Prior to planning social impact journeys at Elevate Destinations, I lived in Tanzania for four years, where I worked at a secondary school full of resilient, strong girls who face incredible obstacles. I managed the school’s visitor engagement program, serving as a liaison between cultures to design mutually enriching experiences for both foreign visitors and the school community. This drove my passion for working at the intersection of tourism and social impact, and all of the areas in which our clients work.
To create the space for these diverse communities to openly share and learn together I had to use a variety of lenses and to hold the myriad of different threads that are the building blocks for any impactful journey. I lived and breathed in the world of experiential education, creating impactful experiences shaped by seamless logistics, cultural understanding, openness and opportunities to witness and challenge preconceived stereotypes.
The question then is, how do you connect all of these threads?
Here are a few tips to consider:
- Educate and set expectations, or perhaps lack thereof. This includes predetermined beliefs around culture, language, religion, clothing, food, social taboos, etc. It’s important to encourage your supporters and your field staff to be open-minded and flexible during a site visit to elicit a sense of comfort and curiosity .
- Plan a mutually engaging and interactive site visit where individuals can learn from each other and openly share their stories. Designing activities that are exploratory and playful where people can discover commonalities help shape powerful experiences. One such example could be an art project; we once hosted a group of visitors who made self-portrait collages with students which was a unique way of storytelling.
- Prepare them for the language barriers and the cultural differences they will experience. Learning some very basic words or phrases like greetings before arriving can help build immediate connections. Arrange for translators for any Q&A sessions.
- Encourage travelers to bring a collage or photos of their lives and families. Think of stories and photos that can connect and resonate with people from diverse backgrounds. Sharing who you are and where you come from is a simple way to start the conversation, break the barriers and then dive right in to learning about your hosts. The realization that someone from halfway across the world is, in many ways, just like you, can make you feel at ease and build more immediate and deeper engagement.
- Hand off your logistics to our team at Elevate Destinations so that you can focus on the content of your programs. We can marry the logistics and traveler preparations with your programs to lay the foundation for an enriching trip. If you are not careful, you can become consumed by logistics and not the relationships. If you don’t have a logistical coordinator, find one, or reach out to us. Nothing is more discouraging than working so hard on the programming only to have to focus on the logistics instead of connecting with others.
These are just a few suggestions on how to thoughtfully navigate the complexities of donor trips and social impact journeys. By creating an open space, you enable travelers and your organization’s local community to step out of their comfort zones and experience the world outside of any preconceived expectations.
If you have other tips, we would love to hear them – feel free to email any of your ideas to me at email@example.com.
Dana Droller is a Manager of Social Impact Journeys. Visit www.elevatedestinations.com/donor-travel to learn more about our Social Impact Journeys.