DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Is “Surface-Level” Where the Truth Resides?

Written by: on November 4, 2019

There is a four-stage framework that my team has uncovered that sets the template for how many white, evangelical church, academic, and non-profit leaders approach local and global missions.  It goes like this: Notice, Diagnose, Solve, and Walk Away.

Notice: Because of the geographic and relational distance between white evangelical institutions and impacted communities, we’ve become adept at making thin observations and then convincing ourselves of how correct we are.  From a distance and void of authentic relationships, we’re proud of the comprehensive accuracy of our surface-level noticings and tout them with the elegant air of self-acclaimed expertise.

Diagnose: Priding ourselves as savvy, resourced innovators, we pile into whiteboard sessions.  While there we subconsciously stand on a theological foundation that places us as uniquely responsible and capable to solve the world’s problems. Before we offer what we’ve noticed, we begin by discussing the opportunity that this particular problem may provide us to disciple our people.  Once convinced that we could leverage the brokenness of another for the sake of our own people’s transformation, we offer our observations and coalesce them into a series of premature conclusions. Within a matter of hours, we walk out of our mini innovation labs with what we believe to be an accurate diagnosis of the problem.  The next step will be to build the strategy for how our ideas, once implemented, will eradicate the problem of (fill in the blank).

Solve: Solution and strategy in hand, we head “down there” to present our findings and intentions with the Executive Director of the organization we are “partnering” with. Our solutions resemble simplistic projects that can be accomplished by groups of well-intentioned yet deeply unskilled laborers. Because the partnership is rooted in charity rather than solidarity, she accepts our proposal and an unhealthy dependence is likely to emerge (or continue).  Within these circumstances, the Executive Director frequently sees the self-serving evangelical compulsion that the evangelicals appear ignorant to. Yet, for the sake of continuing the work that will benefit the desperate, she chooses not to ask too many questions. She demonstrates gratitude, the event is calendared, and, as the evangelicals turn our attention to marketing the program, she laments that her life’s work is misunderstood as a consumable for the benefit of the privileged.

Walk Away: After three hours or three days of sweat labor and a new multitude of noticings taken in through lenses that reinforce our biases, we hand an underprivileged family the keys to their new home. Or, we conclude the soup-kitchen service and clean up.  Or, we put our rakes and leather gloves away after servicing the under-resourced elementary school. Or….

Often without a deepened knowledge of the family’s story, acquiring (& remembering) the name and contact information of anyone we’ve met at the soup kitchen, or growing an understanding of the systems in play that cause one school to lack what another elementary school has an abundance of, we walk away from the project.  What was a deeply insignificant moment in the life of those impacted by housing inequity, poverty, and educational disparity was experienced as a deeply satisfying project by the evangelicals. After congratulating ourselves, we return to our regular lives relatively unchanged.

This four-stage framework, when applied to short term missions in Tijuana, Baja California, has resulted in that city becoming a severely (over)evangelized city.  Myriad organizations have built very successful (read “lucrative”) business plans based on this framework that have resulted in tens of thousands of homes being built, bi-national “relationships” between churches and pastors being formed, and hundreds of thousands of Mexican children hearing the “good news” of Jesus by white youth through Vacation Bible School presentations.

This is great news, right? Not when you speak with Mexican faith leaders who are measuring the negative implications of Short Term Missions (STMs) on the church in Tijuana.  From their perspective, because of STMs, the church in their city has deepened in its inferiority complex, has become dependent on US American voluntourism, and has lost its vigor to be a truly indigenous expression of the church within its city.  It is not good news to the city planners of Tijuana who are now dealing with tens of thousands of homes that have sprung up in ways that interrupt any semblance of long term design and sustainability. It is not good news to the humanitarian non-profits who are working tirelessly to create jobs for deported and migrant women and men in the fields of creative childcare and construction.

The aforementioned four-stage framework is an example of “First-Order Thinking” that author, Shane Parrish, critiques in his book, The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts.  In this first volume of what will become a five-volume work, Parrish excavates nine of the leading mental models in an effort to help his readership understand how we think, how we learn, how we form beliefs, and how we make better decisions. (Parrish, Location 106) Rather than inviting us to choose the one that we resonate with most, Parrish asserts that employing one mental model is not enough. Rather, we have to draw upon a repertoire of models personally and in community with others if we are to solve complex problems. (Parrish, Location 133)

Second-Order Thinking is one of the nine mental models highlighted by Parrish and is a response to the First-Order Thinking illustrated above. It is a model that invites us to engage questions, conflicts, and complex problems beyond the surface level. As Parrish sees it, too often, our answers to the questions, resolutions to the conflicts, and/or solutions to the complex problems are near-sighted.  That is, informed by confidence, arrogance, urgency, naivety, or expediency, we’ve become groomed to diagnose issues based on surface-level observations and then engage rapid strategies that rarely answer, resolve, and solve.

