Perry Maddox is Restless Development’s COO and is joining the rest of the staff in the London office in the Live Below The Line challenge this week. On day five, the final day, he describes how Restless Development walks the walk on youth empowerment with its Global Strategy process.
I woke up a really tired and bit angry this morning. Really tired because the fatigue is compounding and my exhaustion from living below the line is exponential. A bit angry because I’m just sick of bad tasting rice and depending on weak tea to get through the day. I’m glad to say though two moments today have totally wiped out that small frustration about this week’s diet with which I woke:
“To be frank this is easy” – said our Chief Executive Nik this morning when we were talking about how it’s going. Not easy physically or mentally – it’s been really tough on us all the way. Rather, this is easy in comparison. In comparison to the hundreds of millions who officially live below the absolute poverty line (1/6 of the world) live on less than £1 a day for everything. Not just £1 for food and drink but housing, clothes and medicine. £1 for everything. In the meantime I am writing this on my laptop, spending £5 a day on my commute, sleeping in a flat that costs well…what London flats cost. So yes, my personal discomfort this week has been very real and very much felt, but when you put in perspective it is easy. Easy in comparison to the bravery and courage of the 1.2 billion who live absolutely under the line every day.
A Big Conversation. I’m sitting in the back of a session with all of our staff as I write, and I am writing because I think that this session epitomizes how Restless Development works and why we’re playing a leading role in addressing the need of those living in extreme poverty by unleashing their agency. Next year, our global strategy will expire, so we’re developing a strategy to guide us from 2016 and beyond. While that’s exciting enough, the important thing is how we’re doing it.
We launched a “Big Conversation” in January, asking the world what they thought about UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s prominent statement that young people must be the torchbearers of a sustainable agenda beyond 2015. For us, torchbearers means young people leading change at all levels, so that’s what we asked the world about. What would need to change for this to happen? What role were they willing to play? What would they most like to see by 2030? Within weeks, we’d had 5000 responses from 64 countries. Not just from the internet…50% of these responses came from the deep rural communities where our volunteers and teams worked to extend the reach of the conversation. All of our staff, trustees, volunteers were asked to help guide our strategy…but we didn’t stop there. We went to partners from communities to the UN, from private sector to government and heard from thousands motivated by our question. Note that we didn’t ask about Restless Development, we asked a bigger question that will inform discussions beyond ourselves.
So what did we do with all that data?
We handed it all over to young people, of course. A Youth Strategy Team – some staff and some external to us – has been combing through, analyzing and interpreting not just these 5000 answers but also 9 in-depth analysis papers created by staff and youth teams in each of our countries. They’ve presented to our Senior Managment Team, to our Trustees and now to all staff to tell us not just what young people said, but how young people had interpreted that data and what it means for Restless Development and the world. The second half of the session explored 4 straw business models for how this could join up to inform and guide our next strategy – from committing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals to creating a global youth-led sector to unleashing movements involving 500,000 young people to rewiring Restless to use the way we work to prove a different way of doing development. This session is one that we’re running in each of our country programmes globally over the next months, so every staff member will be involved not just in collecting and inputting the data but in analysing it and making our strategy from what the world says and needs.
Did I mention that our staff age averages about 28?
So we’re walking the walk. Our strategy isn’t being designed behind closed doors by Nik and me or some high priced consultation…it’s being built ground up from around the world by young people. Young people who know what the 1.2 billion living below the line need and what they can do if we help in the right way. Young people who lead our programmes at Restless Development. And that’s why I’m ending today with this note. A long week that is at its heart a celebration of what development can be and what we can do together to make this world a better place.
I will say it again – thank you. Thank you to every single one of you who has donated. I have raised over £2,700 – definitely at high on record books here at Restless Development for what a staff member has raised… but more importantly Team Nepal has raised nearly £4000 and counting. I am so proud of Hazel, Declan, Beth and Rhys for doing what they do and for committing so much to this challenge. You are inspirations. I am so thankful for the Nichols, Sam Peraino and David Trow for joining us in this challenge. And my final thank you is to my family, who’ve not only taken the challenge themselves on $1 a day, but have fundraised tirelessly and donated so generously.
Thank you all, and I hope you will share my happiness in writing this, as this past week – like our strategy process – is a validation of what Restless Development stands for. Thank you for standing with us.