Returned volunteer Lukas Rajnoch tells me that engaging his Blue Mountains parish community with Palms vision and mission has been assisted by a Simon Sinek Ted Talk. Sinek’s main point is that in marketing we need to leave explanation of HOW and WHAT we do, until after people are inspired by WHY we do it. I agree; enthusiasm is encouraged first by Vision.
Unlike many ‘for-profits’ Palms’ Vision is not just for the organisation and our ‘clients’, but an ambitious vision for the world. We see ourselves as assisting: “People … to cooperate in achieving a just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful world free of poverty.” The gap in that sentence has recently been filled by some thoughts of Pope Francis that explains a little of the HOW. You can see it here.
Palms’ Mission provides a framework for HOW we achieve our vision. Since 1961 International Mission and Development Volunteering has been a primary focus. Before 1961 the Paulian Association (our organisational name 1956 – 2001) ran a separate program to raise awareness, enthusiasm and involvement in action to build inclusive and just communities in Australia. The value of integrating these two missions has become obvious, especially given Australian political discourse that encourages less tolerance of otherness.
A major lesson from Palms program over the last 62 years is that embracing difference and diversity drives development for us all. Growth is mutual when we welcome difference, not as a threat, but as an opportunity. Yes, it takes us out of our comfort zone, but that is where development is most likely: on the edge. Growth exists when we go beyond what we know.
So, development, or learning, is the process of extending our comfort zone. It’s as true for a society as it is for an individual. Communities requesting Palms volunteers do so for that reason and it is a huge motivator for those who volunteer.
Embracing different others and learning from the approaches they take is a path to growth and development that is reflected in all aspects of life. In his 2015 analysis (Australia’s Second Chance) George Megalogenis’ points out that we need look no further than our economic growth and immigration history to appreciate the correlation.
Palms cross cultural preparation exists largely because we know that pushing out our boundaries can be both challenging and awkward. We know it can take some initial effort, but the rewards are high. In order to achieve these high rewards for our mission in Australia we will bring our organisational learning from the mission abroad to disrupt the current political discourse that creates fear of the other.
It’s not hard to create fear. War and unscrupulous politicians build success on fear of the other for which they often have extreme solutions. At the moment it takes the form of promoting fear of pejoratively named Sudanese gangs, or fear of Muslims. Palms vision to “reach beyond every barrier of culture, religion, nationality, gender, class and individualism, to cooperate in achieving a just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful world free of poverty” demands that we disrupt such opportunism through “Disruptive Discourse”.
This will take the form of a creative community event (the local being a likely gathering point) that will again focus Palms mission in Australia on raising awareness, enthusiasm and involvement in action that builds inclusive and just communities. With open Palms to all comers, “Disruptive Discourse” intends to achieve the learning, growth and human development that experience teaches us is dependent on embracing difference.
Palms will launch our first “Disruptive Discourse” in Sydney soon. To host a “Disruptive Discourse” event in your community, contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org.