A year ago, we challenged our global team to come up with a short list of statements that sum up our methods for empowerment. With an ever-growing team, a need arose to develop a series of principles to help our new staff understand the posture we take when going about our work. The result is a list that we call our Fundamentals. If you ever wanted to get a peek into how we generate social impact, this is a great place to start. For this series, we are highlighting six fundamentals and explaining how they shape our work. 1. We are committed to strong relationships with the women we support. Relationships aren’t a preference when times are easy; they are a methodology. We are committed to strong relationships with the women we support. We invest heavily into relationships because we believe people develop best when they are supported in ways that make sense to their current situation. The impact generated in a woman’s life is directly correlated to our ability to provide the services that are most relevant to her. We’ve found that the best way to reach this level of relevance is by building strong relationships with the women we work with. It’s a theme that strongly shapes how we go about our work. The primary way we invest in relationships is through mentorship. We have 10 staff Mentors whom we task with building meaningful relationships with the women who participate in the program. Sometimes I jokingly call them ‘paid best friends’. Each Mentors is paired with no more than 18 women, ensuring they have enough time to build deep relationships with all their mentees. Mentors spend roughly 5 hours a month with each mentee, working as partners towards their mentee’s empowerment goals. We keep this time unstructured because we want them to have the freedom to invest in the women in the most relevant ways. As I write this post, our Mentors are scheduled to attend funerals, visit businesses, open bank accounts, file business paperwork and do home visits with their mentees in the coming week. We embrace the chaos that this sometimes brings because in the end it allows us to meet the most pressing needs of the women. That’s the type of relevance we are after at KK intl. Relationships aren’t a preference when times are easy; they are a methodology. Relationships are hard, regardless of who you are and where you live. They require a level of trust and authenticity that leave people vulnerable to hurt. For this reason the Mentors often say they have the best but most challenging jobs around. There’s a lot to celebrate when the relationships with their mentees are healthy, but when strained, we required that they pursue their mentees with the same fervor. Relationships are one of our primary methodologies for generating social impact and therefore they are too important to let slide, regardless of how hard they can be. I recently did an interview with Laura, one of our Mentors in Peru, and I walked away with a refreshed appreciation for the effort it takes to build meaningful relationships as a Mentor. She told me a story about how Jacque, a newly appointed mentee, wouldn’t open up to her after months of pursuit. Jacque consistently responded to Laura’s pursuit with disinterest. After many more months of the same, Laura decided to change up her strategy. Rather than asking about Jacque, Laura directed the topic of conversation to herself and the challenges she was facing. The vulnerability she brought into the relationship encouraged Jacque to reciprocate and now Jacque and Laura are a perfect example of how two people can work in partnership towards empowerment. Read Laura’s full interview. Relationship is a theme featured throughout our Fundamentals because we believe that systems don’t change people’s lives; people do. We strive to be a positive and consistent presence in women’s lives because we know that our social impact is directly tied to our capacity to know and partner with the women were trying to help. As an organization we strive to practice this regardless of the circumstances.