Workshop features local examples from New York City to Niger
August 25, 2023
Measuring congregational and mid council work to end systemic poverty was the topic of the second in a series of Matthew 25 online workshops offered to help local communities create empowerment, health and wholeness. About 70 people attended.
The speakers were Andrew Kang Bartlett, national associate for the Presbyterian Hunger Program; Margaret Mwale, the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People’s associate for community development and constituent relationships; and Jim McGill, a mission-co-worker serving in Niger.
Kang Bartlett explained a holistic model for assessment developed by the Center for Whole Communities. Measuring the success of local poverty reduction work can be done with help from a spreadsheet. Kang Bartlett created a sample that can be seen at bit.ly/wholemp.
An evaluation can include five fields of practices for measuring effectiveness: justice and fairness, strong communities, healthy people, sustainable ecosystems and thriving local economies.
“It’s a rich, participatory evaluation,” Kang Bartlett said.
Among the examples Mwale cited for measuring holistic impact was the New York State Youth Leadership Council, a group that works on issues related to being undocumented that’s led by undocumented youth.
Among the organization’s services is its Undocu Academy, a one-year program for undocumented high school seniors in New York City that provides mentoring, one-on-one guidance with college and financial aid applications, workshops and scholarship opportunities.
Mwale touched on ways the council is helping to build the five fields of practices Kang Bartlett talked about, and efforts to measure their impacts. One example: Only 10% or less of undocumented students attend college. But for those supported by the Undocu Academy, 70% enrolled in college. “It’s helped to move the needle helping young people move out of poverty,” Mwale said.
McGill shared some of the Wash, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) development work being done in Malawi, South Sudan and Niger. “We work directly under churches. Their mission statements include holistic ministry to the people,” McGill explained, adding that development, agriculture, health and education “are as important to the church as the spiritual well-being of people.”
“The biggest issue we work with in holistic ministry is breaking the cycle of poverty,” McGill said. “It’s a big job for the church to do. The question is, how do we measure that progress?”
One way is to announce development targets, such as the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. That can ease the fundraising burden for nongovernmental organizations, McGill said, which can say, “If you give me x-amount of dollars, I’ll put in a well for you.”
While a friend sent McGill an email recently touting results of a three-year project on access to safe drinking water, saying the report on the project demonstrates that getting statistics together is worth the effort, McGill pointed out it’s only a snapshot and doesn’t measure impact over time.
“We need to measure as best we can how the program has impacted people,” McGill said. “People must be able to step up the ladder and out of poverty.”
During a question-and-answer session, Kang Bartlett said that dismantling the worst aspects of the economic system is the way to make the biggest impact, but “that’s a huge endeavor. In the U.S., my read is changing federal policies is difficult. But real change can happen at the local level.”
The next Matthew 25 webinar on eradicating systemic poverty is set for 11 a.m. Eastern Time on Aug. 28. It’ll be on community organizing, policy advocacy and movement building.
Scheduled presenters are Denzell Mitchell, an associate organizer for the congregation-based community organization Richmonders Involved to Strengthen Our Communities in Richmond, Virginia; the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, director of the Kairos Center at Union Theological Seminary and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign; and the Rev. Jimmie R. Hawkins, who directs advocacy efforts for the PC(USA) in Washington, D.C., and New York City. Register here.
Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: Matthew 25 webinar on eradicating systemic poverty
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray
Gracious God, whose love is so encompassing that it can heal a world in pain, please mark the path as we walk together to grow Christ’s church. Lead us to hearts that need to know your love and help us to demonstrate in our lives the hope you offer us all. Guide our hands as we reach out to those who are suffering so we can ease their pain as you have eased ours. Amen.