PANGEA GIVING: A Learning Journey, by Allan Paulson, Co-founder

The half dozen or so people who got together 10 years ago to form Pangea were  mostly strangers to each other. What brought us together was a common desire to learn about the issues of people in developing countries and how to use our resources to support change that improve people’s lives. All of us had written checks to large charitable organizations with good programs, but we wanted to actually learn by doing it ourselves in a way that engaged us personally. We would do our own research and education before choosing where we wanted to make grants, and we would make our own site visits to see the results.

Pangea founders, Allan Paulson and Linda Mason, reminiscing about the early days during a member meeting recently.

Each of us came with our own set of assumptions, many of which would seem naïve and unrealistic over time.  Such as, in the developing world, a few dollars go a long way. Or, it’s better to invest in tangible, countable things, like wells, classrooms, animals, or agricultural equipment, than squishy projects like training. Or, better not get involved in advocacy to change or establish policies because that is involving ourselves in the politics of other countries. Or, one year is sufficient time to see measurable change, and every one year project must have a plan to become sustainable. Or, you can have greater impact by selecting one issue and funding best practices that by being guided by the needs of each community we engage with.

With so many viewpoints, it is amazing that we have been able to stick together.  The glue has been a willingness to learn together, to dialogue about the issues and our own differences, and trust in the collective wisdom of the decisions of the group.  In other words, relationships matter when you are going on a learning journey.  Not only did we learn this about ourselves, we also learned this about our grantees. The more we could develop trusting relationships with our “partners” the more we and they would learn, and the better our chances are of being of real help. That is my first, big learning:  in order to truly learn about ‘them’ we also need to be willing to learn about ourselves.

In addition to notices about upcoming events and other news, this will be a space for Pangea members to share their observations and learning on our journey to change the world in some small way: both learning about ourselves, as well as learning about others living far different lives in distant places.

November, 2013