Philanthropy Lesson #005: Think Small (with thanks to Aik Saath)

Philanthropy is a world where you often hear uncomfortably lofty language; there are times when the ambitions of donors seem grandiose, if not unattainable altogether.  Tackling climate change?  Eradicating poverty?  These are problems of great complexity, and it often seems futile even to attempt their solution.

In making such an attempt, the goal – somewhat paradoxically – is to think small; to look to the roots, and particularly the grassroots, of a social issue.  This was a lesson illustrated by Aik Saath, one of the recipients of £3,000 from our Youth and Philanthropy Initiative.  Aik Saath was formed in response to ethnic unrest between Asian youths in Slough, a town a few miles from London; its successful approach was based upon engaging carefully with those closest to the problem.  They set up dispute resolution groups composed not of external advisors, but of young people who were directly affected by the rising threats and violence.  Taught by Dr. Dudley Weeks, a world expert in the field of conflict resolution, these teenagers responded so decisively that within only two years the trouble that had so sharply flared was swiftly doused.

When looking at problems of a global scale, it’s often tempting – and reassuring – to look for grand solutions.  But more often than not, as Aik Saath have shown, it’s best to look closest to home for your answers; in other words, to think small.


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