About Moving Mountains
Gavin Bate began Moving Mountains during many years of continual travel around the world from 1987 to 1998, mostly in developing countries. He travelled extensively in Africa and went on many expeditions, including a solo trek across the Sahara Desert, and worked his way to many places working on ships bound for the scrapping beaches of India, Pakistan and China. He often drove overland trucks through southern Africa, and latterly was involved with some humanitarian aid agencies as driver.
He lived for a long time in the slums of Kibera near Nairobi during the 1990s, working with organisations that rehabilitated street children and also worked closely with several Government schools and medical clinics. In Nepal he travelled to the villages in the solu Khumbu during the period of the Maoist conflict, living amongst the Sherpa people and learning about the issues facing those mountain communities.
Gavin wanted the name of Moving Mountains to reflect the overwhelming difficulties that many people face every day in their lives. It also reflects the difficulty of overcoming the dangers of stereotypes and complacency and inequality when it comes to development. The priority with Moving Mountains was always to provide help which did not anonymise people and to make long term commitments to people and communities. The idea was that the charity would help people move mountains in their lives in order to become the architects of their own success and achieve their potential.
The first logo on the left below reflected the focus on street children in Kenya, and the second more modern logo was brought in during a major re-brand in 2015.
Gavin is also a mountaineer and adventurer and has used his expeditions to raise money and awareness of the charity. Over the past twenty years he has made six expeditions to Mount Everest and one to the magnetic North Pole.
He says of his trips: "If my adventures in climbing mountains can help some people move mountains in their lives, then they will all have been worthwhile endeavours".
The Everest expeditions raised in total around £2 million over eleven years. Nowadays the bulk of the fundraising comes from groups visiting the areas where we work to help support the programmes and get involved. Volunteers, medical students, school groups and fundraising teams now work alongside a very dedicated group of people who provide standing orders each month in order to keep the work of the charity going.
MM Kenya and MM Nepal
Over time we helped to set up local 'MM' NGOs in Kenya and Nepal, run by local committees who had worked for a long time with Gavin and built up a lot of trust. Like many organisations which have developed slowly and organically over many years, Moving Mountains has built a great network of friends and supporters. Some of them have gone on to become Trustees and are still involved today.
“I wanted Moving Mountains to stand for something equitable, inspirational, and genuinely thoughtful in how it tackled social, economic and environmental issues" says Gavin, "we were never going to offer a glib response to complex issues, but attempt to learn and find solutions together. Choosing the right people to help me has been a journey in itself.”
In Kenya many of the children who Gavin met during those formative years living in Kibera are still involved, helping to run a small but successful NGO based on honesty, trust and an understanding of what works in terms of long term development. Those people are themselves the products of an idea that Gavin had about rehabilitating street children, and they have achieved social mobility and now bring up their own children without the privations that they once suffered.
Left: Children and volunteers in 1996 during one of the famous 'Sisi Kwa Sisi' camps we held for street kids being encouraged to live normal lives.
Right: Those same children with Gavin in 2018, now parents themselves and in stable jobs with middle class lives.
Left: Kelly Kioko was one of the children who went to Muthurwa School when Gavin was there; hewas supported all the way through school and college, eventually working with the company and charity.
Right: Now a father of three, Kelly is still a tour guide for Adventure Alternative and a real protege of the charity.
In Nepal the original friends of Gavin during the early years are still managing Moving Mountains Nepal and helping to develop the region of solu Khumbu. The work has completely transformed an entire area and brought about huge demographic change. Where before the villages were dying, now they attract new families looking for clean water supplies, electricity, good schools, a clinic, a monastery and a strong community. Moving Mountains Nepal has worked to provide those facilities and Gavin is still a regular visitor.
Left: Gavin with Pasang Tendi, Geljun and Ang Chhongba who have all been managing MM Nepal since 2001. They still meet regularly in the villages.
Right: The villages of Bupsa and Bumburi in the solu Khumbu where all the work has brought so much positive change.
The original Trustees of Moving Mountains have stayed much the same. Chris Little and Andrew MacDonald were both involved as young adventurers in their school years going to Kenya and Nepal and both remained in touch, eventually working for the company and becoming Trustees of the charity. In recent years there have been new additions to the Trustee Board, but the friendships and trust created around Gavin, Chris, Andy and all the staff in Kenya and Nepal have definitely been a big reason for the success of Moving Mountains.
