Everyone has acted out of compassion to improve someone’s life. We have all experienced outcomes that we didn’t expect (unintended consequences) or the frustration when things didn’t change. When we carefully and thoughtfully plan our actions, interventions, projects or services based on the outcomes we wish to see, that compassion is magnified and the impact of our actions are amplified.
I would like to take a few moments of your time just to demonstrate the importance of planning for outcomes, using and extending an old adage we are all familiar with.
Give a person a fish …..
…….and feed them for a day. We all agree that if we just give a fish the most likely outcome here is for the person to eat for one day and then either have nothing to eat the next day or for the person to become dependent on being given fish each day in order to survive. No matter what the motives, heart or how much or little compassion goes into giving the fish, nothing is going to change for the person involved. I am not saying for one minute that we don’t meet that urgent and immediate need, this is really important as people in the midst of personal crisis or need are reeling. I am however, asking whether this all we want to achieve?
Teach a person to fish ……
…..and you feed them for a lifetime. “Ah! Yes! This is a better outcome” I hear you say!
In a perfect world yes it is a better outcome for that one individual. However we don’t live in a perfect world, far from it, and we have to plan our actions based on that uncomfortable fact.
If we think through the likely outcomes, all sorts of issues start to arise. Access to somewhere to fish, cost of fishing rights, access to bait, environmental factors and overfishing depleting fish stocks all will have an impact on the outcome.
If we want a better outcome these issues have to be addressed. We need to look at equality. How do we ensure that there is equal access to a place to fish? How do we ensure fishing rights and bait to fish are affordable?
Even addressing all these issues this still only meets the needs of one person. Is this really all we want to achieve?
Teach a person to fish …and manufacture fishing rods from sustainable sources…and to teach others to do the same.
We are then building a more resilient community that can feed themselves for the future.
We still need to consider sustainability. We need to teach the community to manage fish stocks, prevent overfishing and manage the environment to ensure resources are available for the future, and for future generations. This is then surely the best outcome for all.
We have the best chance of achieving best outcomes for all, if we consider the following (not an exhaustive list) in planning actions, interventions, services or projects:
- building resilient communities,
- sustainably, for this generation and future generations,
- impact on others
- impact on the environment
- resource management
A further question then arises on how we measure outcomes but that is a topic for another post.
And a final question to finish…..
Did anyone ask the person or the community if they like fish?