Our thin noticings and quick fixes often perpetuate, if not accelerate, the problem.  This is the dangerous outcome of First-Order thinking that is exemplified in the Tijuanan analysis of the four-stage framework listed above. While it can contribute to the solving of an immediate problem, it does so without considering the unforeseen, long-term implications that the solution could generate.  First-Order thinking does not require proximity, costs very little, and perpetuates both the superiority complex of the powerful and the inferiority complex of the oppressed.

Second-Order thinking is thoughtful and deliberate.  Rather than suffering from nearsightedness and the tyranny of the urgent, this model considers both various options and interventions as well as the potential ripple effect of consequences that the action will trigger. With humility, this model recognizes that with every possible intervention, the likelihood of harm is very high.  Thus, Second-Order thinking demands proximity, considers long-term implications, and requires ongoing partnership.

While I agree with Parrish’s analysis of First-Order Thinking and preference for Second-Order Thinking, he disregards the former and downplays any benefit that First-Order thinkers make to the world. I affirm that every action carries the potential for negative consequences and agree with the pursuit of wisdom. That said, there are moments of trauma that demand fast action.  My hope is that a habit of Second-Order Thinking would generate rapid strategies steeped in wisdom, but when it comes to the intensity of trauma, those impacted by it simply need it to stop.  Rarely do they care how it is accomplished.

So if my analysis is accurate that many white evangelical faith leaders have been groomed into well intentioned First-Order thinking as it pertains to local/global engagement, then where do we begin in our attempts to shift them toward Second-Order Thinking?  Here are four suggestions:

  1. Interrogate your noticings.  Within milliseconds, what we “notice” becomes categorized into our bucket of preconceived truth.  Ask: What did I notice? What truth did it reinforce? If it unsettled me, why? What do I know or not know about the story behind what I noticed?  What would it cost me to move from noticing to seeing? What am I willing to sacrifice in order to learn a more accurate truth?
  2. Suspend your diagnosis and choose curiosity instead. While we’ve been groomed to develop and articulate analyses, we must acknowledge that void of input by the impacted community, our analyses are insignificant.  Ask: Who do I have access to that lives in the pain? In conversation with them, ask: What’s your analysis of the problem? How did we get here? Who benefits? Who loses?  What is the experience of living on the underside of this?
  3. Recognize and acknowledge that no one is asking you to solve anything. To solve is to perpetuate the power differential and maintain the system of charity that poisons the waters of restoration. In relationship with the impacted community, ask: What solutions are you discussing with one another?  What do you need from me? From us? Historically speaking, what kinds of contributions have been helpful? Which ones have been positive at first and then spiraled south?
  4. Declare and demonstrate that walking away is not an option.  Ask: If we co-create solutions in the near-term that have negative consequences in the long-term, how will we analyze and engage them together? What agreements can we make to stay in it together?

About the Author

mm

Jer Swigart

31 responses to “Is “Surface-Level” Where the Truth Resides?”

  1. Darcy Hansen says:

    Jer,
    This one hits close to home for me. I have friends who have served with YWAM for 30 years. While they are no longer “in” YWAM, they still partner with the Ensenada Base and Homes of Hope, to build homes with families in need. They also travel globally to train YWAM leaders at various DTSs. All that to say, I have helped build 8 homes in the past 9 years with YWAM Ensenada/Homes of Hope/Olivia’s Basket. I have always had questions about the how’s and why’s, but have justified my participation with the fact that locals are part of the YWAM team in Ensenada and know the culture, people, and continue to be a presence in the lives of those served.

    Though I am not an evangelical leader that has initiated the Notice, Diagnose, Solve, and Walk-away strategy, I have participated in it, originally unknowingly, but later, knowingly. I wrestle with short-term missions, even when I know God has led me to go to a particular place, for a set time, to serve in a specific way. In Rwanda, I have been able to build relationships over the years, and serve in a way that seems to be more holistic, though I could be very wrong about that. In Mexico, I have distant relationship with a few of the YWAM staff, and no connection with any of the families we have built for.

