How are you? What do you need? are the fundamental questions in the work of Diaconia – and it was these questions that framed a seminar that took place at Diakonhjmmet in Norway last week. The seminar was held to mark the appointment of the new CEO Ingunn Moser and brought together international and national guests around the topics of Diaconia, sustainability and urban areas. Guests from Germany, Sweden, Finland and Norway spoke about the move from providing care to working with local communities to identify what is needed and who is best placed to provide it. What was clear was that the answers are not always institutions or structured services – sometimes community engagement, volunteerism and engaging with new partners can actually be more appropriate. Putting people’s needs before the efficiency of services was stressed by many and focusing on impact – i.e. the positive change that a new service or engagement or participation can bring – was brought to the forefront. Perhaps this does not seem so strange – but sometimes we can all focus on the “how” and not always on the “what”…

How are you? What do you need? are the questions we need to ask people we meet in vulnerable or crisis situations. The person is the centre of the enquiry and what we provide in Diaconia needs to match the answer to the questions. This may mean changing our services or ways of working to come up with new and innovative ways of supporting people to thrive and be empowered to run their own lives in security and with justice.

How are you? What do you need? are the questions our political leaders also need to be asking as they propose actions and strategies that will affect many lives. I appreciate that they may not be able to ask this to every person… but they need to ask it of society – to recognise the real situations and trends happening and what is needed to address them – not using political ideology to find answers but experience and reality.

How are you? What do you need? are what one of our other members in Norway, Church City Mission Oslo, asked 17 young people in their new report ‘Talking about Poverty’ (in Norwegian). The answers were clear… tailor-made solutions, stop making poverty a taboo subject, provide more non-formal opportunities such as youth clubs, great involvement of young people and their families in the decisions that affect their lives and many more. Now is the time for Diaconia, municipalities to answer those needs.

How are you? What do you need? are the questions that are going to inspire me in my work this year and in the work Eurodiaconia does across Europe. It challenges me to think about how we use influence and how we develop our actions – are they taking into account these questions? Am I listening to what is happening in our societies locally?  Am I thinking about impact and change? I hope so… and I hope that these two questions will inspire us all as we work for social justice in this coming year.

Have a good weekend,