Stepping Stones: From Poverty to Opportunity

A lot has changed since PCF’s founding in 2011 – so much of which is due to the support, trust, and insight we have received from our hundreds of volunteers, colleagues, sponsors and friends. We have grown with and because of so many people, and as we have grown, the number of children, families, and communities we have reached and provided support to has grown with us.

Over this time, we have learned more and more about what works and what we can improve with our approach to philanthropy. One lesson learned has been the need to improve how we communicate about our many different projects across Thailand, Cambodia and Burma.

While the support we provide to people and communities in need is simple, explaining our work is sometimes more of a challenge. That may be because we support so many different types of projects – like education, refugees, healthcare, economic development, women’s empowerment, and so much more, rather than focusing on one single type of aid.

We take all these approaches because people living in poverty face many challenges, but all too often, external support comes in only one form, and excludes their voices.

We know this through our experience. We go into the communities we aim to support and speak with the people who actually live there, are building families, and are looking to the long-term. We have always believed they are the best placed (the primary stakeholder) to not only understand the needs of their community, but to implement projects for the long-term. While the success of traditional, top-down development projects is not in any doubt, there is always a need for different approaches to find the communities or needs that have been left behind. After all, people and communities in need measure their own development metrics far beyond this year’s funding cycle or an aid agency’s three-year plan.

This is why our support comes in many forms and is based solely on the needs and voices of those we help: a school for one village, a toilet for a family, a scholarship for a student and much more.

By way of example, suppose you have a programme that funds education projects, then you go to a community that already has a great school and great teachers – but they lack access to adequate healthcare. What do you do?

We hear this story all the time. The answer we have seen from the communities we support is that the unidimensional approach or organisation simply has to leave and find a place that can accept their specific type of philanthropy. We take a multidimensional approach, because communities in need require much more than one type of support.

This leads to the core of our work – we provide a pathway for those in need, where every project – from education, to healthcare, to economic development – is like a stepping stone from poverty to opportunity.

This all comes into the idea of “stepping stones.” It is not just education, or just healthcare, or just economic development that will uplift people and communities and provide greater opportunities and a sustainable path to a better future – it is all of these, and more. Moreover, these elements are in constant need and must be synergised into a larger, holistic vision that accounts for the changes and shocks that are endemic to all societies.

If you are in the technology field, this may sound a bit like iterative and incremental development – and it kind of is. While there are significant differences between developing communities and developing software, both are not a “one size fits all” project, both require multiple inputs, phases and approaches, and both require adaptations, flexibility and continued analysis and communication upon implementation.

This is not a change in our work, just a better way of explaining what we do, how we do it, and why we do it this way.

Simply put, we take multiple approaches, because the challenges in one community are different from the next, and where over time, every project – from education, to healthcare, to economic development – is like a stepping stone from poverty to opportunity.

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