    Regarding your second-order thinking points, how can organizations that have a long-term presence in a community, but who facilitate short term mission teams, even begin to change? How do they cast off a model that brings 300-400 local housing applicants/year to their facilities for help? Have you seen and experienced models that are more holistic for the communities?

    I have many questions on this matter, and would likely be better discussed in person. I value your thoughts and experience. I so want to be and do better in this regard. And I want the same for my dear friends’ organization, of which I serve on their board of directors. Thank you for the thoughtful questions you pose in this space.

    • mm Jer Swigart says:

      Hey Darcy.

      Thanks for your comments and for wondering with me about your STMs experiences. Of all of your comments, your assertion that “…I could be wrong” is such a beautiful manifestation of second-order thinking. My sense is that you frequently dare to make that statement and/or ask the question, “Where is my perspective incomplete?” This is to be admired and learned from. That statement & question act as a portal into deeper discovery and important self-interrogation. Thank you for modeling that.

      As to your questions: We are currently consulting one of the largest home-building mission organizations that hosts over 10,000 evangelical home builders a year. They invited us to begin working them because of two(ish) questions. The first, from the Mexican side, was “Under whose local authority and within what true local partnership have you built thousands of homes in the last 30 years? And are you aware of the negative impact of your work in our city?”

      This generated the second question which was an internal wondering: “How are we contributing to consumer-driven discipleship in the US at the expense of our Tijuanan neighbors?” Both questions led to our relationship and are resulting in new relationships for them. Within Tijuana they are now meeting with local leaders like city planners and shelter directors to understand the implications of their well-intentioned 30-years’ work and to explore the potential role that they could have in generating construction jobs for the thousands of deported and asylum-seeking individuals that now reside with Tijuana.

      The question will be, can they pivot their method in a way that still results in homes being built (differently and more thoughtfully) and that contributes more positively to the discipleship of US-based evangelicals? Further, will they be able to explain this necessary shift to their evangelical partners? And, when they do, will it cause their US-based partners to simply find a different organization that will provide them the voyeuristic home-building experience that they long for?

      • mm Darcy Hansen says:

        I’m so grateful for the work you are doing. Thank you for modeling a willingness to wade into the mess and transform both systems and culture.

  2. mm Joe Castillo says:

    Jer, I appreciated your work in Mexico. I lived in Tijuana “Tia Juana” for three years. Lily and I met in Asambless Of God Bible school, and we used to evangelize the city and small towns. Part of my tactical ministry was a church planter. TJ was my first school for transcultural ministry. I praise the Lord for those years of labor in a very hostile place.

    • mm Jer Swigart says:

      Joe, you’ve lived a remarkable and fascinating life. As a missionary/church-planter in Tijuana, how did you work to grow the agency of the church in that city toward dependence on the Spirit and to resist the co-dependency on US-based short term mission approaches? How did you observe the impat of US-based STMs on Tijuana and what, if anything, were you able to do about it?

    • Joe says:

      Excellent questions. Co-dependent from outside sources is an issue across the mission field. We have to change the culture and build a sense of ownership, we have to created a sense of partnership and not dependency. The west has to learn not to just give but resources out. The border line ministry haven been a victim of handouts but very little has been down to build up leaders. As a result their is a mentality of extending hands to the missionaries. That mentality has to change and the national have to learn to understand that ministry can be done without having to complicate things. ”the Gospel of food cans, clothes, of building is not the gospel”. Unfortunately ”we” have done a good job modeling such of progressive and materialistic approach. Hope that make sense as I am I between texting and getting ready to take my son to school. 😉

      • mm Jer Swigart says:

        Joe.

        Based on your experience in Tijuana, what do you think will deepen US-based Christian understanding of solidarity-based mission? What do you think it will take in order for US-based Christians to recognize that it is we who have something to learn?

  3. mm Dylan Branson says:

    When it comes to STMs, I hold a lot of reservations as well. Many times they come in the form of the immediate need, take their pictures, pick up and leave, and they’re gone. What we miss a lot of times is the importance of continued relationship with people we walk alongside in STMs.

    When I lead training for my old organization, one of the things I tell the teachers I’m training is that their experience during the summer extends far beyond the end of July. For many of those teachers, they will likely never return to Hong Kong. But the relationships they build with their students are relationships that should last. Being able to work at the school I served with through this organization, I’ve seen the impact that these short term teachers can have on the students. For the teachers and students who built relationships and maintain that relationship, I see growth both in their education and in their development as people. But I’ve also seen students who thought they were close to a teacher who never kept up with them.

