Organizational narrative: Heifer International

Heifer International

Heifer International is a non-profit that helps impoverished families gain access to livestock such as chickens, goats, and bees. Livestock provides both food and marketable products, helping end both hunger and poverty, which supports Heifer International’s mission “to work with communities to end hunger and care for the Earth.”

Heifer as does a good job of telling the story of their founding. I’ll give a synopsis here to highlight the story elements I’ve previously outlined as they appear in Heifer’s tale.

  • The hero of Heifer’s founding is Dan West, a farmer from the Midwest who served as an aid worker on the front lines of the Spanish Civil War. There, he saw weary soldiers who were victims of the villains¬†hunger and poverty.
  • In the midst of war, West saw the disharmony between the soldier’s hunger and the single cup of milk they were rationed each day. Being a farmer, he could easily accept the invitation to adventure in the form of his intuitive insight: what if the hungry had not a cup of milk, but a cow?
  • This insight began Heifer’s 70 year quest to end hunger and poverty throughout the world. (Heifer smartly doesn’t try to fit their 70 year history, full of monsters and helpers, onto a single web page. But you do get the sense of that quest.)
  • In the course of their quest, Heifer has discovered and brought back the magic elixir of “Passing On The Gift.” Families who received livestock from Heifer share the training they receive with others in their community, and they pass on the first female offspring of their livestock to another family. (Marketers–notice the efficient,¬† self-replicating distribution model–genius!)
  • In this way, Heifer helps restore the harmony of self-reliance.

I’ll concede that rational, adult professionals may have some discomfort talking on-the-job about hero quests, villains, victims, monsters, and magic elixirs. But, I also hope that you can clearly see that all these elements are present in a compelling story like that of Heifer.

This is just my theory, but I think discomfort adults may have around such thinking comes from reconnecting with an emotional and childlike part of their imagination that once made them giddy with fun and wonder, but somehow got put away or pushed aside for more mature and mundane thoughts. Since when did mature and mundane ever inspire anyone?

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