Ten Rules for Helping
From The Rules for helping- we learn of The Taranaki Rules by Warren Feek for outsiders who help develop strategies to support grassroots-organization. This includes those who are looking to be a volunteer or a full/part time employee where you are going to leave your cozy life in the States to stay and do “good deeds.” These are ten rules created by Warren to better help you:
- The “I am a guest rule–The spaces where I am engaged are usually not my community, my country, or my organization. They are “owned” by others. I am there as their guest and I need to be a good guest. I am in their space and I will affect that space, and so I should always respect and enhance that space.
- The “I get to leave” rule–Though they have very kindly asked me to be involved, or have accepted my involvement, in the end, I get to depart that community, country, or organization-that space. I need to remember that it is not me who will have to pick up the pieces afterward.
- The “90/10 knowledge” rule– No matter how much I may think or be told that I know about a situation, issue, dynamic, or problem, I can only know a maximum of 10 percent, while “the locals” know about 90 percent. Often this knowledge is hidden or not valued. This applies to even the most technical of topics. So, I try to create space for the authentic surfacing, valuing, peer sharing, and examination of that local knowledge.
- The “10 percent talk” rule— If I am talking more than 10 percent of the time, I am doing a really poor job. If I dominate with “knowledge,” I close the space for engagement, sharing, learning, and creativity, and I begin to under, time rather than help.
- The “four out of five are questions” rule–Questions open up for engagement. As an outsider, I may be able to ask some different questions that open up a process-questions that create space for new or different understandings or relationships. So I try to ensure that my questions outnumber any specific ideas or statements I may be by a ratio of 4 to 1.
- The “marginal voices” rule–As an outsider in a process, I am less hidebound by pre-existing dynamics such as who gets to speak most, or whose opinion carries the most weight. Trying to change the dynamics of the space means respectfully encouraging the quieter, “less important” voices to surface and be acknowledged.
- The “would you mind sharing your story with us” rule–My culture places a high value on getting down to business as quickly as possible, but this is not always a good way for an outsider to work. So try to create time and space for people to share their stories. It is amazing what even those close colleagues or neighbors do not know about each other. The inclusion of personal elements creates a closer and more meaningful space for understanding and working with each other.
- The “five-year” rule–people struggle to look past the day-to-day problems, opportunities, and worries, and to have a long-term view. When it feels appropriate, ask everyone to outline where they want to be in five years time in relation to the priority issues on the table. This is an attempt to raise the group’s gaze and direct their actions to longer-term solutions rather than just fighting fires.
- The “when to share my ideas and proposals” rule–I get invited to give support because I am regarded as having some technical knowledge and expertise that can be helpful. Everything in rules 1 to 8 above works against that happening! So I have a dilemma. My rules for when to share my ideas and proposals revolve around being asked at least three times by three different people; being substantively into the process that is underway; having sufficient time left for my ideas or proposals to be critically examined; and, being able to explain them using the analysis emerging from the process to date. Timing is critical.
- The “what agenda or plan” rule— If you are 25 percent of the way into support/help process and the opening agenda or plan is still being followed-well, that’s not good!