    It’s like you said: We need to declare and demonstrate that walking away isn’t an option. This past summer, I had the privilege of going to Mongolia on a STM with the church I attend. My reservations were that it was a weeklong trip working at a camp for orphans. What annoyed me going in was that lingering question, “What can be done in a week?” But what I saw set my mind at ease. The set up of the camp – dividing the kids into “families” with two members from the Hong Kong team, a translator, and two Mongolian volunteers (many of whom once lived in the center these kids live in) – gave me hope. As I talked with some of the Mongolia volunteers, they shared at how instrumental the organization was in their life growing up and how the teams from Hong Kong showed them love when they came. The organization we partnered with actively set out to follow up and maintain relationships with the kids in such a way that I was humbled to be part of the experience.

    All of this to say, I agree 100%: We have to look at the long term consequences of our actions, not just the present moment.

    • mm Jer Swigart says:

      Dylan.

      Thanks for your reflections here. As I read your comment, I was struck by your own noticings of personal dis-ease and wonderings about the impact and limitations of STMs. My sense is that this is a familiar experience for so many, yet so few of us know what to do with the discomfort or questions. Thus, we ignore them and then continue to participate in and perpetuate something that may likely be discipling us in the wrong direction at the expense of others (first-order thinking).

      Let me ask you this: as leaders, how do we teach people to understand the discomfort/question as a critical moment that is pregnant with the potential for transformation and, therefore press into it rather than ignore it and miss it? It seems like the discomfort and the question could be the portal from first-order thinking to second-order thinking.

  4. daftar ceme says:

    I am expecting more interesting topics from you. And this was nice content and definitely will be useful for many people.

  5. daftar ceme says:

    great article.. thanks and good job

  6. Nancy Blackman says:

    Jer,
    For eight years I worked with a missions organization. For the first few years we gathered up teenagers, I spent months doing preparation before the two-week on-the-ground missions took place in the summer. We painted orphanages, cleaned hospitals, played with orphans, held sports ministry workshops, etc. etc. etc. Our model was very similar to yours.

    At the end of three years, when in a meeting with the pastor from the country we were visiting and my missions leader I said boldly, “What if we took a break?” The pastor who received us basically said, “I agree.” My missions leader looked slightly befuddled but agreed.

    Why did I say that? Because I began to listen to the people of the receiving country. I sensed that we might be doing more damage than good and what was that showing the impoverished people of that country? Since that time I no longer believe in STM’s for all of the same reasons you listed and more.

    How would you answer the questions you posed in step #4?

    • mm Jer Swigart says:

      Thanks Nancy. And for your work over those eight years. I don’t mean to suggest that a well-intentioned Notice-Diagnose-Solve-Walk Away model for STMs doesn’t also generate beautiful things. I can’t even begin to imagine how many young people’s lives are being lived more restoratively today because they were positively informed by your work.

      Before I interact with question #4, I want to point out a very important second-order statement in your comment: “I began to listen to the people of the receiving country.” That you got to that point is so powerful. One of the questions that we’re trying to seed with churches & universities that we’re working with is: why is that question not your first question? And, who must we become in order that this question is our automatic ask?

      Regarding the questions I pose in #4 above, I’ve found that the commitments to moving at the pace of trust and choosing to have complete conversations with one another to be important baseline agreements for collaborations that last.

      • Nancy Blackman says:

        Jer,
        Yes, the model that your organization uses/used has had a layer of success. I still hear from some of the younger group that those yearly trips have helped to shape them spiritually and cognitively.

        The reason I wanted to hear your answers to #4 is because since that time I’ve been trying to figure out a way to merge that model into something that allows for a greater good. How can we make it happen and it have a lasting impact for both sides which is empowering and good and [insert your own positive adjective]?

        I love that your organization is having this conversation!

        • mm Jer Swigart says:

          Hey Nancy,

          To be clear, rather than shaping our work around the model of Notice, Diagnose, Solve, Walk Away, we’ve uncovered this method as the primary philosophy of dominant culture Christain missiology. I’d identify this as first-order thinking and we are working to find a way to help folks deconstruct out of that and into a better way forward. We would recommend See, Immerse, Contend Restore, with restoration less a practice and far more a participation with the divine. The first is a charity approach while the second is a solidarity approach.

