Sustainability is an interesting concept to me. Sometimes it seems as if it is the holy grail of development projects. It’s also something that we often claim to be a benefit of working with partners overseas. By working with local organisations and ‘building their capacity’ so our investment of time and resources will, we assert, have a more sustainable impact. I suppose we usually mean that in some way, by doing things in a certain way we believe that the impact of what we do will last longer. But I find it curious that we seldom interrogate and critic the assumption that things that last longer are somehow intrinsically better! And whilst it makes sense to make the planets resources more sustainable so that life on the planet can continue for our children and our children’s children does it automatically follow that development actions should have the same logic applied to them? I’m not sure that it does. Whilst ‘sustainable development’ in it’s strictest sense is about’ a pattern of economic growth in which resource use aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment’ we have grown accustomed to banding the term ‘sustainable’ about in relation to everything we do. Of course we should be trying to create Sustainable Change? But it doesn’t automatically follow, I don’t think, that the actions themselves should be ‘sustainable’? Nor perhaps that the organisations we support are somehow better if they go on forever. Quite the opposite perhaps, shouldn’t we be trying to trigger change so that things are never the same again? What does this mean for partnership working? Should our partnerships last forever? Should we be trying to make sure that our partners always remain the same? I’d suggest not. We need ways to ensure that partnerships are flexible and allow the parties involved in them to change and grow. It might be that as a particular situation changes the partner, or we, no longer need to exist. AfriKids has a future in which the UK partner no longer needs to exist as a specific aim. You can read more about it in the Partnership People section where there in an interview with the Director, Georgie Feinberg. Or it may be that the activities we engage in change radically over time? The support we offer partners should not necessarily be about making them or the particular approach to working ‘sustainable’ but about together creating ‘sustainable change’ – in other words about helping them make sure that nothing is ever the same again.
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