If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.
The United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) defines human development as,
“the expansion of people’s freedoms and capabilities to lead lives that they value and have reason to value. It is about expanding choices. Freedoms and capabilities are a more expansive notion than basic needs.”
Shed the Light incorporates this definition into its work by taking a rights-based approach to working side by side with communities and children to improve their lives.
A rights-based approach is founded on the conviction that each and every human being, by virtue of being human, is a holder of rights. Thus a rights-based approach involves not charity or simple economic development, but a process of enabling and empowering those not enjoying their economic, social and cultural rights to claim their rights.
Our philosophy on development is evident in the way we approach development work, which is as follows:
We believe that every human being is entitled to the same human rights. This means:
- We reach out to and support the most marginalised and vulnerable people.
- We mainstream gender in all projects.
- We abhor discrimination in any form, including discrimination based on gender, religion, political affiliation, colour, ethnicity, caste or sexual orientation.
- We celebrate and promote diversity.
Our work is informed by principles of deep respect, humility and integrity. This means:
- We listen.
- We ask people what help they need, not tell them what we think they need.
- We think really hard about what we do.
- We behave in a manner that is culturally appropriate at all times.
- We are honest and open.
The work we do is not about our needs, or our donor’s needs. This means:
- Our projects are neither tourist destinations nor a destination for people to learn or to teach their children about the developing world and poverty.
- We only allow visits to our project sites in exceptional circumstances, with the consent and participation of the local community and in a culturally appropriate manner.
- We manage visitors closely while onsite to ensure that they adhere to Shed the Light’s development principles and values.
We strive to avoid dependence in the people and communities we work with, and make sure our work has short, medium and long-term positive impact on the people and communities we partner. This means:
- We do not disrupt or replicate existing government and local infrastructure, nor do we undermine government attempts to provide service to the community.
- The projects we work on do not belong to us, they belong to our communities, and we do not label or try to claim credit for our projects on the ground.
- We do not bring gifts or distribute money on project sites.
- Up-skilling and training local people is key to all our work.
- We seek to involve all stakeholders in a community to partner with us to work on the projects together.
- We work towards enabling communities to be self-sufficient.
We believe in absolute accountability. This means:
- We hold ourselves and our partners absolutely accountable for actions we undertake.
- We account for our spending to our stakeholders, and expect our partners to account for their spending to us.
- We safeguard donor money.
- We maximise every dollar spent on every project, and seek the most cost effective ways to do our work – every dollar counts.
- We pay fair local market rates for services and products.
Independent and best practice service to communities is the manner in which we support human rights. This means:
- We support excellence in local communities and are constantly seeking to implement and share best practice service delivery.
- We are not activists or lobbyists.
- We are non-political and non-religious.
- We are not afraid to think and act contrary to prevailing opinion.
- To ensure our independence, we do not take money from governments or give money to governments.
- We respect, promote and protect child rights in our projects.
Everything we do must be in the best interests of the people and communities we serve. This means:
- We believe local people know the best solutions to their problems.
- Community consultation is always the first step.
- Resourcing and supporting local excellence is at the heart of everything we do.
- In country, we hire brilliant local staff, not foreign staff.
- We do not take overseas volunteers to project sites, unless skills are not available locally.
- We always ask the question: “Is this action good for the communities we provide service to?” If the answer is NO – we do not do it.