The Managing Capital Series
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I am not much of writer, but my job requires me to write blogs, so we are stuck with each other, so let’s make the most of it. While I am not much of a writer, I try to make up for it with an above average understanding of punctuation and sentence structure; however, if you are looking for a boring blog about microfinance with perfect sentence structure and grammar, then I am sorry; you have come to the wrong place. This is a boring microfinance blog with above average sentence structure and grammar.
If you haven’t already noticed, this first paragraph was what they call a hook in the writing biz. I am fully aware of my ineptness as a writer. While the subject matter I am writing about is tremendously important and interesting, I have the uncanny ability to make it sound boring. To supplement my lack of scholarly skills, I plan to use lots of links to photos, videos, and sounds to make my writing come to life. Hold on tight for this week’s blog.
Managing Capital Series:
I want to start a several entry series on managing capital. In these entries, I am going to focus on the management of two types of capital: social capital and financial capital. The latter is far more commonly used in microfinance than the former, but, in my experience, the two go hand and hand with one another.
This series of blogs will be divided into parts
A large part of my work is not finance related; in fact, nearly any banker (who is still in business) would be better at my job if it were purely a financial management mandate in nature; however, the majority of my job has nothing to do with finance. This is where social capital management comes in.
From day one when one is entering a project, one is working against a series of preconceived notions about who you are and what you do. Projects never start from scratch, one is always building upon the past. When Kurians see wazungu (foreigners/white people/the English) projects, their reaction to the project will likely be based on any pre-existing experiences, perceptions, and/or misperceptions of what projects are and do. This is a difficult inheritance for many “aid workers” who see themselves as “different” to accept. Regardless of one’s own direct responsibility, it is a collective legacy within which one assumes a role- albeit at times reluctantly.
I have found through experience (ie., trial and error) that trying to convince people that you are different; you’re not rich; you are honestly here to help; you don’t give hand-outs; you aren’t going to abandon them, etc.. is more or less futile. These recitals are cliché, and generally only work to reinforce preconceived notions of projects and wazungu; instead, I recommend circumventing this preexisting belief structure by doing the unexpected. Actions speak louder than words, but the language of the words used helps add to their impact.
In our project, for example, we don’t have a car or even a motorcycle for our Foundation Teams. There is no white SUV with the project’s decal on the door. This decision is in part due to financial constraints (we would rather be spending our donors’ money on the project not vehicles) and in part due to reluctance on our part, as an organization, to fall into the preconceived notions of what “projects” look like. We walk a lot, which gives us an in-depth knowledge of the communities we live and work. When we aren’t walking we use public transportation.
Again, I am not coming from any sort of high-ground or expertise. This is an account based upon personal and organizational experiences. These recommendations/observations are often the result of trial and error. I will continue to build on this anecdotal account over the next series of blogs. In the meantime, check out this blog, which is a good starting point for any sort of discussion on how development workers should live.
About Aerie Changala
Chief Executive Officer — Aerie earned his BA in International Affairs from John Cabot University (Rome, Italy) and his MA in International Conflict Analysis from the University of Kent (Canterbury, UK). He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in northern Burkina Faso. Aerie has been part of Nuru’s leadership since Nuru’s earliest days. Aerie initially served as Nuru’s second Team Leader in Kenya (following Jake) and has since led scouting, launching and designing of Nuru’s projects. Having spent the majority of his adult life living throughout Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, Aerie has traveled extensively, speaks seven languages, and brings a global perspective to his work at Nuru.Read More Stories of Hope