“Never do for others what they can do for themselves.” (1)
What new territory can this “Iron Rule of Organizing” lead us into?
This concept is essential to understanding community development, driving us to think outside the box about how we serve people living in poverty. It takes us out of the mindset that says we can only help through giving “stuff” (i.e. food & clothes). Relief work and the giving of resources have their time, but it is important to go beyond relief and into development, to give opportunities to thrive.
That is why commonGood is committed to expanding the Fair Trade market in Riverside. The sales of Fair Trade goods create the opportunity for small businesses and cooperatives to invest, establishing stability in their own communities. With their capacity to support themselves through their craft, they decrease their dependency on foreign aid and involvement.
A great example of Fair Trade creating community development comes from Equal Exchange, our coffee supplier. They began their trade agreements in Nicaragua over 25 years ago during a time of civil war and natural disasters. Through establishing cooperatives and buying their coffee beans at a fair price, the Nicaraguan co-ops have been able to grow as an organization. They advocate and develop in their community on both the local and international levels, not as a result of handouts, but through equal opportunity and justice in our business practices. (2)
It is important to remember the value of earning a fair wage, not only to individuals, but also to their families and communities. Relief is temporary but development is long-term. When we invest in development, we invest in long-lasting change.
(1) IAF: 50 Years Organizing for Change: power, action, justice, copyright 1990, Cynthia Perry, page 17.