The Power of Stories to Change Lives

By Paul Brown, CEO, ChildFund New Zealand

To commemorate ChildFund’s 75th anniversary, we invited the leaders of each of the 12 ChildFund Alliance member groups to reflect on the past and future of their own organizations and the Alliance. Today, we hear from New Zealand.

How does an international nongovernmental organization in a country of 4 million in the southern Pacific help communities in Africa and Asia break free from poverty?

It becomes a better storyteller.

ChildFund New Zealand in Kenya

ChildFund New Zealand CEO Paul Brown with children in Kenya in 2011.

ChildFund’s shared vision of a world free from child poverty requires positive, long-term change for children and their communities. Ultimately, our success can only be measured with better outcomes for children, but in the early 2000s, ChildFund New Zealand had no way of telling the broader story of how we were achieving our vision. We needed to focus on how we connect our supporters with the children and the communities we serve to tell this story.

Founded in 1990, ChildFund New Zealand has made it possible for New Zealanders to sponsor children in more than 20 countries. By the mid-2000s, New Zealanders were sponsoring children in 881 projects around the world, impacting many lives. Although this kind of reach seemed impressive, it was difficult to amplify and celebrate the impact ChildFund was achieving.

At this time, ChildFund New Zealand had started to secure government support for projects. Our staff had begun to form strong relationships with a number of ChildFund’s national offices and the communities being supported. It became clear from all the parties involved that there was interest in developing ongoing and deeper relationships with select communities as a way to achieve sustainability quickly.

Sri Lanka

ChildFund New Zealand works in Sri Lanka.

Flowing from this idea, we created our Dedicated Programme Area Partnerships Strategy, which enables ChildFund New Zealand to invest several millions of dollars each year into a targeted area to accomplish the community’s strategic goals. We also began layering grant funding and appeal funding for projects to support ChildFund’s in-country sponsorship programming.

At the same time, ChildFund New Zealand has invested in evolving its Auckland-based team, focusing on analysis and impact measurement and also training all members of the team to improve understanding of development and the context of poverty in the five Dedicated Programme Areas we support.

Today we continue to strengthen these partner connections, and we are even looking to connect these organizations with each other. In November, as part of ChildFund International’s anniversary celebrations, we hosted a workshop with our five partner countries (Kenya, Zambia, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste and Vietnam) to facilitate idea exchange and sharing of best practices.

The last 10 years have brought important change in how we work — and how we think about our work. We have better knowledge of our partner communities. Our closer relationships mean that the team members have more detailed stories and reports to share with our supporters.

This past decade has seen ChildFund New Zealand mature from a mere conduit for funds to a development organisation committed to breaking the cycle of poverty in communities. Our most important decade, however, is arguably the one ahead of us.

Technology is already changing the way sponsors communicate with their sponsored children; our moderated communications must deal with the reality of an interconnected world. The millennial generation expects to see and hear about the impact of their donations almost immediately, not read bullet points in yearly newsletters.

Rather than see these technological and social developments as risks and burdens on our resources, we can view them as opportunities to help remote communities interact with the world in ways that make them seem much less remote, that bring greater empathy and compassion. We can give communities not just a voice but ensure they are part of the global conversation.

And it is exciting and a privilege to be part of an Alliance that is leading this conversation.

children in Timor-Leste

Happy children in Timor-Leste.

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