All posts tagged “integrity

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Telling the story with integrity


It occurred to me, after writing all those posts about La Limonada and the important, inspiring stuff going on there, that some of you may have found yourself harboring suspicions. You may have wondered, for instance: were we being paid to say nice things about Lemonade International in order to trick you into sponsoring a child?

These are reasonable things to wonder, so I thought I’d take a moment to dispel your fears. We bloggers paid for our own airfare, and took time off from work (some of us without paid leave), just because we truly wanted to meet the people of La Limonada and do what we could to tell their stories. In exchange, we were given bunk beds to sleep in, meals to eat, WiFi to use, and transportation to and from La Limonada each day. And, most important of all, the staff gave us their time and, as familiar faces in La Limonada, they vouched for us as we walked the streets – something we’d have been foolish to attempt on our own.

So yes, we do really want you to sponsor a child in La Limonada – or sponsor a teacher, or start a lemonade stand, etc. – but not because we get something tangible out of it. We just have reason to believe these things make a real difference in kids’ lives, and that Lemonade International’s programs represent holistic community development at its best.

I was reminded of this when I saw the Principles of Excellence in Integral Mission, recently published by the Accord Network. As the statement puts it, holistic mission “will be characterized as excellent” when these eight components are in place:

  1. Our Christian faith is at the center of our identity, motive, and manner of being
  2. We acknowledge the reality and significance of the spiritual realm
  3. The Church is central
  4. Transformational practices start with us
  5. We recognize the whole system of poverty
  6. In our relationship journey with the church, our local partners, and the community, we enter as guests, co-labor as partners, and continue as friends
  7. We support local communities and churches in measuring all that matters
  8. We tell the story with integrity

storytelling1There’s a lot I could say about how the staff of Lemonade International, both those in the community of La Limonada and those supporting the work from elsewhere, put these principles into practice every day.

Notably, there’s no denying the fact that the Christian faith is what drives these folks, as well as what sustains them, and they don’t need to be convinced that there’s a spiritual dynamic at play in the community. Their lives are also marked by the shared desire to be co-laborers and friends, not saviors or twenty-first-century colonialists. Those are a few that are clear.

But it’s that last principle that especially jumped out, because Lemonade International has truly impressed me with its commitment to telling the story with integrity. Here’s how the Accord statement emphasizes that important point:

How we tell the story of the work, and what we choose to say, is a sacred trust between our organizations and the churches, communities, peers, donors, and the poor who work together with us. What we say about the work, to all parties, will be true and transparent, demonstrating the complexity of poverty alleviation, and giving credit everywhere credit is due. What we communicate will honor the view and the voice of those we serve, and reflect our humility and teachable heart by sharing even those hard lessons learned.

The Lemonade International blog is an obvious and consistent example of this commitment to excellence and integrity in storytelling. And through our recent bloggers trip, we were able to join them, doing some storytelling of our own. We were all certainly cognizant of the possibility of exploiting people one way or another through photography and the written word, and none of us wanted to do that, so we talked quite a bit about best practices and we did our best to avoid misrepresenting or dishonoring anyone through our blogs.

But the real test of integrity and excellence in storytelling isn’t whether the storytellers themselves feel they did a good job. The best judges are rather the people whose stories are told.

After most of the bloggers team had left for the airport, Katie and I were waiting for a ride at the Lemonade House with Sam, who leads Lemonade’s micro-enterprise program, when in walked Salma and Alma. We had met Salma and Alma the day before, hearing their gripping, painful stories, and learning about the vocational training they had received to make and sell jewelry.

storytelling3Now, Salma and Alma said they were interested in seeing the blogs for themselves. We showed them a photo of them with Katie, and then we showed them Paul’s post, in which he recounted their story in full detail.

It was the moment of truth. They had entrusted their stories to us; had we handled them with care?

As Sam translated the post into Spanish, Salma and Alma marveled that Paul had remembered the conversation, seemingly word for word, and had told the story so faithfully. Tears came to their eyes, and they thanked us.

Paul’s post had passed the test. But it served as a good reminder: storytelling with integrity and excellence really matters. The stakes are high because building and keeping trust is essential when it comes to holistic community development. When deciding whether to support a nonprofit focused on community development and poverty alleviation, don’t underestimate the importance of its storytelling.

If an organization doesn’t do this well, it hasn’t earned the right to be trusted – not by you, and certainly not by the people it purports to serve.


If you’ve been impressed with Lemonade International, a great way to begin supporting their work is by participating in their fifth anniversary gala, whether in person in Raleigh or Cincinnati (if you happen to live in the vicinity), or online.

