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Got Minga?

The Alliance’s 2013 Annual Meeting had many highlights – too numerous to mention in a single blog posting. But one word keeps popping up as I look back at the meeting:  minga.

Not familiar with minga? You should be. The final speaker of the meeting – Craig Kielburger, co-founder of Me-to-We, one of the most incredible “change agent” organizations I’ve ever encountered – explained that the word is part of the Andean culture and translates to “a time when everyone joins forces to accomplish a singular goal.”

Kielburger told a story of a group of North American student volunteers who traveled to the Andes Mountain region of southern Ecuador to build a school. The materials were late in arriving and the deadline for the students to return to their homes was fast approaching – so fast, in fact, that it became apparent the school could never be built. He explained the predicament to the village chief, who calmly replied, “Don’t worry, we’ll call a minga.”

As soon as the call went out to the villagers they dropped whatever it was they were doing and came to the center of the community. Younger folks were sent to other villages – hours away by foot – to spread the word of the minga. People came to the village from across the countryside – without knowing why they were being called – and when they arrived began to pitch in and build the school.


When the job was completed, the chief asked Kielburger what the word for minga was in his language. He was stuck for an answer. But he told the audience of more than 300 fraternal leaders that after doing some homework on the Alliance in preparation for his presentation, he came up with one: fraternal.


It was an inspiring moment, to be sure. We all realized that at one time the spirit of minga existed within every society – in fact, it’s the reason most societies exist. And we also realized that that spirit can be revitalized with a new breed of member; young people who are committed to a common purpose and who want to change the world. The kind that are attracted to groups like “Me-to-We” but that may not be as enamored with membership in a fraternal – yet.

Kielburger gave us a glimpse of what we were and what we can be. The Alliance is going to be working diligently with his group to make sure the standing ovation he received at the conclusion of his speech doesn’t fade away into silence without any action being taken. The next step in the process? Arranging for Alliance member society representatives to participate in the “Me-to-We” event on October 8, in Minneapolis to look for ways to establish a minga right here in North America. I’ll keep you posted on developments and would love to hear your suggestions as to how we might partner with Kielburger and other similar organizations.

p.s. A special and very personal thank you to Jon Gadbois for serving as the Alliance’s “guest blogger” for the past week. His posts were insightful and beautifully written – and raised the bar for all future posts from me.

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