By Nicole Crawford
I have always hoped that when I die I will get the opportunity to live my own version of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, where I get to see impact and effect that I have had on other people’s lives. Slightly crazy, but I often wonder about the impact I have had on other people, both in the positive and the negative ways.
The idea of impact fascinates me, I know that there are people in my life who will never know the effect they’ve had on me: small insults that have cut deep and gestures of kindness that make you smile years later. It’s interesting- a lot of the things that have massively impacted me, probably have been forgotten by the people who did them.
The thought of the impact I will have had in India terrifies me. When I return to the UK people will ask me what I did in India. They’ll be asking me the same questions I’m asking myself right now-
‘What impact did I have?’, ‘ What change did I make?’, ‘ How did I make a difference?’
And I have no idea.
Here’s the really scary part, when I go home, I won’t know what my impact has been.
I’ll be able to tell people what I’ve done- the CAD we arranged, the lessons in schools, the research collected, the community mobilisation and the advocacy work. But I won’t know how much that helped.
In the UK, we have a culture of striving to achieve specific goals: get these GCSEs, get these A-Level results, get a good degree, earn this much money, have a house by X age, get married, have kids, and have kids that achieve all of these things. Tick all of the boxes and you’ve succeeded. It’s black and white.
Here, when I leave, I will be able to say whether I ticked the boxes Synergy Sansthan gave us. I’ll also be able to talk about the extra things we did, the primary research to support our secondary data, the videos we made and lots of other things.
But I won’t know what impact I’ve made. Because real impact can’t be measured in terms of things that you tick off a list.
Impact is something different. Impact means real change, it means people who have challenged their beliefs, who have learnt new things, challenged the status quo or embraced new ideas. Impact is deep and complicated and incredibly difficult to quantify. Our impact might be felt instantly or it might not be felt for years.
Hopefully all of these things that we’ve done will help: they’ll make people think about the power of education, why their children should be in school and how much power they have to instigate change.But change takes time, it’s a long, slow, grinding process. I’ll never know how much of an impact our work has had. It’s practically impossible to quantify.
Maybe a few more children will go to school because we’ve been here, maybe they’ll only go while we’re here.Maybe in twenty years’ time, when the children here are parents themselves they’ll remember the importance of education and send their children to school, maybe not.
Maybe a session we’ve run will have started to increasesomeone’s self-confidence or skill set. Maybe that will make a difference in their life.
It’s quite possible that our impact will be a tiny change, but that it will change the trajectory of someone’s life. That our positive impact will be compounded by a chain of other positive things. Maybe the person them self won’t even be able to pinpoint the impact that we had on their life.
It’s almost definite that at least one of these things will happen, but we don’t know which, or when. And being from a culture so obsessed with instant gratification and getting success now, that’s terrifying.
It means that we have to trust that we have worked to the best of our abilities, that the work we did was well-planned and well-executed. And more than anything we’ll have to have a little bit of faith that the people here have been open to us and have been willing to take on a little bit of change.
But I have got faith and I honestly think that we have had a positive impact.