Since this is our first blogpost, an introduction is in order. The Minga Foundation is a nonprofit organization with current projects in Ecuador, Malawi, and Uganda. Although Minga came into existence in 2010, its organizational predecessor Foundation Human Nature USA was founded in 2003. Many of us have been working together for over 10 years, and this is fitting. Why? Because Minga is about more than any of our individual projects; it’s about a set of ideals, friendships, and experiences that span all of our work and all of our time together.
For all of us Minga is about making idealism a way of life. Beyond implementing concrete projects in our partner communities, we also generate ideas of what a better world might look like, and concrete strategies to make these ideas real. How to achieve long-term sustainability in our projects? How to partner as equals with the communities in which we work? How to promote a culture of progressive activism rather than reactive ‘slacktivism’? How to create the conditions in which international aid is no longer necessary, i.e. how to put ourselves out of business? We wrestle with these questions in our Board meetings, in the classrooms where we teach, in the communities where we live, and now on this blog. Stay tuned.
That said, our idealism and the purpose of this blog goes beyond intellectual debates on international aid and economic development. Minga itself is a Quichua term which means ‘collective action towards a common goal’; a process by which individuals come together and invest their individual time and energy towards a shared goal or resource. Community participation and collective action are at the core of all of our individual projects. They are also at the core of who we are as a team and an organization.
We truly are a unique group with a unique model. We’ve grown over the past 11 years as an all volunteer board without physical office space or any of the overhead costs incurred by most non-profits. This is only possible because each of us as individuals is willing to give freely of our time and energy. This generosity applies also to our families, as well. Our parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins have all at some point made donations, organized publicity campaigns, and hosted annual retreats. They’ve served as accountants, consultants, fundraisers, and cheerleaders, even when Minga work and responsibilities made our lives more complicated. Our board members and their extended families constitute a living, breathing example of individuals devoting time and energy to a larger, shared cause.
You might ask, what is that cause? What is the shared resource generated by all of these individual efforts? The first and most obvious answer is the satisfaction of improving people’s daily lives. Eliminating malaria in El Paramo region of Ecuador; providing access to clean water in Kayunga County, Uganda; improving education outcomes in Kabadula, Malawi. These are results which all of us are proud of and which in and of themselves merit the above-described investments of time and energy.
However, the truth is that all of us get more from Minga than the satisfaction of doing good work. We’ve been with each other through the thick and thin; through moves and job changes, through personal accomplishments and personal crises. Laughter and smiles can be a scarce commodity in life, but every year we leave our organizational retreat with side pains from late night games of Charades and Balderdash. We are always there for each other, and the friendships and commitments we’ve developed go well beyond our work in international development.
There is nothing more idealistic than creating lasting friendships from a shared commitment to making the world a better place. So, you ask, what do we get from our investments of time and energy? Perhaps most importantly, we get each other; and for that reason this blog will also be about us. It will be about our jobs, our pass-times, our cities, and our pets. It will be about the people who make Minga possible. Check in with us to learn about our projects and our ideas, but also about our team and our experiences.
We are Minga. Minga is family. Come Minga with us!
-Dan Kselman, President, The Minga Foundation