THE CORNERSTONES STORY
The original concept of identifying cornerstones came from Jo Luck 13 years ago when she was Director of the Global Services Department (now called Programs Department). Jo Luck challenged staff to think creatively and comprehensively about how Heifer's mission is carried out worldwide. She wanted to identify the most important components of Heifer's programs, those values and beliefs that help ensure that the benefits of the projects are sustainable and continue long after Heifer leaves.
Jo Luck & Jim De Vries (Africa & Near East Area Program Director at the time) asked Jennifer Schumaker (Director of Evaluation) to invite Heifer field staff to identify the ten most important aspects or values that form the basis of their work with families and communities. For six months, input was solicited from around the world. From this an initial list of values was drafted reflecting the different feedback received from all over the world. For example, Africa suggested "sharing & caring" while a Development Department staff member from Little Rock added "self-reliance." This list was piloted during project evaluations in Guatemala, during which time the value of "integrated animal agriculture" was changed to "improved animal management" so it would include breeding, housing, health care, manure management and other important livestock practices. Originally, "gender" and "family" were separate, but over time people did not want to discuss gender unless it was in the context of the family, so the two were combined.
Twelve cornerstones made the 'final' list. The next task was to help people remember them. Time was spent trying out different acronyms, then Jenny came up with "Passing on the Gift" and it all came together. The "F" was free and "participation" had been left out, so Jim suggested "Full Participation." Then some people said "spirituality" was needed so an "S" was added to the word gift (Passing on the Gifts). Today, people often add a question mark "?" at the end (Passing on the Gifts?), so people understand that the list can be expanded even further.
'The Cornerstones' were initially designed for work in the field with our programs. However, fundraising staff started applying the 'Cornerstones' in other places. They wanted a brochure to give to the public, so Heifer then embarked upon a year-long process of gathering input for definitions, recognizing that these would serve as a reference point and would be meant to be flexible.
If any group wants to partner with Heifer, we share our cornerstones with them. When project groups begin planning their projects with Heifer staff, they are introduced to Heifer's Cornerstones and may choose some or all of these, or create their own. We explain that these time-tested principles and values are followed in order to make development ecologically sound, socially just, culturally appropriate and economically viable. Together the 'Cornerstones' compose a holistic approach to development to which Heifer Project International aspires.
Heifer Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development