The Minga Bump

In politics, a ‘bump’ is a sudden increase in popularity for a candidate; due, for example, to receiving a key endorsement or attending a key event. The most commonly noted ‘bump’ in American politics is the ‘Convention Bump’: presidential candidates almost always receive a boost in popular support in the week(s) following their party’s national convention. More recently, talk show host Stephen Colbert coined the term ‘Colbert Bump’, a jump in support that candidates supposedly received for being guests on his program.

For over a decade, we at the Minga Foundation have been fine-tuning our approach to development work. At the same time, we’ve sought simple and transparent ways to communicate our basic vision and strategy. In this spirit, I would like to introduce the ‘Minga Bump’.

At our August, 2016 Board of Directors’ Meeting, Board Member and Minga co-founder Jessica Levy coined, extemporaneously, the expression ‘Minga Bump’. For a moment I thought she might be referring to an interpretive dance, which would somehow capture our essence as an organization (those of you who know Jessica will understand my brief hunch). Though to this day I haven’t given up on the dance idea, I quickly realized that Jessica was suggesting something else: that we appropriate the political concept of a ‘bump’, and use it to describe our model of development work.

The loss of a single individual, a single instance of human potential, to problems of under-development is tragic. A common refrain tells us that every individual child who dies before the age of 5 ‘could have been the one that cured cancer,’ and education policies are given titles such as ‘No Child Left Behind.’ We at Minga believe the same type of thinking should apply to community organizations.

Small, community-mobilizing organizations appear and disappear with frequency around the world. Indeed, a core subgroup of Minga Foundation Board members got to know one another as activists for Durham Congregations, Associations, and Neighborhoods (CAN), a local organizing group in Durham, North Carolina.

Unfortunately many such organizations, whether in the United States or sub-Saharan Africa, face problems of sustainability. After coming into existence based on the initial energy of an individual or a campaign, will these organizations have staying power? Will they be able to consolidate their achievements, and set their sights on new projects and goals? Or will they whither for lack of capacity and resources?

As with individuals, the loss of potential community- and world-changing organizations is tragic. As many of you know, ‘Minga’ is the Quechua word for ‘Community Action for a Common Cause’. Community mobilization is at the heart of our vision at the Minga Foundation. We believe that genuinely transformative development occurs through strong communities and advocacy networks; indeed, that the notion of development as an ‘external intervention’ is nearly a contradiction in terms. In turn, for us, the loss of a single community organization with strong mobilizing potential has a direct impact on community members’ well-being.

This problem is all the more pressing for the following reason: most of the most promising and newly forming community organizations around the world are missed by the larger donor agencies and foundations. They do not yet have the capacity to secure the support they need from domestic and international donors; and without that support they cannot develop the very capacity they lack. A catch-22 if I’ve ever seen one….

Enter the Minga Foundation. All of Minga’s projects are conducted in partnership with local organizations in our partner communities, from the Butakoola Village Association for Development; to the Nancholi Youth Organization; to the Lubengoa Women’s Development Association. We chose these organizations, and these projects, as part of a detailed application review process. And we chose them too because we found them to be promising, and at a stage in their development in which the ‘Minga Bump’ could be crucial.

Each of our projects involves the creation of a resource, whether a health clinic, a borehole well, or HIV/AIDS testing and education; but perhaps more importantly, this resource comes with a strategy for capacity-building. We seek to locate small but promising organizations around the world that the big players miss, and to provide their community members not only with an immediate good, but with an advocacy structure that is built to last. We help organizations which might otherwise perish not only survive, but grow, evolve, and consolidate. We give community organizations the ‘Minga Bump’, and our projects thus promote well-being in the immediate and medium-term.

Much more could be said, and problematized. Many ‘bumps’ in politics are ephemeral…the 5-point jump in the polls a candidate receives after his or her convention often quickly recedes, and the race normalizes. Obviously, this temporary and short-lived jolt is not what we’re after at Minga. We seek a truly meaningful boost, which puts in place organizations whose work and community imprint will still be recognizable in 10, 20, even 50 years. This is an immense challenge; and one that we accept and successfully face with enthusiasm and passion.

It’s an honor to be a part of this amazing group and this amazing work. And now, Jessica, how about that dance…?

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