          Success does seem to require that the impacted communities have the space and agency to lead the way with our supporting participation. The great challenges do seem to emerge out of the inferiority/superiority complexes that both communities have become adept at embodying and navigating. My question is how do we live a hopeful alternative to the the complexes and help others do the same?

          • Nancy Blackman says:

            Jer,
            I have ideas on how to answer your question, but I think it deserves a conversation. I hope we get a chance to do that because it is something I think about since leaving my staff position.

            Blessings to you and your family as you journey!

  7. mm John McLarty says:

    Great thoughts here. I know for the STM trips I’ve taken/led, we try to be very intentional that we aren’t the experts or the saviors and try to hold each other accountable if/when those behaviors surface. It’s a fine line to help people have a first-hand experience in a foreign place while still not leaving a trail of destruction in our wake. It seems like the latticework of the mental models could really help in the ways we train and prepare people for serving opportunities in other cultures, as well as being better at engaging with opportunities in our own communities. How, if at all, are you incorporating your 4 suggestions into your work?

    • mm Jer Swigart says:

      Hey John.

      As folks who engage in STMs and are well-intentioned in your preparation and faciltiation, how do you “try to hold one another accountable?” I wonder if, based on our ingrained colonizing framework for mission, we are even capable of holding ourselves accountable. I wonder if true accountability on this issue can only be found if we submit ourselves to the authority to the indigenous community.

      Your thoughts?

      • mm John McLarty says:

        I think it’s always a challenge, but if we’re in someone else’s home, the best posture is humility and submitting to the leadership of the host. When we begin with that, I think we are on the right track to transforming the STM experience from something to make me feel good about myself into something that at least opens my eyes and heart to someone else’s reality. I’ve seen this work well in a few situations and it’s a beautiful thing when it does.

  8. mm Greg Reich says:

    Jer,
    In missions we often make decisions based on our understanding of our eternal mandate to save the lost sometimes without regard to the ramifications and problems caused along the way. Do you think we often neglect second level thinking because we believe that one’s eternal destination out weights the problems? Why aren’t we as concerned about the negative ripple effects we leave behind?

    • mm Jer Swigart says:

      Hmmm. Very unique perspective here, Greg. Thanks for sharing it…and for the questions. We could/should get into a far longer conversation (in a space other than the blog format) about various understandings of “eternal mandates” and “saving the lost” and how these ideas are often a representation of first-order thinking. I would argue that if one’s enacting of their understanding of “eternal mandate” to “save” lost people in any way diminishes the humanity, dignity, and agency of another, it is not good news. Further, it exposes how limited (first-order) one’s understanding of an “eternal mandate” is.

      To interact with your question about neglecting second-level thinking because we believe eternal destination outweighs the problems, I would simply quote a friend of mine who is working to eradicate gun violence in our country’s urban centers: “You can’t ‘save’ dead kids.” What he is saying is that the good news of restoration is as horizontal as it is vertical. While both are essential, I cannot save souls. But, I can contribute to renovating, restoring, and/or replacing systems that crushing people.

      Anxious to read you interact with this.

      • mm Greg Reich says:

        Jer,
        Sorry for the vague statements! There is an underlying mindset from old theological thought on predestination that our job is to snatch people from the grips of hell at whatever the cost and not interact with culture but isolate from culture. I do not adhere to this by the way. Part of my response is due to my pet peeves when it comes to missions. I believe in missions but often see not only a desire to reach the lost but the underlying desire to build people in our own image. I love being an American but I don’t think American Missions should Americanize another culture. It bothers me to travel overseas and hear American worship music. I understand the global influence music has but, why don’t we encourage other cultures to embrace worship from their cultural voice?

        In response to your comment on horizontal vs vertical! Part of my discovery project is looking into the dichotomy between secular and sacred. One of the questions I often ask is “Do we as Christians have the privilege in viewing life through a dichotomy of secular versus sacred when the NT tells us everything we do is to be done to the glory of God? I believe when Jesus summed up the 10 commandments with “loving God and loving people” he is speaking from this very perspective of horizontal and vertical. We can love God through loving people and love people through loving God! Martin Luther believed that God meets the needs of His people through people. Part of loving God is loving people. We see this in 1 John 4:20 “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar…” I agree we can’t save “dead kids.” Can we truly love God without honoring the people we are trying to reach and not consider the ramifications of our interaction in their culture?

        • mm Jer Swigart says:

          Greg. Solid input!

