Have you ever experienced an offer of generosity from a family member, friend, or acquaintance that was well-intentioned, but…misplaced? Perhaps a friend making you a meal you’re allergic to or a parent buying you a piece of furniture you have no room for.

Of course you say thank you, but in your heart you might be thinking, “I wish you had asked what I needed, instead of offering what YOU thought I needed.”

Thinking we know what’s best for someone else is something we often encounter when serving cross-culturally.

When we go to a foreign land with our own first-world perspectives about what a good life looks like, we sometimes invest time and money into “fixing” something that doesn’t need to be fixed, or answering a question that was never asked. Not only is that a misuse of resources, it’s also not respecting the opinions, lives, and thoughts of those we are seeking to help.

The key to helping without hurting when serving people struggling with extreme poverty means always asking first: what do they say about their needs and about possible solutions?

At Forward Edge, it’s our passion to not only serve those trapped in poverty, but to empower every person who comes to us for assistance. This is why we focus on helping each community we serve identify the root causes of its poverty.

One tool Forward Edge utilizes to best address the individual needs of our communities is the 10 Seed Assessment. This program uses a simple packet of seeds and paper to help individuals pinpoint the true causes of poverty in their community, and then identify how we can best help empower them to respond to those issues.

The 10 Seed Assessment

The 10 Seed Assessment is a community development technique introduced by Dr. Ravi Jayakaran (who happens to be a Forward Edge board member), that enables community members from every educational level to participate. A 10 Seed Assessment is flexible and can be used in a variety of situations. It is especially good at discovering different perceptions held by people in the community and how they see themselves in relation to others.

Here’s how it works
  •  After getting to know a group and building some rapport, we explain that the purpose of the 10 Seed Assessement is to understand and learn about their community from their perspective. 
  • To begin discussion for a community-wide needs assessment, we ask the group to imagine all the problems and needs faced by their village or town. We do our best to enable active participation by giving everyone an equal chance to voice their view.
  • As discussion continues, each community need that is identified is graphically drawn on a large sheet, newsprint, or right on the ground! We encourage graphics and drawings so every community member, whether they read and write or not, can meaningfully contribute as equal partners.
  • Once a whole slate of needs is identified in pictures, each workshop participant receives 10 seeds. Each community member takes their seeds and places them on the needs or issues that are most important to them. With 10 seeds, an individual could vote for 10 issues one time, choose to split votes between a few needs, or place all 10 seeds on an issue that is the most important to them.
  • When everyone has voted, we all look together at where the group has placed their seeds and talk about the results together. The collective seed totals will show a prioritization of needs identified by the community, and therefore where time and resources should be focused. From here, a meaningful conversation can occur about how to move forward using the resources the community already possesses or what needs should be met by bringing in outside help through Forward Edge partnerships.
The 10 Seed Assessment allows us to do several things that are important to us
  1. It helps us respect the opinions, needs, and dignity of communities we are working with. Each of these community members is created in the image of God, and we honor that by listening with an open mind.
  2.  It allows us to more deeply understand the community’s needs, according to them, not our perception of what they want or need.
  3.  It provides prioritization of needs identified by the community themselves.