I frequently discover unexpected overlap between my Winds of Peace life and that of the employee-ownership community. One such occasion occurred this past week as I prepared to address a business audience in Houston, Texas. The topic of presentation was “Leading In Tough Times,” and the implication was that perhaps there are some special tactics that leaders might use in times such as these, some magic that can somehow alleviate or at least reduce the pain of the current economic reality. In preparation, I polled a number of experienced people from within The ESOP Association community, collecting wisdom from a wide range of perspectives and circumstances. And I arrived at an interesting conclusion: that virtually nothing in what I heard was particularly new or unfamiliar. The basic tenets of good ESOP company management which we’ve learned over the past couple of decades- broad participation, organizational transparency, open-book management, continuous improvement methodology, constant teaching and learning- still constitute the very best strategies for survival. Aside from the management wisdom of this, I think there’s another reason for these survival techniques to have emerged.
These issues transcend management and employee ownership and profitability. They represent response to universal human needs, not simply desires. They are the same needs that I encounter in working with our partner organizations in Nicaragua. Human beings function at their full capacity when they are invested in their day-to-day lives, when they know the truth, when they understand personally and clearly what they must do to create desired outcomes, when they are given the latitude and process to use what they know. When human beings are provided the opportunity to learn, they also teach, and the chances for fulfillment are multiplied exponentially. This is how the human creature thrives and why the strategies articulated by my ESOP contacts are so fundamentally true.
It’s true in companies and organizations everywhere, Nicaragua or the U.S. As Winds of Peace continues its work in Nicaragua, we’ll make it a priority to never forget the truth of those human needs. Managers of companies and political leaders of nations can attempt to bend the truth of these universal needs, but they won’t subvert the reality of them.
From time to time we get questions about the types of organizations with whom we work and what their lives are like. One cooperative that we have funded in two cycles now is Los Alpes, a very rural coffee coop which is a member of the umbrella cooperative SOPPEXCCA (pronounced so-pesca). Both Los Alpes and SOPPEXCCA are impressive in their aspirations and the context in which they hope to achieve those goals. Here’s an article about both organizations that gives a glimpse of their efforts as marketplace players. They are doing good work, indeed….
The Winds of Peace Advisory Committee met last Friday to evaluate the current docket of proposals and recommend funding. It’s always a dynamic gathering as we discuss the possibilities inherent in small, rural groups that perhaps have never had previous access to project funding.
One of the proposals that caught our attention was from Nicaragua’s National Union of Agriculture and Ranching (UNAG) in the municipality of San Juan del Rio Coco. We’ve had other projects in this region, but this one is unique in that it focuses on raising potatoes for seed. It’s part of UNAG’s Peasant-to-Peasant Program, and it represents the expansion of a pilot project which has been successfully completed there primarily by women farmers. This is seen as a significant step toward food security for women peasants in the rural sector, as well as an alternative to the coffee mono-cropping which can create land resource problems. With UNAG’s technical help, these women can potentially create a significant new niche for themselves in the marketplace.
Take a look at the results from one of the pilot project participants and the preparation for the project’s expansion. We’re excited to be part of this initiative that contains social, economic and environmental components!
I related my reactions to our most recent visit to Buculmay Cooperative in my August 19 post, but here’s a bit more. Parts of this video footage were taken before our visit and parts taken during, but I think it provides an idea of the scope of the project that these women and men have undertaken, as well as the sophistication of the approach. This will be no small operation and is no small undertaking for the coop, consisting of raising crops for both capital as well as feed, and the animal husbandry that will be required for success. No wonder they are standing tall and drawing more potential members to the coop! We’ll continue working with and watching this amazing story as it continues to unfold….
I wrote a reflection here in May, 2007 about a circumstance facing the Indigenous People of Telpaneca, and how they had been forced to fight the same battle against the municipal and state government with regard to illegal squatters on their land. One of the actions that had been taken in those days was the construction of several green outhouses on the farm properties, so that the municipal government could claim that the squatters had “improved” the farms and thus had a right to remain. It seemed a ludicrous argument then and is even moreso now.
The Indigenous have continued to press their claims and rights through every legal means required of them, despite still more of the odious outhouses popping up on the lands as seen here. (I took this photo from nearly the same spot as in my May 07 entry.) Their most recent stop was before the Nicaragua Supreme Court just last Friday, as the President of the Indigenous, Jose Benito Basilio, presented a deposition on behalf of his people. The court will consider the arguments of both sides before rendering its decision within the next months.
This is an important case, not just for Tepaneca, not just for Indigenous people, not even just for Nicaragua. It’s a case of basic land rights which, if it fails at the Supreme Court level, will almost certainly be taken to the Inter-American Court of Justice for a hearing there. At its root is the question of how to come to terms with the fundamental conflict between Indigenous patrimony and nationalistic authority. When Indigenous people exert their ownership of land through titles acquired long before nation-states existed, whose claims to ownership shall prevail?
The question is one which neither the Niacraguan nor other Inter-American Court governments may wish to defer to an outside court, because the ramifications are far-reaching. But the Indigenous of Telpaneca have courageously and persistently fought for their lands despite artificial obstacles raised at every turn. They have not swerved or hesitated in their quest for justice. They have mobilized their members (1500 in a rally in Telpaneca just 2 weeks ago, without the support of any other Indigenous groups). Their case is sound and backed by the evidence. They give meaning to the Margaret Mead observation: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
We will watch the proceedings with great interest and hope….
*Check out the entire website! After an all-too-long delay, we’ve refreshed and updated our look and content, so browse freely! We’ve also established a schedule for regular updates so that all of the initiatives undertaken by WPF can be seen in a timely fashion.
Winds of Peace Foundation (WPF) continues to make available the opportunity for partners to learn basic techniques of business literacy and ownership characteristics to enhance their own entrepreneurial endeavors.
Open Book Management and Employee Ownership Transformation are well-demonstrated techniques for enterprise development that can be a big help to people who are trying to learn how to stay afloat.
*Mark and Steve will be visiting with current and prospective partners again during the first week of August, prior to the Fall funding cycle. Specifically, they’ll be interested in connecting with some of the Indigenous communities and women’s groups with whom WPF works. The effects of the current economic crisis is of particular concern.