Three locks and three keys

With a fresh perspective on World Vision's financial accountability, writer Kari Costanza talks about good stewardship, and how communities she visited in Tanzania are holding each other accountable with their finances through savings groups, working together toward success.

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I don’t have a stapler in my office. In 18 years at World Vision, I never have. I don’t use enough staples to warrant having my own stapler. If I need one, I look around for someone who has one, and use his or hers.

This may be a small thing when it comes to talking about stewardship, but financial accountability is drilled into us at World Vision. The fewer dollars we use to do our work, the more dollars go to the people we serve.

I saw that same commitment to accountability practiced in the field when I was in Tanzania in May.

“Together, We Can!” is the slogan of a savings group founded by World Vision that I visited in Eastern Tanzania. They belong to a group, which, in essence, is their own private bank. Their lives have been changed because they have access to capital and they are better able to take care of their children.

Around this area of Tanzania called Makindube, there are 128 such savings groups. They meet weekly in a highly organized fashion to audit their savings and provide loans to their members.

Every meeting begins with a prayer.

Then there are the reports -- from the financial committee, a social welfare committee, a committee devoted to information technology, one for investments and insurance, and even a committee that studies better ways to market their products, such as the rice that they grow. The group even sets aside money for group members with emergency needs.

Members work from World Vision-printed ledgers -- one for each member to track their savings.

The ledgers, supplies, and any money that isn’t being loaned out are kept in a big, blue, metal box with three locks and three keys.

At a certain point in the meeting, three group members come to the middle of the circle, and together, they unlock the moneybox.

That there are three keys and three locks makes this group accountable to one another. They depend on one another. They must trust one another. They must work together to succeed.

They can’t do it alone, but together, they can.

At World Vision, financial accountability stretches from the grassroots with groups like the one I saw in Tanzania, to the national office that oversees field work, to the regional offices and the international office that guide strategy, to support offices like mine that raise funds to make it all happen.

Those three locks and three keys remind me to practice financial accountability in ways both big and small. When you are serving the poor, every dollar matters. They are given in abundance and in sacrifice. Every dollar can make a life-changing difference for families around the world. They must be kept securely and used smartly.

And that’s why I’ll never get my own stapler.

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