AVSI , relying in a particular way on its personnel in the field working side by side with local partners, holds education as the overall goal of each cultural, social and economic project and initiative. Education cannot be reduced to schooling, training sessions, or information campaigns; instead, to educate means to introduce ourselves and one another to reality, to its meaning and to the value of things, thereby sustaining the individual’s responsible undertaking to better his/her life and the lives of others. An education to reality entails sharing an experience, through a relationship, where the fulfillment of life and the awareness of meaning are already being lived. With this ultimate goal and guided by the following principles, AVSI does not create dependency, but helps individuals and communities address their own present and future needs through education and building permanent and sustainable institutions.
1. Centrality of the Person
The person is the center of any development program, and the purpose of every project. This means, first of all, sharing the needs of the other, who as a unique human being desires happiness, truth, beauty, justice and freedom. The person cannot be reduced to a social category or a limitation such as poverty, disease or disability. Without this recognition of the human person—being moved by the destiny of the other—the answer to needs is merely an act of generosity or a political strategy. The very nature of the person implies relationships—first and foremost with the family and the community; consequently, AVSI assumes this context as the starting point.
2. Starting from the Positive
Every person and every community represents a potential resource, regardless of their vulnerability. This means valuing and strengthening all that has been made by people—the social network and set of life-experiences and history that represents one’s life assets. This is a fundamental, operational principle, born out of a positive approach to reality that helps people to understand their own value and dignity and at the same time to live with responsibility.
3. Doing With
A project imposed from above is either violent, because not shared, or unsustainable, because assistance-oriented. AVSI’s approach to project design and implementation is “doing with” people—starting from a relationship with the people to whom the project is directed, and building with them on the basis of their development path. This principle necessitates the existence of a human relationship with the host community and their participation from the earliest stages of project conceptualization. This method is the only true method of stimulating ownership and aligning incentives, since project implementers do not have a pre-conceived plan of action.
4. Development of Civil Society and Subsidiarity
A society is born out of the free commitment of persons and families joining together. Development projects must prioritize support for associations closest to the individual and community, thus recognizing and valuing the establishment of intermediate bodies as central to a responsible and engaged social fabric. The right of every person to free association with others and to economic enterprise becomes a powerful drive towards better civic and democratic life.
Partnership originates from the application of the principle of subsidiarity. Thus, starting from an existing subject, partnership implies the identification and involvement of a growing number of actors active in the field, including public and private, local and international actors. Opportunities for synergy must be identified or created in order to optimize available resources and enhance the effectiveness of all projects over the long-term.