Recognising the twin crises impacting life in Myanmar, our purpose statement includes two additions in brackets, made in 2022.
Co-creating opportunities by (re)building capacity and partnering for (sustainable) long-term value to empower community-based development
GraceWorks Myanmar (GWM) is a community development agency that respects, protects and promotes human rights for all, regardless of a person’s gender; sex; race; colour; language; religion; political or other opinion; national, ethnic or social origin; property; disability or other status. Five values guide our behaviour and decisions:
Our new interim vision, cast in 2022, is:
Communities reclaiming better quality of life by 2025
Our 2030 vision is ‘on pause’ but remains a reflection of the contribution we want to make:
200 villages empowered by 2030
Our mission takes the form of a flywheel that captures the key components of what we do and how we do it – and the underlying logic we use to build and sustain momentum over the long-term. While we ultimately want to ‘do ourselves out of a job’, the need in Myanmar warrants long-term thinking until a critical mass is reached in relation to factors such as improved quality of life and holistic wellbeing.
People have inherent value and capacity. We work alongside people in Myanmar to support them in gaining the freedoms they need to achieve the quality of life they desire. Integrity is at the heart of everything we do as we seek to address injustices with positive, long-term development that contributes to breaking the cycle of poverty.
People don’t live in sectors. Only NGOs do. That’s why we approach everything from a holistic perspective. We aim for sustainable outcomes that empower people through processes and results. We are more interested in enabling the good ideas of local people than simply delivering our own.
We emphasise respect and inclusivity for all, regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity, age or background, and seek to address marginalisation and exclusion based on these factors. We are driven by compassion and cultural sensitivity. We invest in building understanding and challenging our own thinking so that we are part of long-term change rather than band-aid solutions.
Genuine two-way partnerships that emphasise self-sustainability are central to our contribution in Myanmar. We focus on grassroots partners and projects founded in mutual accountability and transparency.
We work to increase the capacity of our partners, rather than creating dependency on us. Success in the long-term will mean we’ve done ourselves out of a job. Participatory processes give us the opportunity for mutual learning. They make the journey as important as the destination so that we contribute to home-grown development capacity.
GWM believes the intrinsic goal of development is to advance human dignity, freedom, social equity and self-determination. A lack of development is characterised by poverty, social exclusion, powerlessness, poor health and shortened life expectancy.
‘Good’ development outcomes are best achieved when communities have ownership of goals and processes, and where participation, transparency and accountability are emphasised. Those outcomes also need to explicitly consider the importance of gender and diversity – and expand people’s freedoms and experience of their inalienable human rights. As such, underlying factors contributing to underdevelopment need to be addressed, and environmental concerns considered, to enable sustainable development – which means prioritising partnership and local capacity building.
GWM agrees with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) definition of 'human development' (Human Development Report 1990, p.10) as being a process of enlarging people's choices, the most critical ones being to lead a long and healthy life, to be educated and to enjoy a decent standard of living. If these essential choices are not available, many other opportunities remain inaccessible.
Professor Mark Duffield (On the Edge of ‘No Man’s Land’: Chronic Emergency in Myanmar, University of Bristol) once noted that development agencies in Myanmar created space for programs by adhering strictly to the humanitarian principles of:
Humanity – the centrality of saving human lives and alleviating suffering
Impartiality – implementation of action solely on the basis of need, without discrimination between or within affected populations
Neutrality – that humanitarian action must not favour any side in an armed conflict or other dispute
Independence – autonomy of humanitarian objectives from the political, economic, military or other objectives that any actor may hold.
GWM adopts these apolitical humanitarian principles in its development approach in Myanmar through what may be termed ‘humanitarian development'.