Monday, January 5, 2009

Dr. Lynn Curtis Teaches about Grassroots Empowerment

One thing about being a shirt-tail connection to a grass-roots humanitarian organization is that you get to see a lot of good things happening. It’s like being Relief Society President without all the work involved.

My daughter Terry is director of SWAN (Serving Women Across Nations), a small humanitarian outreach organization. We call her Terry the Tornado, because the whole family gets sucked into the vortex of her current fund raising or outreach activity.

That tornado sucked me into spending all last Saturday sitting in a class taught by Dr. Lynn Curtis. Dr. Curtis is President and CEO of Sustainable Solutions, a Utah-based company that works with NGO’s and other entities to train their people as they go out into the world to do humanitarian outreach. Dr. Curtis’ most recent training session was at the LDS Church headquarters’ Agricultural Services Program.

Dr. Curtis was teaching a class in Sedro Woolley, WA last Saturday because—you guessed it—Terry the Tornado funneled through a presentation he made at a conference on microlending held at BYU last November. SWAN has a microcredit program in Bolivia. (Click here and here to read about a couple of ladies that received some of the first loans in January 2008. Those first loans have been repaid, and the repaid capital is now funding a second round of microcredits.)

But, back to the class: Terry sees that there is a lot of teaching that needs to be done so that these microloans can be utilized to the fullest. When she attended the conference in Provo, she saw that Dr. Curtis’ program would be a tailor-made fit for how these things could be taught, so he was invited to present his class on participatory social action up here. He taught us how to be facilitators in the process of taking a diverse group of people and helping them become a critical-thinking, action-focused council that operates within the cultural norms of the country they live in.

The class was amazing and eye-opening, and I could see that the process he taught is universal and could be used in teaching concepts or solving problems in any society.

On their web site, Sustainable Solutions lists their Ten Keys for Sustainable Change. I’ll list them here, but I invite you to check them out so you can read what they say about each key. Lots to think about there, especially with #5.

1. People not things
2. Local not outside ownership
3. Holistic not fragmented
4. Learning not prescription
5. Agency not dominion
6. Participatory not passive
7. Partnerships not paternalism
8. Grassroots structures, culture and aspirations
9. Self-sustaining not dependent
10. Environment

I was impressed with how generous Sustainable Solutions was with proprietary materials. Terry has encountered entities like Sustainable Solutions that charge so much for their workbooks and classroom materials that preparing for the class of thirty women would eat up the capital for several microloans. Dr. Curtis made all his materials available to SWAN without charge.

At the left is a picture of Dr. Curtis and one of the class attendees, Sylvia Goodwin. Ms. Goodwin teaches English as a Second Language at Skagit Valley College.

Dr. Curtis is a member of the Upton Ward in the Coalville Stake. A former bishop of that ward, he
now serves as mission leader and Sunday School teacher.

If you ever get a chance to take a class
taught by Dr. Curtis, take it! You’ll help make the world a better place.

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1 comment:

Monique said...

Wow thanks for sharing this Liz. I'm gonna look into this a little further.