In the mid 1990s the charity branched out into various other areas of work, including building a hospital in the Ukraine and also funding a tree planting project in the forests of Sarawak for seven years.
Left: For several years we funded the renovation of this hospital in south Ukraine, and bought an ambulance and equipment for the staff there.
Right: In Sarawak we funded the seed planting and transplanting of around 49,000 saplings into logged forest.
The charity is still focused however on child education and providing a holistic care to the family and community, and over the years Moving Mountains has built many schools and a children's home, and funded feeding centres and early child development centres. It has supported many teachers, social workers, counsellors and professionals to help the child beneficiaries. In Nepal and in Kenya it is in many places the only source of support and employment for many such people.
In July 2012 Gavin was nominated to carry the Olympic Torch in recognition of all the good work that Moving Mountains has done over so many years. He was also given the Points of Light Award by British Prime Minister Theresa May.
We believe that people who are educated and healthy and recognised as equal global citizens have greater opportunities. Our vision is that empowered equitable relationships will ultimately drive the evolution of development and help us move mountains for people to succeed and improve their quality of life.
We are on a mission to help people enjoy equality and equal opportunity, and have a positive impact on society. Ultimately this begins with empowerment and we believe it is the main way in which people can achieve their potential and for communities to become the architects of their own success.
We want to challenge prejudice and stereotyping and create fair working models of development.
We aim for a democratic and non-prescriptive model of development which begins with people, attitudes and relationships.
We want to work with local stakeholders to find solutions to social, environmental and economic challenges, and be part of a team where collaboration is the key.
We are underpinned by a duty to protect human rights and natural resources, and to promote social justice and equality for everyone.
Our values are what we are most proud of, and they are the same now as when we first started:
Compassion - above all else, any organisation acting to ‘serve humanity’ has to show compassion to individuals. In Moving Mountains we don’t treat people anonymously; everybody has a story which deserves understanding and personal attention.
Integrity - we believe in acting with fairness and with a belief in doing things the right way.
Equality - helping people realise their long-term dreams and ambitions without discrimination starts with recognising people for their qualities and potential.
Collaboration - we always work in partnership with communities and have a ‘level playing field’ view where solutions are discussed and decided together. Local ownership is always uppermost in our minds, as is shared responsibility.
Confidence - everyone has dreams for a better life and control over their future, and just by giving people the confidence and self-esteem to believe in their potential is an important first step to working towards their ambitions.
Participation - nobody likes to feel as if they have to face the world alone, and we work hard to make Moving Mountains a ‘family’. Everyone has something to offer, and we promote volunteering as part of our identity and appeal.
Transparency - everything we do is discussed and agreed in partnership and we work together to monitor our impacts, justify our expenditure and report back to donors, supporters and stakeholders. We use a value or money approach throughout the project cycle to ensure economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
Moving Mountains Trust
We are registered as a charity by the Northern Ireland Charity Commission under reference NIC100742. The Trust was formed on 13 March 2002 as a charity and is governed by its Trust Deed signed on 1st January 2002 and further amended by special resolutions dated 11 May 2003 and 1 November 2005. The registration with the recently formed Charity Commission for Northern Ireland happened on 12 February 2015.
Chairman - Gavin Bate
Secretary - Chris Little
Treasurer - Andrew MacDonald
Trustee - Susan Birkett
Trustee - Dot King
Three of the UK Trustees have been involved since the inception of Moving Mountains in 2001 and they all meet regularly to provide strategic direction, governance and oversight for all the stakeholders and donors.
The UK Trustees work closely with the staff and committee members of MM Kenya and MM Nepal. Together we have been part of an evolving model of development and collectively we have many years of experience in the ‘third sector’. MM UK provides grants to the MM operations in-country, as well as training, capacity-building and management skills.
We prepare our annual reports and end of year accounts which are presented to the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland and independently examined.
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(i) the provision of financial assistance, food, clothing and shelter to children and their families who are homeless or living in desperate conditions to help advance their education, relieve their poverty and promote their ambitions, hopes and dreams.
(ii) the provision of financial assistance, advice and expertise for self-help projects, schemes and rehabilitation camps for street children in order to promote practical and vocational skills, the production of food and income, good citizenship and standing in the local community, plus an increased sense of personal self-esteem and enjoyment of life.
(iii) the financial assistance and otherwise for setting up useful rural and urban community programmes which are environmentally responsible and which promote empowerment and sustainable development; this includes facilities and projects in the interests of education, social welfare, the improvement of existing conditions and the promotion of awareness to a wider audience.
