The fifth principle will have alternative thinkers, greenies and liberals delighted. Just like the rules when visiting a natural tourist destination we require that our investors to “Take nothing home”. It’s a little different from the normal Western profit-based investor mindset, but it’ll all make sense when I explain.
This principle is again straight out of the Bible but is a biggie for the Western corporate mindset that is out for profit. We can’t take “it” with us when we go – clearly meaning that chasing wealth at the cost of longer-term benefits is not an intelligent perspective. I’m not even talking about eternal life here, although of course that is what Jesus talked about when teaching this, I’m just talking about common sense.
[Pic: Kiwis Help Samoa. Family and friends pitch in to help. A give is great. A goodwill investment however keeps on giving and is a true business exchange where both parties gain ongoign benefit from the investment – our goals.]
Essentially bad on our well-being is the short-term thinking that says “Go, go, go! Get, get, get! Profit, profit, profit!” This is vastly different, a polar oppisite in fact, from the Samoan culture. A Palagi will usually look at opportunity for a profit, for personal gain.
Take land for example. A Samoan will look at land primarily as a source of living for their family and their future families. Customary land cannot be sold in Samoa – this is embedded in the constitution and Samoa is more than 80% customary land. The balance is just over 10% in government control and less than 10% is freehold land.
In Samoa (and many Pacific Islands) most land is simply an asset to be used by all. In most other countries however land is an asset that is bought and sold – for a profit. This cultural difference can be a major stumbing block to the Palagi investor.
A mindset change is required for foreign investors involved in our projects. We invest and invite investors because it is the right thing to do; because we CAN invest; because we have assests that we can use to help others. We invest to have something that we and others can benefit from, and use. We DO NOT invest for personal profit or gain. This is not giving, which breeds dependency. It is not profit-based investing. I call it goodwill investing.
The micro-finance Kiva system is a global example of goodwill investing. Interest-free loans to a charitable trust or purpose is another example of goodwill investing.
So the idea that we can invest offshore, that we can use the value created by our wealth, that others can use the value we create, that there is no personal profit from our investment is on the surface an anathema to our Western mindset, but it is a biblical value and a principle that once experienced, can change people for life. I know! It happened to me.
I will never forget the experience of being hosted by the first Samoan family that my daughter and I visited – they effectively had nothing, but they gave us all they had. The true Samoan hospitality that we’ve all heard about. They just wanted us happy, to enjoy their foods, and to be there with them and have the honour of a Palagi visiting and staying with them.
That humbles you.
And for the genuine and honest amongst us, it makes us too want to give back and do what we can to give to them.
The challenge though is how to give back in a meaningful and sustainable way. People who live with machetes and coconuts do not know what a website is or even what it is for. A nice car will become a wreck in days if not hours. A computer will be used as a stool or a table much more than turned on and used for a spreadsheet.
So a lot of our work is developing systems that are sustainable – like the Samoa Village Stay programme and the SWAP programme. In time, we will have investors ready and lined up waiting to invest here in Samoa with no personal gain. They will literally “Take Nothing Home” as they come, use threir assets and investments and return to their homes elsewhere with photos, experiences, friends, relationships and understandings from a culture right on their Pacific doorstep that is as far distance from their own as is possible.
Not being out for self, sounds like a hard message to sell. I’ve found the opposite. We actually already have investors waiting for the right time to give, invest and join us in Paradise. People love to be able to make a difference and we can help them do this in an intelligent and sustainable manner. Of course we all do get benefit and fair return for our contribution but it is not about US and what WE want to gain – it is about doing what we CAN with what we have for the benefit of all – true community, just like the Samoan way of doing things but in a Palagi context.
A real hot button for Palagi seems to be foreign investment and corporations that invest into resorts that pay the locals nothing and strip profits out of the country. Taking out the value from one country to another, especially when there is a comparative wealth gap grates on us. We think “those greedy millionaires and corporations”. We think also “Those poor indigenous souls, getting ripped off liek that!” While there is another side to this equation (that you cannot and should not pay a privileged few substantially more than their compatriots, and that loyalty can never be bought, and that if you pay many people a higher rate, they will only work less), there is still benefit to our investors who work within a system that mixes the best of two cultures and in the end lifts two cultures.
- Barter – exchange – collaborative commerce – whatever you want to call it, the principle we are working with is that of exchanging and sharing the assets of two parties, for the benefit of both.
- It’s not about money. It’s about people; sharing a vision and building relationships.
- Use what we have in our hands (exercising faith), as instructed to do (obedience).
- We wish to use only the best available to us.
- Our Take Nothing Home policy means that we eliminate excessive personal gain.
The Fourteen Principles:
- 1. What’s yours is mine
- 2. Vision > relationships > money
- 3. Use what you have
- 4. Use only the Best
- 5. Take Nothing Home
- 6. Giver’s Gain
- 7. Cross Cultural Partnership
- 8. Financial Equivalence
- 9. Everyone loves a winner
- 10. A biblical value-base
- 11. Work Smarter, Not Harder
- 12. We should empower others
- 13. Do The Right Thing
- 14. Walk the land