          And thanks for articulating the idea that US-based mission has an assimilating motivation behind it. I think that this is also seen in our approaches to foreign policy: namely that democracy is the thing that the world needs. Turns out, it doesn’t…nor does it need our imperialist expressions of faith.

  9. mm Steve Wingate says:

    You wrote, “that city becoming a severely (over)evangelized city.” I wonder what the succes metrics looked like. I hope people would take a closer look at what Scriptural success means in this context and aim towards that with those who have capacity others do not

    • mm Jer Swigart says:

      Thanks Steve.

      How would you define “Scriptural success?” And how would you interact with someone who, from the same sacred text, pulls out a deferent metric for success than you?

  10. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Jer, I, too, latched on to Parrish’s description of second-order thinking. I think your dialogue and questions in proposition number three at the end are quite good and helpful. Another mental model I might discuss is “object permanence.” Developmentally, as you know, knowing that an object exists even when we don’t see it is large part of why peek-a-boo is so exciting for young babies. Likewise, we need to know that smart and dedicated people have been looking at problems for a long time and were existing before we step onto the scene with our fast solutions. I might, however, press in to the provocative language that “no one is asking you to solve anything.” I appreciate the nature to stir the pot, but there might be a collective begging for help from within the community. Your further explanation and questions brings nice nuance though.

    • mm Jer Swigart says:

      Nice.

      However, please don’t misunderstand me as offering that thought simply in an effort to stir a proverbial pot.

      What are the impacted communities that you are connected to asking for? Are they asking you to solve something for them? And if so, might that not be an ongoing manifestation of the disempowering inferiority complex that is required in order for colonization to flourish?

      If they’re asking us to solve something for them, I think we should understand that as an alarming reality. It exposes the unequal distribution of power and a grave misunderstanding of how things are solved. Further, it encourages us (dominant culture folk) to continue to place confidence (arrogance) in our ability to innovate the solutions to the problems that we have caused. It’s ironic to imagine that the impacted communities would look to us to solve the very problems that we’ve caused and benefitted from. I seriously question the logic and possibility of this.

      My assumption that they want me to solve something is usually (and very quickly) confronted by the very loud and common question they are asking: “We need you to become a different kind of person. Are you willing to transform?” If my answer is “Yes!”, then I must understand that my transformation will likely demand that I find myself in a submitted and mutually reciprocal relationship with them. While there, I’ve discovered that the solutions to the ills that plague their people have been germinating in their souls for generations.

      If that’s true, then they’re not looking for solutions, but solidarity.

      Thoughts?

  11. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    I may be speaking too generally. I’m considering this through the lens of recently watching “Inside Bill’s Brain” that follows Bill Gates’s journey into helping provide clean waste treatment plants that would curb the clean water problem. While he wasn’t directly asked, he is leveraging his power (financial and influence) to engage locals and outside experts alike to come together and solve a problem that is causing thousands upon thousands of deaths annually. Where solidarity is welcomed here, what’s needed is a solution. A solution with the caveat that it honors the locals, is sustainable, and is on their terms. What I’m broadly addressing in my collective work to this point is the formational approach from a kingdom perspective that allows for innovation to take place. I appreciate what you say about a misunderstanding about how things are solved. At the same time, those in power have the great responsibility of stewarding that power, giving that power away, and leveraging that power in a way that brings shalom. Another way to put it is that while we must not ignore the power differential, we can use that power to displace the power dynamic in the problem solving process itself. This doesn’t seem to coherent, but enough to keep the conversation going.

    • mm Jer Swigart says:

      Shawn. Great insight here.

      This conversation does make me wonder about the “why?” of solidarity. I often sense that a common misunderstanding of the term is “a solid, trusting, truth-telling relationship.” While those elements seem important to solidarity, I don’t think this definition goes far enough. I’m learning that solidarity is undergirded by a deep commitment sacrifice in pursuit of our common vision.

      I observe the undertones of this latter definition in the Gates illustration above in that I can imagine that those suffering due to lack of clean water were not asking Bill Gates to solve it for them…but to utilize the tools (resources, power, and privilege) he has toward a common vision. Having not seen the film you refer to, how would assess the way that the impacted community was represented as an equal partner in the innovation process?

      • mm Shawn Cramer says:

        That’s a tough assessment since most of the process was left out, but I do know that the filmmakers contrasted his approach and solution with an expensive, highly technical, and irrelevant solution. This is where I’m doing a lot of reflection – how does the equity of the people of God influence our postures in the innovative process. Certainly one of those postures is what you allude to in making local assets equal (if not greater) partners.

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