(iv) the relief of sickness and the safeguarding of health by grants of money for:
(a) the provision of drugs and medical appliances, and the support of medical and other personnel engaged in and for such purposes.
(b) the provision and support of facilities in the interests of social welfare for the relief of sickness and distress.
(c) the promotion of public education in all matters relating to HIV and AIDS.
(d) the prevention of children's diseases through conditions brought about by severe poverty and lack of education.
(v) the development and joint maintenance of community groups in areas benefiting from all of the above whereby specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound objectives are evaluated, supervised, implemented and monitored so that the benefits can serve the community for years to come; this includes the provision of volunteers and personnel, shared management and implementation of projects, training, maintenance, advice and arbitration over problems or disputes plus assistance with accounts and records.
(vi) to advance the education of the public in global citizenship and youth development through expeditions in all areas of operation.
The Trustees confirm that they have referred to the guidance contained in the Charity Commission’s guidance on public benefit when reviewing the charity’s aims and objectives and setting grant-making policies. In particular, the Trustees consider how planned activities will contribute to the aims and objectives they have set. There will be no restrictions on future grantmaking through poverty, location or lack of entitlement.
Disclosure of Information
The Trustees who hold office confirm that they have taken all the steps that they ought to have taken as a Trustee to make themselves aware of any relevant financial information and to establish that the relevant authorities are aware of that information.
Statement of Trustees' Responsibility
The Trustees are responsible for preparing the Trustees’ report and the financial statements in accordance with applicable law and regulations. In preparing the financial statements the Trustees are required to select suitable accounting policies and apply them consistently, observe the methods and principles in the charities SORP, make judgements and estimates that are reasonable and prudent, and prepare the financial statements on the going concern basis unless it is inappropriate to presume that the charity will continue its activities.
The Trustees are responsible for keeping adequate accounting records that are sufficient to show and explain the charity’s transactions and disclose with reasonable accuracy at any time the financial position of the Trust. They are also responsible for safeguarding the assets of the Trust and hence for taking reasonable steps for the prevention and detection of fraud and other irregularities.
The Trustees are responsible for the maintenance and integrity of the financial information included on the charity’s website. Legislation in the UK governing the preparation and dissemination of financial statements may differ from legislation in other jurisdictions.
The Trustees are satisfied that the major risks identified in the main areas - financial, governance, operational, compliance and external – are mitigated through proper and comprehensive planning and operational decision-making, management systems, insurance cover, specialist advice and holding appropriate levels of funds for residual reserves.
The risk management assessment is monitored regularly by the staff and by the Trustees. The Trustees have also considered any potential conflicts of interest and the implications of the Bribery Act 2010.
The Trust has a reserve policy which is to provide sufficient capital to continue its grant-making programme and support future expenditure plans, and also to build up its unrestricted reserve to manage against unforeseen circumstances such as economic uncertainty. The Trustees believe that the unrestricted reserves should be maintained at a minimum of £50,000, and this policy is reviewed quarterly.
Grant Making Analysis
Decisions on grants to Kenya and Nepal are made by the Trustees. Trustees approve grants or fund projects which demonstrate public benefit within the remit of the Trust objectives. In addition, the Trust actively looks for projects or programmes that show leverage through involvement and additional funding from local authorities and other organisations.
Policies for Moving Mountains
We have a considerable library of policies and documents which form the administrative backbone of our charity. You can access some of our standard policies via the links below:
- Equal Opportunities
- Child & Vulnerable Adult Protection
- Participant Code of Conduct
- Health and Safety Policy
- Human Rights Policy
- Rainforest Project
- Fair Trade Volunteering
- General Application & Medical Form (Microsoft Word Format)
- General Application & Medical Form (PDF Format)
Corporate Sponsor - Adventure Alternative
Adventure Alternative supports Moving Mountains with administrative costs and resources and is the travel provider for volunteers who go and visit the areas where we work. Three of the charities - Gavin, Chris and Andy - work for Adventure Alternative and donate a proportion of their working week to the running of the charity. Gavin is the founder of both the company and the charity.
None of the trustees of Moving Mountains benefit financially from the link with Adventure Alternative, and there is no conflict of interest in the relationship.
Adventure Alternative is a registered tour operator and provides travel arrangements for volunteers and visiting groups at a discounted rate, as well as the financial bonding necessary for any groups travelling to visit Nepal or Kenya.
