The Five Pillars

By: Chris Ford

When I was in my high school’s marching band, I dreaded the word “fundamental” because it normally meant we were missing something so basic that we should had corrected it ourselves without having to have it pointed out. Anyone who has been in a marching band can remember the many long afternoons spent in fundamental block – with the leader drilling everything from how to hold your instrument to how to properly step off and stay in step. Without these building blocks, nothing else we learned in marching band mattered. We could have had the best drill for the show and the best music, but without knowing the core element of marching there could be no way to have a successful show. This same focus on fundamentals applies to what I am currently involved in: The $100 SolutionTM (THDS).

For THDS there are 5 principles (referred to as the 5 pillars): sustainability, reciprocity, partnership, capacity building, and reflection. These pillars should be present in all projects and be fully addressed throughout the process. Like having good fundamentals in marching band, without having a solid understanding of these essential components, a THDS project will not be successful. All of the pillars are necessary but in my opinion, the most critical one is reflection.

Reflection is the continued oral or written dialogue you have with yourself or your group in which you transform the experience into meaningful learning. Without taking time to reflect at all junctures of the project, you miss out on how you could improve. Reflection is best done the day of the event and it is more than merely recording what was done but shows insight on the project as it has been developed.

The other four principles are addressed in the beginning of the project but should always be kept in mind as the project develops:  Sustainability is the staying power of the project or its effects after your group is done with the project. One of the greatest ways to make a project sustainable is to have a community partner that can look after the project after you are gone.

Partnerships are a practical way to jump-start a project; many community leaders and organizations have  connections and resources to help you and connect you to those who you need to work with. By working with a partner that have the shared mutual interests, a project is able to be carried out much further and can last long after a group leaves.

Capacity building is enabling those whom you help to be self-sufficient by teaching them skills, improving their understanding, and cultivating their natural abilities and talents. We want both sides of the project to benefit from capacity building, and one way this is done is with reciprocity.

Reciprocity is a way for those whom you help and work with to exchange their ideas and knowledge with you and provide them a way to “give back.” This can be done in many avenues but the most common is having those that you are helping work on something that shows their appreciation of the work you have done. It is capacity building when those you help teach you something but also learn from their own independent projects.

By remembering the 5 pillars, you will be able to address issues as they come up and expand your project beyond its initial objective. Without the pillars, your project will (pardon the pun) collapse on itself. I hope everyone who is doing a project or wishes to do a project keep the 5 pillars in mind. Anyone who wishes to know more or has more questions is welcome to email me at  or stop by THDS GA office next to ICSR.


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