Tag Archives: Social change

On dreams and those who live them

Richenda Vermeulen, friend of whydev, sent out the call for bloggers to write about dreams and how they enrich, fuel and motivate our lives. But also how they change, how they come true, and how we struggle to reach them. You can see the posts others have written on her blog here. Here’s Allison’s take on what she’s learning about the nature of dreams and those who attain their dreams.

I’m in that shimmering phase of life where your dreams start to find you.

I used to think dreams started from the inside and worked their way out, that they came from your core and grew until they got so big you couldn’t contain them anymore and had to act.

I still think that’s true to a degree, but as I said, I’m now seeing that my dreams are finding me.

My dreams didn’t include working on a project to potentially help thousands of people across the world; now I’m one of three people here at whydev working on a peer coaching initiative for aid workers that may in fact do so. (You can support us as we work towards this dream over at StartSomeGood.) They didn’t include learning how to improve how organisations run until I started my first real job in an organisation; now I have dreams of doing an MBA. (One day, I hope to meet someone that makes me dream about family and domesticity in a way I don’t right now.)

These are just two examples of how two of my dreams found me. Now they influence the conversations I have, the plans I make, the things I read, the people I learn from, the friends I have, the way I perceive the world. I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say they influence every aspect of my life.

As my dreams have found me, I’ve been more and more interested in observing those around me who have reached their goals and lived their dreams. As I work towards my personal and professional dreams, I find it helpful to look to those who are living their own dreams.

Here’s what I’ve observed about those who realize their dreams.

  1. Their dreams are feasible for them

This does not mean that they will find it easy to realize their dreams. It just means their dreams are possible for them, that these people have figured out what they’re good at and passionate about and have a dream at the intersection of the two.

This seems obvious, but it’s not to everyone. I think of people who dream of being teachers without recognising their impatient personalities make working with children impossible, or those who dream of success on Broadway without facing that they can’t really dance. These are dreams that aren’t feasible.

The best dreamers know themselves well so that their dreams line up with their passions, skills, experiences, and personality.

  1. They are surrounded by others chasing their dreams…

Chasing your dreams can require single-minded focus, at times to the exclusion of other aspects of your life. I’ve found it to be much easier to lock myself away to work on a project when others around me have understood why I would choose studying/blogging/working on a Saturday night over going to a wine and cheese soirée.

The people who truly understand those kinds of things are the ones also sacrificing things for their dreams. They understand, and they encourage and support you as you pursue your dreams.

  1. … but they’re not afraid to go it alone

I was recently reminded of a quote from composer Jean Sibelius: “Pay no attention to what critics say. No statue has ever been put up to a critic.”

Well, I may one day put up a statue to William Easterly, but for the most part Sibelius is correct. The best dreamers understand this, as they inevitably face some robust criticism.

In a post on dreams, this may be the time to invoke Martin Luther King Jr. Thank goodness he didn’t abandon his dream when faced with opposition.

  1. They learn from others smarter than themselves

It requires humility to learn from others when pursuing a dream, and it’s not always easy to open yourself up to suggestions from others for something as personal as a dream. But it’s worth it.

I’m never so excited about my dreams as when I have the chance to discuss them with other like-minded people who are smarter than me. They make me think about achieving my dreams in creative ways I never would have considered, and that’s exciting.

  1. Their dreams are dynamic

There’s a poignant passage in the book “The Alchemist” where a merchant describes his dream to visit Mecca. For years, he’s watched people pass through his shop on their pilgrimage to Mecca, and now he can finally afford to go himself.

Yet he doesn’t. Instead he confesses, “I’m afraid that if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living.”

I can’t imagine anything sadder or more untrue. I’m continuously amazed by the dynamism of those who dream big, how their dreams expand and evolve and lead to new dreams. For these people, the realisation of one dream often leads to another.

This gives me incredible hope. When I’ve achieved a dream, it doesn’t mean I’ve reached the end of dreaming. And if one dream doesn’t come true, another dream will find me.


I feel blessed to be chasing my dreams, and there have been many times that I’ve turned to a friend and said, “We’re living the dream!” Indeed, as I was mid-way through writing this post, a good friend called to excitedly share how she’s getting closer to realising a dream she’s had for a while. Dreams are all around me.

Often I’ve said it facetiously, but here I’ll say it seriously: I’m living the dream, and I’m fortunate to be learning from others who are too.

What have you observed about those who realize their dreams? Are you living your dream in aid and development?

Peer coaching: it’s happening, but we need your help

Back in February, we announced a new initiative of ours – Peer Coaching. In a nutshell, we are partnering with Shana Montesol Johnson of Development Crossroads, to develop a peer coaching matching service. Since asking for expressions over interest, we have had over 300 people from across the globe contact us to say that they want to be part of our pilot program.

Why do we think that peer coaching is so important? We know that there are many people working in the field of aid and development across the globe with minimal support and guidance. We are aware that resources are limited in the humanitarian field. However, we also know that through support networks, and specifically, peer coaching, we can increase the return on investment for these workers and enable them to be more effective in helping the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

We want to provide a service that matches them up, so that they are able to support and learn from each other via Skype, email or other methods. This service therefore does not require more resources to be added to the sector (in the form of professional mentors, coaches or counselors), but rather, builds on existing resources that are not connected.

We’re doing this because we think that the need is out there. And because of comments from people like this:

“I feel isolated, uncertain and a little forlorn about finding my way into development-related work, and would like to have someone to share my experience with, who is perhaps also experiencing the same thing.” – E, 18-25 year old male, Honduras.

However, in order to get this project up off the ground in a reasonable amount of time, and with good quality, we’re going to need your help.

We reckon we need at least $3000 in seed funding to dedicate a solid amount of time to building the platform, providing the right guidelines for peer coaching, and matching people together in the most effective way. Building the platform will involve spending time on infrastructure – website redesign, functioning and creating a space so that matching can occur. We’ll also need to build the database of peer coaches from the ground up and create the resources to support peer coaches as the program continues.

If we reach our funding target, we think that we could get the peer coaching service up and running within a month.

What will happen if we don’t hit our tipping point and don’t get funding? We’ll still do the program of course as we originally planned, but it might take a bit longer and may not be as comprehensive and professional as we would have liked.

So, this is where we need your help. We’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign over on StartSomeGood where people can chip in amounts of money, small or large, to help us get this project going. If you are reading this post, chances are you’re either working, studying or are at least interested in aid and development. Therefore, chances are, you’re the right demographic to understand the difficulties that aid workers can face across the globe.

You might also be wondering about how sustainable your funding is? Good question! Once the platform is built, we think that we can keep the service running by adding in a tiered system of participation, so that it is self-sustainable. But first, we need to get the service started and that’s where the seed funding comes in.

We’d appreciate it if you would consider donating whatever you can to our StartSomeGood campaign here, and spreading the word far and wide about what we’re trying to achieve.


If you have any questions at all about our campaign, please do not hesitate to contact either Brendan or myself. We’d be more than happy to answer any questions.

For the final word on the topic, here is Brendan, speaking from Ghana:

You can donate to our campaign on StartSomeGood here.