foundations: working with and within limited resources (stoking creativity)

perhaps defining my work for the past three years having been with “limited resources” is still painting a picture that is not quite accurate. it is my assumption when one hears of “limited resources” in most places in the north american context one may think this means something like–“ah, well they don’t have enough money for the bouncy castle AND giving away free cotton candy at the church fair this year.” that person would be quite incorrect. when i say limited resources i mean a lot of the time the education department of the north karamoja diocese is working with a grand total of $0.†

i have always considered myself to be a fairly creative person, be that artistically or academically. it took (and is still taking) time to fully embrace this creativity. (i was almost always embarrassed and confused in grad school when i found myself to be the only one in my discussion group who had totally different thoughts on the readings–thinking that i ‘didn’t get it’ or wasn’t intelligent enough to ‘get it’. it turns out that i tend to just “come in through the back door and or window” rather than wherever it is others enter.)

all that to say: these three years have been a challenge to my academic, artistic and spiritual creativity–and an opportunity to encourage and tease-out others creativity as well.

often times when working on a project proposal or assignment in the diocese i would invariably meet with a brick wall that would seemingly be a sign that this would never work. with some encouragement from my community (both local and international) i would begin to attack this brick wall with all of the creative energy i could muster–sometimes burrowing underneath, leaping over the top or taking a sledgehammer to the wall and busting out a window.

the highly aerobic imagery is apt to show the amount of aerobic and anaerobic energy that sometimes goes into tapping into one’s and encouraging others creativity. at least this is my experience as an introvert. perhaps it is more energy-tapping for an introvert to put forth the exertion necessary to master the walls of un-tapped creativity that many societies seem to suffer. (if there are any extroverts who would like to add their perspective, i’d love to hear it!)

i won’t go so far to say that i have come up with a systematic plan for overcoming The Wall, but i have learned to throw myself at it in many different ways–and in ways that either hadn’t crossed my mind before, or that weren’t necessary until now.

for example: my position here has required me to work directly with money a lot more than in any previous job i’ve held. in my personal life i am pretty used to not having a lot of money (see the previous “foundations” post regarding living simply or seek out your local menno-friend and inquire directly.[]) but working as a head of a department has meant that i have to consider budgets and finances on a much more grand-scale than just my own personal finances.

even though i knew coming into the position that there was little to no funding (hence my service-term with mcc, providing capacity-building and resources where money is tight) trying to figure out programs and how to build capacity with little to no funding shocked my system a bit. i didn’t have money to offer, i didn’t have money to buy Things for the schools or the diocese but i had my self* to offer; my education, experience, and creativity.

sometimes my colleges and i would climb The Wall together, using our mutual creativity and ingenuity to overcome the challenge of few resources. and sometimes i found myself scaling what i thought was The Wall only to reach the top to discover that this particular wall was the wall of getting my colleagues on board with my crazy-western/north american-out of the box approach. (another equally challenging wall was that of convincing people that while i am: a) unmarried b) “young” c) female and d) “not from here” i have something to offer!)

previously i mentioned that it takes aerobic and anaerobic energy to stoke personal and corporate creativity–for me this means that sometimes engaging the aerobic side: going for a walk, doing yoga or running is what i need to start the creative process or to get it going after stalling-out.  or sometimes utilizing anaerobic means: brainstorming, meditating, sleeping or praying to either simulate or calm the mind so as to receive inspiration. for this particular group of people, i found that asking a lot of open-ended questions and listening between the lines was a good start to finding their innovative energy, and then facilitating the chasing of their vision sometimes resulting in what can only be described as a moment of divine alchemy.

i hope that you, dear reader, are not upset that this reflection is still vague–i’m working all this out still–and i hope that you were not expecting any “how-to” type advice. i still have a lot to learn and a lot to suss-out regarding the mysteries of living life, tapping my creativity and climbing The Wall. i do hope that you will continue to climb, burrow, and smash through the walls in front of you–and that we can break them down together.

†that is not always the case, in my three years i wrote and received two small grants from mcc to do some work in the education department and was amazingly grateful for them and the connections and learnings made and shared with these funds.

*yes, i do mean my self and not myself. puzzled? inquire!

• experiencing beauty in unexpected places (‘harsh’ places like karamoja, within and around poverty and hardship [this is not to make poverty itself beautiful, however], in small acts of kindness, in nature etc.)

• laughter is magical and medicinal


One thought on “foundations: working with and within limited resources (stoking creativity)

  1. i love you! i hope you’ll give us a specific ‘for instance’ or two of a wall you climbed and a creative opportunity you and your colleagues launched! gann

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