[Photos by Scott Bennett]

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Repaso: CEO integrity, Brazilian culture wars, rethinking nuclear weapons, Guatemalan war documentary, Derek Webb on free music, Christianity and culture, good economic news, top global thinkers, and justice for all

1. What does a CEO with integrity look like?
Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College, had an op-ed yesterday in the New York Times about Gerard Arpey, the American Airlines CEO who just walked away after 30 years out of a belief that filing for bankruptcy — a procedure that’s become standard in the airline industry — is wrong. That he is a man of integrity is worth celebrating; that he is a rare exception among CEOs, though, is lamentable. Lindsay writes:

Over the last eight years, I have interviewed hundreds of senior executives for a major academic study on leadership, including six airline C.E.O.’s. Mr. Arpey stood out among the 550 people I talked with not because he believed that business had a moral dimension, but because of his firm conviction that the C.E.O. must carefully attend to those considerations, even if doing so blunts financial success or negates organizational expediency. For him, it is an obligation that goes with the corner office.

2. Culture wars and Pentecostalism in Brazil
The days of the Religious Right might be mostly behind us here in the US, but in Brazil, it seems to really be catching on. The New York Times has a profile of Silas Malafaia, a televangelist with a massive following who is known for his polarizing views, and takes a look at the rise of Pentecostals and other Protestant groups in Brazil:

About one in four Brazilians are now thought to belong to evangelical Protestant congregations, and Pentecostals like Mr. Malafaia are at the forefront of this growth. In a remarkable religious transformation, scholars say that while Brazil still has the largest number of Roman Catholics in the world, it now also rivals the United States in having one of the largest Pentecostal populations. Not everyone in Brazil is enthusiastic about this shift.

3. Evangelicals rethink nuclear weapons
Members of the National Association of Evangelicals board of directors have written a piece for Washington Post’s “On Faith” column that’s worth prayerful consideration:

Christians hold that all people bear God’s image (Genesis 1:27).Therefore, human life and freedom are precious and should be defended from injustice and tyranny. Nuclear weapons, with their capacity for terror as well as for destruction of human life, raise profound spiritual, moral and ethical concerns. We question the acceptability of nuclear weapons as part of a just national defense. The just war tradition admonishes against indiscriminate violence and requires proportionality and limited collateral damage. New scientific studies reveal that even a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would have profound global consequences, harming billions of innocents. The very weapons meant to restrain evil could potentially destroy all that they were intended to protect.

4. “Our voice, our memory”
Mike at the Central American Politics blog shared this 30-minute documentary about the 36-year civil war in Guatemala, which, according to the makers of the film, meets the international criteria to be considered genocide. Needless to say, it’s not for the faint of heart, but is important for the understanding of history, as well as what you might call “the roots of the present illness.” It’s in Spanish, too, by the way.

5. How free music makes more than sense
Derek Webb, one of my favorite artists who started NoiseTrade (a great place to get free music legally!), has a new reflection on the state of the music industry and what it means for those who make and listen to music (hint: he’s not a fan of Spotify):

There has never been a better moment to be a middle-class or an independently thinking artist making and performing music than right now. The costs and complications of creating, recording, manufacturing, and distributing music are at an all-time low, enabling more music to be made and more artists to make a living than ever before. If your ego can bear not being rich and famous, you can make a respectable and sustainable living as a blue-collar musician.  The problem used to be access; now it’s obscurity. And this brings with it a completely new set of problems and opportunities.

6. Andy Crouch on Christianity and culture
If you haven’t read Andy Crouch’s Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, you really should. But if you don’t want to do that, here’s a 50-minute podcast about Christianity and culture, the big themes of that book. If even that is too much to ask, at least take a listen to the four and a half minute snippet about how cultural change can — and often must — start small.

7. Good economic news from Latin America
The BBC reports:

Poverty in Latin America is at its lowest level for 20 years, the UN’s regional economic body, Eclac, says. From 1990 to 2010, the rate fell from 48.4% to 31.4%, which means 177 million people currently live in poverty… “Poverty and inequality continue to decline in the region, which is good news, particularly in the midst of an international economic crisis,” said Alicia Barcena, Eclac’s executive secretary. “However, this progress is threatened by the yawning gaps in the productive structure in the region and by the labour markets which generate employment in low-productivity sectors.”

8. Top 100 global thinkers
Foreign Policy has released its latest list of top global thinkers for the past year. A number of the leaders of the Egyptian revolution are atop the list. I was especially interested to see that Yoani Sánchez, Cuban dissident blogger, and Dr. Paul Farmer, medical anthropologist with a long history in Haiti, made the cut as well.

9. And justice for all [infograhic]
GOOD and Column Five Media have produced an interesting infographic on how the US is doing in terms of income equality and providing all citizens with access to the market economy (click on the image below to view the full-size infographic).

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!