“Close your eyes and imagine what you want for your community in the future.” The facilitator said. I was in a training in Managua to design projects. To the sound of calming music in a clean and air-conditioned environment, after several minutes of guided questions helping one figure out more details of what that future looks like, the facilitator finished with the phase, “This is your vision.” My vision from the session was that I found myself seeing happy people in a culture that was void of discrimination and selfishness.
Some might say that being able envision something is just a good imagination, but I don’t believe so. To me it is knowing what it is I’m striving for in the future. To not have that, means I don’t know where I’m going and I might be going the wrong direction completely. Vision statements are important.
After doing some Google searches, essentially vision statements exist to clearly state what we want to accomplish in the future. Mission statements clearly state how we will accomplish that vision.
Around the same time I was able to participate in that session, I had started as a co-chair to the Gender and Development (GAD) committee. The training in Managua got me thinking, ‘what is the vision of GAD?’ I asked the previous co-chairs the question, “So what is GAD’s vision and mission statements? Why do we exist?” They answered well with some self-reflection as to why they believe GAD exists, but it became evident they didn’t know. I asked a few staff members and read a part of an antiquated GAD manual last updated in the 1990’s, all to find out, GAD really was whatever we wanted to make of it and we didn’t have specific vision and mission statements unless we create them for our country’s GAD committee.
In the following few months I wrestled with the concept. Is it necessary or even beneficial to have such a statement? After all Nicaragua’s GAD committee has a reputation for being strong and organized, and has been very successful without one. Will it just become formal jargon that no one needs or pays attention to? After several conversations with other GAD members it became evident that we really needed to figure out our foundation. We needed to figure out why GAD exists.
Finally, it came to a well-spent weekend in the heat of an outdoor café in Granada where the other 11 GAD members and I were able to figure out why we exist as a committee. It was pretty hard! Often it is the hardest thing to summarize a complex issue into a concise and clear manner. We examined vision statements from other GAD committees and organizations, and wrestled with several hours of brainstorming, writing, and editing, but through it all we had success.
Our vision is a place where “Power, respect, and opportunity are no longer gendered.” That was it! We found what we want for the future!
Next we needed to summarize how the GAD committee focuses to accomplish our vision. Somehow it didn’t take nearly as long to summarize the how’s once we figured out what we are trying to accomplish. Still after an hour of debate, our mission came to fruition: “Peace Corps Nicaragua’s Gender and Development Committee promotes sustainable gender equality, both for Nicaraguans and Peace Corps Volunteers by providing camps, technical trainings, and resources.”
Together as a committee, we unanimously voted to adopt this new vision and mission. They don’t exist to be limit or hold us back, but rather to focus our efforts so we don’t lose who we are when someone asks, “Why does GAD exist?”
While the committee can vote to change any aspect of the vision and mission at our next or any other meeting, the true benefit wasn’t just the outcome, but also the process. Now every member of the GAD committee reflected and identified what and how they are working toward gender equality as a part of the committee. Thank you GAD for allowing me to be a part of figuring out why we all are a part of the committee.
– Tim Kruth, HE 63