When the Village Wisdom team set out on our 2016 trip to Uganda, we went with open hearts, open minds and hopeful attitudes. We also went with goals for exploring potential partners and pathways for fair trade development. Our team, Carrie Wagner, Laurie Morgan, Molly Dingledine, and Mandy Broderick, came together in partnership with common interests and purposes, and with a broad variety of expertise. The diverse experience and skill sets that each partner brought to the table, coupled with our diligent planning, catapulted all trip endeavors.
The outcomes of our trip far exceeded our hopes and expectations. Why? Because we are building upon a strong foundation of long-term relationships that were formed and nurtured upon shared values. Additionally, the Village Wisdom team identified core values that would guide our approach and activities on the trip. These values include authentic global connection, equitable relationships, story sharing, ethical consumerism, and environmentally responsible practices.
For a year leading up to the trip, we did research on organizations and development approaches that align with our philosophies, and found groups that have demonstrated success in programs for participatory learning and leadership, empowerment, and community-based problem solving. Our homework paid off, as we were able to hit the ground running.
Authentic partnership development is not to be taken lightly. It requires commitment to common purpose, investment of resources, accountability, and continual evaluation of progress, impact, and effectiveness.
Partnership development is also a long-term process, and partners have to be committed to that long haul. As the Village Wisdom team speaks of partners, we are inclusive of different types of partner relationships. We are looking at business partners for fair trade; we are looking at organizational partners that want to improve the lives of vulnerable women and youth; and we are looking for individuals who want to be part of a global culture shift that embraces the principles of fair trade and triple bottom line business practices.
In just a few weeks on the ground in Uganda, we met with several organizations in Kampala, Fort Portal, and Kasese District. We re-connected with many friends from 25 years ago, who had worked in partnership with Bob and Carrie Wagner and Habitat for Humanity International. Over a 3-year period, Bob and Carrie worked with local leaders in Ibanda, Maliba and Kyanya to develop a sustainable house-building project. Their community groups approach, based on the Grameen Bank model, has served the communities well. During our time in the Rwenzori Mountains on this trip, we met with numerous savings and credit groups that are using their cooperative structures to support many entrepreneurial endeavors. Some are large coffee cooperatives, and others are craft production groups.
The Village Wisdom team was so inspired by the energy and productivity of people in the rural areas. But we were also moved to continue seeking support for progress and improvement of living conditions. This is another opportunity for partnership development. We will embark upon connecting Rotary clubs, churches and other humanitarian organizations to support the development of vocational training programs, and entrepreneurial skills for the region. This resource exploration will take time, and we are committed to taking that time to make the right connections for sustainable development.
We welcome your interest and insights!