I’ve just returned home after almost three weeks on the road in the US.
Hello jetlag, my old friend!
I’m glad to be home, but catching up with Blue Dragon’s friends and supporters abroad has been inspiring. It’s entirely true to say that we couldn’t do any of our great work here in Vietnam with the support of people, schools, companies and foundations around the world.
Building a Track Record
America in particular has a special place in Blue Dragon’s history. When we were just setting up, in our very early days, many hesitated to get behind us. They wanted to first know our ‘track record’ in helping kids – and of course, we had none. That’s the nature of a start-up, by definition!
Americans, however, would get behind our idea of starting an organisation to help kids. I guess that’s the entrepreneurial spirit that has made the USA such a success.
This is always a challenge for charities like Blue Dragon.
In the commercial world, investing in an unproven idea might lead to a total loss or a massive windfall. Think of those investors who had either the luck or the foresight to buy a piece of Apple or Amazon in their startup phase.
When it comes to charity, both “investors” and organisations are even more cautious. Perhaps it’s because we have so much to lose. A charity going belly-up means that everyone it helps will now be abandoned. Better to play it safe and at least keep helping some, than take a risk and possibly be unable to do any good at all.
On the other hand, taking a risk can mean forging a new path that benefits many. I often think of our decision, way back in 2007, to send staff to China to look for a missing girl. They found her in a brothel, where she was being violently abused.
Our intervention set 6 teenage girls free and sent a whole ring of traffickers to prison. Today, Blue Dragon has rescued more than 1,300 people from slavery. This great result started with that initial step of taking a risk that nobody else considered to be sensible or feasible.
Much of Blue Dragon’s success over the years has been in making decisions that nobody else would. We are very conscious of the fine line we walk between blazing ahead to do what must be done; and ensuring our survival so that we can continue.
A symbol of what’s possible
Visiting Boston, I stopped by the Common to see Embrace. It’s a relatively new monument, memorialising Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.
For me, the sculpture is a moving tribute to the difference we can make. The power of raising our voice. A reminder that our most outlandish dreams can come true… but not without risk.
Society moves at such a rapid pace that having a track record might help, but it isn’t always an advantage.
And in a world of injustice, looking back at a track record isn’t always the right way to plan for the future.
I don’t have any simple guidance for choosing between risk and safety. Every situation is different, every circumstance unique.
But I can say this:
Wherever you are and whatever you’re facing, always choose what you know is right.
Choose the path that lifts others up in the long run- no matter the short-term cost.
In the end, with or without a track record, we all must choose where we stand.
Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is working toward a better world for all. In April, you can join us for an online discussion about how to end human trafficking.