AA also generates tourism income in areas where MM works, bringing revenue, jobs and business. This is particularly true in Nepal, where the villages we work in have become popular places for tourists to visit.
A main tenet of Moving Mountains is our belief in the power of investment in social capital and social enterprise to provide long-term incomes and self-esteem. Adventure Alternative is the perfect partner to the charity and the two organisations have worked together from the beginning. Gavin Bate founded both the company and the charity in the early 1990's on this premise.
We work hard at Moving Mountains to get it right with how we run the charity in the UK, our professionalism and due diligence, and how we handle donors money.
We believe that it’s not enough to simply say that we want to ‘do good’, we have to have the knowledge and expertise and experience to manage developmental issues. We need to interact with partners and stakeholders who can help us, instead of acting in an insular way thinking ‘we know best’.
The Trustees all have experience and knowledge of charity impact assessment reporting, project strategy, good governance and financial management. On this page are some of the principles and ethics by which we work.
Hand out or leg up?
We don’t want to fall into the trap of ‘handout aid’, our purpose is to create the circumstances in which individuals and communities can prosper, which includes generating wealth and promoting social enterprise, and providing direct support where necessary.
We achieve this with a ‘bottom up’ policy that starts with supporting the family, and enabling the people of the community to build the livelihoods they need. We have many heart-warming stories of families breaking out of the poverty cycle, communities turning their villages around, forests being regenerated and successful individuals gaining tertiary education, careers and living their ambitions.
Working with our partners
We equip our partners with the means to set up their own local Moving Mountains non-profit and encourage local management and participation in all the programmes and projects, and local ownership. This model has been very successful and ensures equitable partnerships. We also adopt a ‘start small, think big’ mentality which allows projects to progress organically over a long period, and this has generated a high level of trust and shared accountability.
Rights are usually expressed in legal terminology; at Moving Mountains we want to ensure that above all compassion and the need to be loved and respected is at the heart of our work. We adopt the 'rights based approach' to social development, and we uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development which states that: "The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realised.”
Our principles are that:
- Human rights are inalienable and cannot be taken away from someone or voluntarily given up.
- Everyone is entitled to their rights regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property ownership, caste, birth or other status.
- The right to education affects the right to work and the right to good health, and vice versa. This helps us to link the root causes of problems to the symptoms of the problem.
- Everyone is free to contribute to and participate in the development of their communities.
- We accept our obligation as 'duty bearers' to deliver rights to our beneficiaries and the responsibility for the impact it has on people's lives.
- We co-operate by sharing information with other duty bearers, undertaking transparent processes and hearing people's views.
- We accept our role to be driven by our obligation to protect, respect and fulfil the rights of people and to be accountable to those people in this regard.
- We hold that a person whose rights are unfulfilled, such as the right to food, education, health, participation, freedom of speech, is a poor person; therefore poverty is more than a lack of material resources but a consequence of exclusion and powerlessness.
- We don't regard development and the realisation of human rights as separate things; development is part of the process of fulfilling human rights.
Proper funding plan
Moving Mountains Trust is focused on spending in the right ways, on the right things, and in the right places. Our approach to international development is progressive and innovative and we believe that by investing in developing countries, we can end aid dependency and build a better, more prosperous world for us all.
Getting the relationship between the charity and the beneficiary right is critical, and a lot of time is spent assessing the consequences of our actions using progressive frames of reference and establishing a contract of funding with aims and proper reporting.
We use a system of online budgets and payment spreadsheets for everyone to see and use, and at least three of the UK Trustees are in continual contact with the operations in-country to ensure that the funding process is monitored throughout. All payments from the UK Trust to Kenya and Nepal are receipted and accounted for, and all our accounts are signed off by accounting professionals.
Having said that, money is only ever part of the solution, especially when children are involved, and we work hard to make sure that other values are instilled into the MM family spirit such as compassion and of course equality.
Our strapline claims to change lives and we try very hard to ensure our work is not misunderstood and has a positive long-term impact on the beneficiaries. We do this by collaborating all of the time, taking advice and working with the right people.
To ensure this happens we employ people with a wide range of skills. Our main funding stream is for teachers, medical personnel, counsellors and social workers who teach life skills and act as mentors to young people and their families.
We take young people through all levels of education so that the outcome is a rounded person with a vocation in all sorts of professions, from accountancy to agricultural management. Capacity building is therefore essential to our success, as we help people become the architects of their own success through education and training.
