a massive scale. It is McDevelopment, a fast food franchise approach to poverty alleviation and it has resulted in more than 2.5 billion poor people not being well served.

Although the blueprint approach appears to be very efficient, it often fails because it imposes solutions on poor communities that are inconsistent with local culture that are not embraced and “owned” by the community members. Just because solutions worked well in Illinois or equipment did its job in Kansas doesn’t mean it will work well in the culture or economic context in the African wild country.

The problem with the blueprint approach is not enough time is spent in understanding the culture of the people being served. What seems logical to us in our culture might not seem at all logical in others. In many cases, our approaches disrespect the culture of the people we are trying to help causing a the God Complex to rise its head and hurt our relationships.

Because many good intentioned projects failed miserably, the blueprint approach has been abandoned for a different approach; the “learning process”. This approach tries to do the following things:

• It seeks to develop
• It seeks to facilitate an action
• It involves the poor in designing the plan and then participate in the plan so they have the success, not those who came in to help.
• The poor chooses the right course of action, they implement the strategy and they do the evaluation on how well things are working.
• They determine what modifications need to be made.

The approach of the outsider is not to do something to or for the poor person or community but to seek solutions together with them so they learn how to fix the problem themselves and prevent the problem from coming back.

What are the reasons why the learning process might work better than the blueprint approach? 1) By participating in the plan, they will have more enthusiasm and ownership for the plan. A person will sacrifice for a plan if it is their idea. 2) Poor individuals and their communities are highly complex and not well understood by the outsider. To get things done it requires the knowledge and skills of the insiders to make things work well.

What is ironic about both of these approaches, the learning process takes more time to produce tangible results than a blueprint approach but the learning approach is more efficient in the long run because it will most likely result in workable and sustainable interventions.

Participation by the poor in their own solutions is key to helping them. Participation is not just a means to an end but rather a legitimate end in its own right.

Do you agree that participation by the poor is crucial in order to help them? Why is it so crucial? What does it accomplish?

What is important to understand, participation is not just a means to an end but the most important end. It is impossible to accomplish reconciliation of relationships in a blueprint approach in which the outsiders are the ones deciding what to do, how to do it and how well it will work. The blueprint approach undermines the action-reflection cycle for poor people, denying them the opportunity to be what God created them to be: image bearers who, through trials unpacks and unfolds the wonders of God’s creation.

A Word of Warning

There are secular arguments for using the participation model often rests on two faulty assumptions.

• Many believe that truth is relative. Some argue that poor people need to participate in the process because they need to construct their own reality. Who are we as outsiders to impose our ideas on poor people?
• Humanist believe in the inherent goodness of human beings that leads them to believe that participation, like democracy , will produce positive results

Both of these assumptions are wrong from a Biblical perspective. Why are they wrong? The Bible clearly teaches that there is absolute truth and to the extent that we know it, we are to speak the truth in love.

Ephesians 4:14-16 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Also, the reality is, including the poor, man is basically sinful and participation does not have the capacity to overcome the basic corruption in the human condition. Individual and groups make bad decisions all the time.

However, the participation approach is consistent with the Biblical perspective concerning poverty alleviation. The working together to overcome the inferior-superior dynamic is what poverty alleviation is all about. We are to establish relationships and working together does that.

Now we have to be careful. There are all sorts of participation and they are experienced on different levels. We have to know the differences from doing thing to poor people, doing things for people and doing things with people.

The goal of any participation project is to get the individual or community to the community initiated stage, to get them to set their own agenda and carry out their own plans – to be self reliant. But there is not a one size fits all solution. A number of factors need to be considered when deciding the type of participation to use such as the mission of the organization, the type of intervention being considered and the capacity and culture of the poor people involved.

Donor Alert

Is it appropriate for Christians to ask what is the best investment of their money to get the greatest impact for the Kingdom? What is good about the question and what is a problem? The good comes from a desired interest to be good stewards. The problem is that most participation projects are time consuming and the return on the dollar might not happen in the short run.

True or False: Donors need to remember that relationships are more important than producing and selling widgets.

What does this mean? For most churches, what determines a successful mission project versus one that is a failure?

Donors must remember that creating decision-making capacity on the part of the poor is a return – arguably the chief return – on their investment.