“Let us then see what love can do.”
‒ William Penn, a 17th century Quaker
The Board of Right Sharing of World Resources recognizes the need to be accountable in love to our donors around the world and to our partners in India, Kenya, and Sierra Leone. As donors give money, they need to be assured that their gift is used well and wisely, and partners receiving grants need to be treated in ways that do not diminish their sense of worth and ultimate equality.
Donors often come from a perspective that accounts and figures provide assurance that dollars sent to partners are well used. However, facts and figures are not at the heart of accountability as this term applies to RSWR. We see three aspects of accountability: the accountability of RSWR staff and volunteers to donors and partners, the accountability of those with financial resources to the poor, and the accountability of partners who receive grants to the donors who provide the funds.
How does RSWR hold itself accountable to donors and partners? It is our prayerful intention, as board members, staff, and volunteers, to hold ourselves to the highest level of ethical behavior, fiduciary responsibility, and commitment to our mission. Board members are expected to make generous contributions to RSWR and, when consistent with their means, to pay their own way to meetings and even to travel to project countries at their own expense. As a Board we strive to embody the Quaker value of simplicity by keeping our organization strong and accountable and our overhead low. In this way we work to make wise use, for the betterment of lives, of the funds so generously offered by our donors.
Those who have financial resources are accountable to the poor. This is the accountability, the sharing of resources, we need to model and spread through- out the world. Jesus asked us to share with the poor. Jesus did not ask the poor to change, nor should we as givers require the recipients to behave according to our standards. Rather we are called to give freely. People with resources are the ones who must be accountable to the call of need. In responding to that call, we will often find that it is we who learn from our partners about the nature of sustainability, cooperation, and empowerment as they operate within the realities and constraints of a different culture.
Our return on funds is the building of enduring relationships with project partners as we embark together on common enterprises of improved lives. Our hope and expectation is that over time we will see: women empowered to feed their families and provide education for their children; women working together with other members of their local community on small steps of economic advancement supported by grants and micro-credit; and ultimately, women whose joint efforts create opportunities for all residents of their community. As we work together with our project partners, we will come to a greater understanding of their cultures and needs and a joyful sharing in the pas- sion and hope which, with God’s help, our joint efforts may unleash.
Partners who receive grants must also be responsible to donors, but how is this responsibility to operate as it passes through the lens of a different culture and the constraints of severe poverty? RSWR believes that the foun- dation for accountability of grant recipients to donors lies in RSWR’s selection of and relationship with local field staff, all of whom are citizens of the countries hosting RSWR projects. As a grass roots organization, we hire local field staff whose understanding and shared vision can help us make wise decisions and effective use of our funds.
With good field staff in place, what might further measures of accountability look like? First, we need to encourage project partners, through experience and training which RSWR is providing, to develop skill at articulating their own pro- cesses and goals and evaluating their progress towards those goals. These skills will enable partners to be more successful in carrying out their RSWR project and in reporting effectively to RSWR. Ultimately project partners may strengthen the ability of their NGO to prepare and implement proposals for grants and loans from entities other than RSWR and to prepare and implement their own independent projects. Second, we need to provide adequate support and training of our local field staff. Through regular communication with the RSWR General Secretary by phone and e-mail, field staff report to RSWR on training programs they conduct and on their formal visits with potential or current partners. Support and training ensure that field staff has the skills needed to assess and report on potential and current projects, enhance performance of current projects, and provide information on the viability of new project proposals. RSWR must also make its performance expectations clear to field staff by setting these out in the contracts under which field staff are hired and through its training programs. Third, RSWR must follow up by evaluating field staff performance. Evaluation is facilitated not only by such formal process but also through on-going personal visits of RSWR staff and knowledgeable volunteers with field staff and local project managers. Fourth, projects need to be kept small as well as manageable in number, so that they do not outrun the abilities and resources of RSWR to oversee them.
While the foregoing measures are important components in the accountability of partners to donors and donors to partners, as a Quaker organization the foundation for all such measures, and the spirit in which they are implemented, must rest in our Quaker testimonies – peace, equality, honesty, community, simplicity and stewardship, all of which have their foundation in love.
In conclusion, let us remember that the Bible tells those with many material riches to give to the poor. This sharing of material resources helps us to live more freely in the Spirit of God, in a right order of living, in the right sharing of the world’s resources. We are joyfully grateful for the ability to participate in such projects and to build community that reaches across the world in both large and small ways.
As a Quaker organization, the foundation for all such measures and the spirit in which they are implemented, must rest in our Quaker testimonies – peace, equality, honesty, community, simplicity and stewardship, all of which have their foundation in love.