We view our capital projects as investments in the community, or seed capital for social enterprises which enable people to break out of poverty through business and benefit their community. This approach builds self-esteem and is culturally acceptable.
Social enterprise is a driving force for income and progress and increased quality of life in the areas where we work, and our funding helps to achieve this in a way that is consistent with the values of the people that live there.
We work with the local Government authorities and offer our assistance in the 'bigger picture'. Villagers and communities make a significant commitment to the project, which might be in the form of land or labour, but ultimately our work contributes to a national aim which avoids the pitfall of building a 'white elephant' which fails because of lack of collaboration and understanding.
Sustainable Conservation Projects
Another objective in our trust deed is the protection of natural resources and ecosystems, and we have worked hard to learn about the technicalities of difficult tasks like reforestation in remote areas.
We fund the expertise in order to enable the local people to understand the problems and source the technology which might help provide the solution. In the case of our forest enrichment project in Sarawak, we took practical steps to employ people to collect seeds and eventually transpose saplings into logged areas, ensuring the correct variety of plants and trees.
We also invest in technology which helps to prevent deforestation, for example in Nepal where we buy and install specially designed cooking stoves that use less wood and produce no smoke in the home. Again, we find that a holistic and collaborative approach to complex issues, without imposing solutions from afar, is the best way forward.
We work on the belief that the development of community assets contributes to a thriving civil society and ownership is a big part of community development. It's not just about owning assets such schools, community centres and renewable energy assets, it is also about the self-management of those assets and how they contribute to wider social goals, eg. empowerment, regeneration, well-being and 'place making'.
Community means local, resident-led and usually neighbourhood-based organisations that are neither public nor private and usually operate on a not-for-profit basis. We work with a number of organisational models such as community based organisations (CBOs), village co-operatives and community development trusts. We believe that without these structures in place, most development projects fail; the issue of ownership has to be clearly agreed in the planning stages so that the community understands it's responsibilities.
We have worked hard with each of our regional NGOs and the local communities to establish strong relationships based on trust and transparency. Different cultures have established ways of handling the concept of community ownership, and our role is to ensure that local voices are heard, and there is a fair distribution of influence over decisions; equally it is important to agree who will be affected by the process and the outcomes of a project.
Getting it right means agreeing on the strategic interests of a community and how everyone contributes to the aim or goal. Community ownership in itself builds trust and promotes learning and participation, and acts as a strong example for others to follow.
We recognise that gender equality and the empowerment of women are important goals in their own right and vital to poverty elimination. We don't just make it an emotive or personal response to the issue of gender though, we make it a structural part of the charity with awareness training and promoting attitudinal change amongst all our staff, plus making sure that we conduct informal audits about attitudes and programmes on the ground.
All our initiatives must demonstrate consideration of gender issues which are relevant and appropriate to the context of what we are doing. We make sure that there are no barriers or threats or risks for women or girls, this includes disability and ethnicity. Having said that, equality does not mean that everyone has to be the same, we need to embrace diversity and the richness of human life. This means that our central tenet of empowerment and equality means equal visibility, empowerment and participation of all sexes in all spheres of life. Development at its core should be governed by both men and women. We do not promote a bias towards women, but rather an unbiased approach towards men. This is a much easier way of looking at inequality and less threatening to some people.
Of course gender differences are socially defined and differ between different countries and cultures, so they are not fixed and therefore can be changed. Clearly we have to tread carefully, but we use this description between equality of opportunity and equity of outcomes as an assistance:
"Equality of opportunity means that women and men should have equal rights and entitlements to human, social, economic and cultural development, and an equal voice in civil and political life. Gender equity means that the exercise of these rights and entitlements should lead to outcomes which are fair and just. This distinction is important because it underlines the rights of women to define for themselves the objectives of development and to seek outcomes which are not necessarily identical to those sought and enjoyed by men."
(DfID - Department of International Development - UK AID)
Value for Money
Our work is dedicated to the goal of reducing poverty and we aim to deliver value for money in everything we do on behalf of our donors. We are determined to ensure that every pound we spend has the biggest possible impact on the ground.
Value for money (VFM) is about striking the best balance between the “three E’s” − economy, efficiency and effectiveness, and this is what we aim to achieve with all the money we spend on behalf of our beneficiaries and also our donors. We think about using our resources well and we are very careful in projecting figures over a long period of time so that we never have to cancel any of our programmes. Since our ethos is all about long term sustainable development we try to engage our donors in this way of thinking, rather than short-term-ist solutions.
