Posted by: norapillard | May 1, 2011

The Importance of Sharing Our Work: A Reminder from the 60 Minutes – Three Cups of Tea Controversy

By Nora Pillard Reynolds, WfW VP/Director of Communication

In light of the recent investigation by CBS 60 Minutes into the inaccuracies presented by Greg Mortenson and Three Cups of Tea, I find myself wondering- why didn’t individuals who work in the non-profit sector or international development question and critique his work earlier? One article provides several possible answers to this question- worry about other international organizations being lumped in with Mortenson’s potentially flawed portrayal of his work and the fact that he did provide a motivational story that people wanted to believe.

Although I agree with both of these reasons, after reading the article, I found myself contemplating one common reaction of those who work in the non-profit sector. Often these individuals think that spending their time questioning and critiquing will not help accomplish their mission directly- they have more important work to focus on than questioning someone else’s work. They (we/I) would rather spend our time working to directly help others access education, healthcare, etc. than giving public voice to inaccuracies of another individual or organization. I often find myself reacting to things in this same way- I would rather spend time working on a water system project than talking or writing about water systems that already exist or that are needed in the future. The CBS 60 Minutes investigation into Mortenson’s work, even amidst controversy, was a powerful reminder for me about the importance of sharing information about our work in addition to directly doing the work.

Last week, on Easter morning, one of the elders at my Quaker meeting for worship stood up to share another important reminder. He said, “We as Quakers are often better are giving someone the glass of water than explaining WHY we give the glass of water.” Now, his comment was meant to relate to any good works, but — for me — it was a fitting example since it directly referenced water.

These two recent examples help affirm the importance of spending time and energy communicating and sharing the work we are doing, and why and how we are doing this work, including the challenges that we encounter and lessons that we learn along the way. They provide a challenge to those of us who spend our hours and minutes thinking and working on these projects to stop… reflect… and share with those around us and the public more broadly. And, I realized, that is precisely why we, at Water for Waslala, started this blog almost two years ago and continue to take time to stop and share our work with all of you.

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