Liberation From Charity

Do you remember the old metal merry-go-rounds that used to exist on every school and neighborhood playground? The ones where you had to hold on for dear life, and the quality of your enjoyment was dependent almost solely on someone else’s strength and ability to push you? 

What about when you learned to ride a bike? Do you remember the freedom of being able to transport yourself? The enjoyment and power of being in control of your speed, your route, and your destination? 

What if we look at charity through this lens? If the beneficiary of our good will is wholly dependent on an organization’s ability to keep pushing, and the results end when the pushing ends, is that the goal? This is indeed the finish line that many aim for and refer to as sustainable. However, using our analogy, it’s easy to see that it isn’t self-sustaining. Perhaps, the charity could simply get the beneficiary started on the bike. The mentor gives instructions, connects the rider to others with biking experience, and lays out some routes that are known to be great for riding. Then the beneficiary can ride – he or she can control their speed, their success, their own ability to rise to the top and continue propelling themselves. There is no need to come back to the person who first taught them, which frees the mentor up to help others. They’ve also, in teaching the skills, created more people with the ability to teach others. Those old metal merry-go-rounds were great for children in search of a smile and good memories. But learning to ride a bicycle was something that not only could be used your whole life, it’s a skill you can pass on.   

This is our goal at Viable. We are working to liberate well-meaning people from their need for charity. Have you ever considered what would happen if people living in impoverished conditions, served by charity, could become those who serve? At Viable, we aren’t interested in simply pushing the merry-go-round. We have tried that, and it doesn’t work. We want to see people ride off under their own power and direction. Beneficiaries become donors. We’ve seen it. Can you imagine how many more people an organization could reach if their influence and continued investment wasn’t limited to a closed economic circuit they’ve manufactured?  

Our intent isn’t to downplay the importance of any charitable work that is done with a servant heart, and there are certainly situations where the most important task is to care for people’s basic physical needs. The world’s most vulnerable individuals are consumed by the stress of survival. When those needs are met, then a person can begin to focus on tomorrow. When people are fed and safe, they often, without any outside prompting, begin to think about next steps.  


There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens

Ecclesiastes 3:1


Think of an operation or injury you or a family member have endured. The doctor will assess and remedy your most immediate needs. Then the nurse takes over, providing comfort, knowledge, and guidance while you regain your strength. Then you are likely sent home with instructions for self care, and sometimes with orders for physical therapy. The therapist expects even more progress, all largely dependent on your level of willingness and effort. Therapy could last for weeks or months, depending on the severity of what you are recovering from, your goals, and how much work you put in. The ultimate goal of the therapist is for you to get better, avoid reinjury, and to do the activities you want and need to do – a productive return to normal. Therapists often position a patient with an adjusted mindset, proper expectations and an exercise plan which can be accomplished in a self-directed way  at home once therapy sessions end.  Think of Viable as a physical therapist working in situations where there is extreme pain and hopelessness. We help our “patients” envision what is needed to free themselves from their dependent state of care, and we have the experience, ability, and patience to see them through an established work plan to get back on their feet. 

So what? The idea of liberating populations from charity isn’t new. Being charitable while preventing and overcoming dependence is ancient, as old as the 12th century or possibly 6th century BC. Modern books have been written about it and organizations have been formed to teach ministries how to “give a hand up, not a hand out,” yet the needle remains largely unmoved by these efforts. Corporations promote Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and adhere to Environmental Social Corporate Governance (ESG) criteria to attract “socially conscious investors.” In the end, we believe real change at a grassroots, main street level requires the practical, common sense work to help people in at-risk conditions secure authentic opportunity to generate an income in an ethical and self-sustaining (viable) way. 

Markets exist all over the world. Viable’s work, in short, is connection-building, linking people to better markets. No matter the location, community leaders exist. There are good people everywhere, people who want to help those among them to rise up. We find those servant leaders, mentor them, and we help them solidify connections forged and introduced by Viable. These leaders aren’t paid. We help them learn how to pay themselves. As any small business owner knows, the leader (owner) is paid last. Leaders build trust with buyers. Leaders guide farmers or other laborers to produce what the buyers want for a fair price at a set time. This alone is a new concept for many in less developed countries, as typically the first person with money gets the sale. Within a few years, the leaders have developed and grown and no longer need our guidance. Their workers increase production and suddenly have family businesses. Because none of our  overhead or administrative expenses come from your donations, Viable can replicate this process at an extremely low cost per individual. 

The almost unbelievable numbers show us that Viable only needs $60 to affect this kind of change in one human being’s life forever. That’s $60 to create a self-sufficient farmer, a member of the market that’s feeding the world, a greater contributor to society, a producer, and a family liberated from charity. 

We know you are likely skeptical, and hopefully intrigued. We ask that you continue to learn more and to ask questions – of us, and of others.  What we are doing isn’t easy, and it’s not failsafe, but the Greater Return is worth it every time.


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