Like any good organisation managing it's finances and outcomes properly, we employ a rigorous process before every planned expenditure. The question of what the funds are supposed to achieve is as important as the amount spent, and we want to ensure that any financial assistance is valid and managed well, and that those we put in charge of development projects are always seeking to make it work better. Fundamentally we want to know whether the money will result in our presence eventually being unnecessary, so we adopt standard concepts of impact mapping to help us make informed decisions. We are also fortunate to have Adventure Alternative covering the vast majority of our administrative costs.
Nowadays there are plenty of aid sceptics who claim that aid is wasteful, and therefore it is important for us to provide clear numerical evidence for how our money is spent and what have been the outcomes. At the same time some people dismiss VFM as impractical and even inhumane. We aim to prove that the reality is somewhere between the two extremes by finding the right balance between economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
We don't monetise everything and apply a cost-benefit analysis to every expenditure. The quality of the outcomes is fundamental to understanding whether something is providing value, so we are not always looking for the cheapest option or the biggest cost saving. However we do want to reduce inefficiencies in how aid is managed so that it can achieve good development results.
The reality is that assessing value for money is not easy in a development context, partly because of getting reliable good quality data in some areas, and partly because there is a lack of consensus on value for money for whom, of what and from whose perspective. Our belief is that by properly working together with all our stakeholders and making collaborative decisions with each of the people who manage our NGO in each country, we are doing our best to ensure that all of the money in Moving Mountains is well spent.
Sustainable Development Goals
We are part of the Beyond 2015 Campaign for a global civil society which aims to bring together groups from developing, emerging and developed economies in order to promote a strong and legitimate successor to the Millennium Development Goals. The Goals which came out in the Millennium year of 2000 are due to expire in 2015 and they will be replaced with the Sustainable Development Goals, which underpin our work along with human rights.
Moving a mountain takes a lot of time and effort by a lot of people all working together. Changing people's attitudes towards development in terms of the future of the world sounds fanciful and probably impractical, but if everyone could contribute equally to a consensus of opinion then history shows that great things
Measuring our impact
Sound financial management in charities matters, and understanding how charities spend their money is a key driver of public trust. Every penny has to count and be accounted for, and all the projects and programmes should be evaluated and justified and have a purpose that complies with the objectives of the charity.
In Moving Mountains the Trustees take collective responsibility for managing the charity’s resources and justify the expenditure by providing evidence of need from the regional MM organisations. Trustees are not distant to the operations of each ‘MM’ in Kenya, Nepal or Borneo, but are involved on a daily basis with details such as proposals, cash flow and financial reporting.
Expenditures are discussed on a continual basis and all the information is held on cloud so that everyone has access to see and edit documents. Our communication is a big part of our success in managing funds safely.
We take the view that our money has to be earned, evaluated and accounted for, or else it stops. We try not to use the word ‘aid’ because of its associations with ‘free’ money, and we work hard to ensure that money is only ever a part of the solution to any problem.
Recording the change we make
We want to show how our funding creates measurable change through proper reporting. We ask ourselves questions like "what is the value of our work?", "what would happen if we stopped our work?", and "what are the developmental goals and the specific aims of the programme?".
Too many charities create reliance and complacency, so we also look at the sustainability of our work into the future. All of the projects on this website display a timeline or history, which is important because it shows when we began and when we stopped our support. Our impact needs to have a beginning, middle and end.
One of the ways to make sure that this is understood is by having agreements which are witnessed by all the stakeholders, defining who does what and who gets what. This is all part of establishing the parameters of a successful development project, and it prevents so-called 'white elephants' which are all too common throughout the developing world.
We collect information on all our programmes, mostly informally through a continual discourse with the regional trustees. Data is collected in a number of ways which are relevant and sympathetic to the communities and area being visited. Some of it is handwritten on forms, some of it is online, some video and photographic.
Quantitative data is slightly easier – for example, number of children in school. Qualitative data is harder to collect and understand – there are different meanings to the phrase ‘quality of life’ for example, and we need to be careful not to impose foreign concepts of happiness, achievement, progress and so on to people whose perception of life is different. This interaction between us and the beneficiaries is why we love what we do. Over many years those beneficiaries become friends and colleagues and it's much easier to gauge the 'rightness' of what we do.
Our local MM organisations help us a lot – they know exactly what it means to feel secure, stable, happy or inspired. The volunteers who come out often find themselves learning about these differences in life values because we ask them to get involved with our staff in collecting data and helping us evaluate our work.