First Things Foundation is a Health Project. Our work, at its core, is about acquiring true health. We leave our comfortable lives behind in order to share in the lives of the suffering poor. We do this because we crave vitality. We give our time and our lives in order to become healthy. We integrate and share our expertise with others in the hope of creating health in the community. We listen carefully to our clients in order to shed our pride. We attempt to value their experience and not impose our own. The acquisition of humility and patience is our goal. Humility is, in every sense, the acquisition of health. Humility creates gratitude and gratitude for all things is the mark of joy. Where there is joy there is spiritual vitality. And joy is contagious.
Humility, gratitude, joy, relationship, hard work and hope for others: A health project. That is what FTF is. That is why we exist.
But what do we do? We are a 501c3 that serves the suffering poor by listening to them. We listen daily to our clients, always in their own language, working at their pace and giving everything we have to build their projects. We use our networks to raise awareness and capital investments. We profile our clients (we call them FTF Impresarios) and introduce them to the wider world. We are angel investors who first invest our lives. Proximity is everything at FTF. Technology is no substitute for human relationships built face to face, hope to hope, meal by meal, redemptive failure by redemptive failure. Once at site our social entrepreneurs set out to accomplish the following:
- Work and immerse in an established 10 month “immersionship” with one of our partners on the ground. Our immersionships include the teaching of ebola orphans in Sierra Leone, a hospice for the forgotten elderly in Ethiopia, a medical program in southern Georgia (Rep.) and a boys training program in Guatemala. During this phase our coordinators will become world class speakers of the local language (not simply the colonial language)
- Forge authentic relationships and identify brilliant local entrepreneurs with whom to work
- Assist local entrepreneurs to create, finance and implement long term entrepreneurial projects/businesses (see Prezi below)
- Bring Old World values back to the United States (the Kepi Effect).
Our mission is to help the poorest of the poor with sustainable and enduring aid without crippling the local economy or demeaning the recipients. Our goal is love. FTF is a Love Project too.
First Things works with communities in developing nations with dire physical and material needs. Currently our mission does not include locations in a state of emergency, such as war or famine.
First Things is a boots on the ground operation. We create opportunity by sending qualified men and women to live for twenty months in poverty. This means we get very familiar with mud huts, thatch roofs, bicycle transportation, footpaths, water wells, lanterns and candles, and most of all, the local dialect. This type of living creates unique learning and amazing entree into the communities we aim to serve. This is what makes us different.
So, to put it simply, our work starts with deep immersion. We work hard to become an asset to the local community (wherever we are, overseas or at home in the US). The PDF that follows (What is an Immersionship?) is our guide to our field workers. It will help you understand our first eight months at site.
At between eight and ten months, our field workers (sherpas) use their entrepreneurial training to identify local early adopters. We call these men and women FTF impresarios. Together, using their ideas and our network, First Things delivers capital investment from donors in our FTF network. FTF also look to partner with NGOs around the world and provide cultural, spiritual and economic insights when appropriate and needful.
The PDF below (Phase II: Investing in Our Impresarios) describes our operations in months 8-24, but it does not prescribe our work. We are flexible. This is simply the plan until a new plan is needed. In this sense we believe strongly in the lean start up model. Our Sites and Projects page displays the countries already served by FTF and the preparation required beforehand.
First Things coordinator and co-founder Ryan Jobe spent nine months in four countries (see: Sites and Projects) writing site assessments and creating networks. Each site is ready to host a site coordinator.
The Kepi Mindset
Our work, at its core, is about health. We go into the field in order to become healthy. We give our time and our lives in order to become healthy. We integrate and share our expertise with others in the hope of creating health in the community. To be healthy is to become humble. Humility, from the FTF point of view, is what creates gratitude, and gratitude for all things is the mark of joy. Where there is joy there is spiritual vitality; we call that healthy living. Becoming healthy begets health in others. Joy is contagious. This is at the core of the Kepi mindset, and we discovered this by serving our brothers and sisters in the poorest neighborhoods in the most forgotten regions around the world. In that sense FTF field workers are the beneficiaries of our FTF projects. These blessings create a mindset, and that mindset we call the Kepi Effect. We in the United States are losing the Kepi Effect. We are forgetting what it means to be healthy.
The Kepi (sometimes called a Supra) is a Georgian toasting party that amounts to a five hour poetry contest. It is the very embodiment of relationship. FTF staffers learn how to host a kepi and share it with their American friends when they come back home. Once a westerner has experienced a kepi, they never forget it. It stresses the importance of relationships not by talking about them but building them up. The kepi in other words, reveals that authentic relationships are the bedrock of all human community as it builds and solidifies those relationships at the same time.
That world and mindset is what FTF seeks to acquire, practice, and bring to others — both those we serve and those who help us.
We call this process the kepi effect and you can learn more here.
Where FTF Has Been
When First Things Foundation was inaugurated, we created the video below. We are still proud of it because it shows how far FTF has come.
Some First Things Foundation Definitions
A site is found in an underdeveloped community where cultural factors have contributed to a cycle of poverty. Our sites will not include areas in immediate crisis (famine and war), but instead have the potential to develop and grow.
A site assessment is a formal report which allows FTF to evaluate relationships between NGO’s, government agencies, and revenue streams that affect the site in question. This assessment gives our site coordinator a roadmap for success once he/she is placed for immersion.
Our site coordinators are social entrepreneurs who dedicate 18 months of their lives in immersion. By living humbly, learning the local language, and establishing real relationships with real people who have real needs, our coordinators gain the experience necessary to uncover the path to executable and sustainable projects. (Triple Bottom Line: People, Profit, Planet)
The Site Budget is the total cost of immersion including all variable costs as well as allocated General and Administrative (G&A) expenses. This ensures fiscal responsibility and provides for scalable operations. Go here for more details.
FTF Certified Project
FTF certifies that a project’s financial risks are acceptable in light of the potential reward (quantitative and qualitative). The FTF certification process aligns and maps risk by stages of development, validation level and mature state rewards in order to justify an investment decision.
Project Governance (PG) combines outcome based metrics and milestones with qualitative measures associated with relationships and growth of the human spirit to evaluate our projects on the ground. Excellent PG allows FTF to both avoid problems on future projects and scale successful projects worldwide.
FTF certification demands that we collect many project ideas during the immersion phase, and then filter out projects that lack promise using the OS, and DI to unveil a Certified Project. This allows us to save time and money while identifying the most promising projects.
A stage of project development where FTF secures investments and like-minded partners with aligned incentives and a willingness to see a project through to completion. Finding aligned partners allows us to overcome resistance typically associated with poorly designed projects.
The Kepi effect describes the personal transformation of the site coordinator as a result of their 18 month experience. This transformation becomes real in the lives of others when our site coordinators dedicate themselves to a myriad of activities including serving others as teachers in the FTF Fellows Program.
The FTF Pyramid is a four step development plan that starts with the uniquely profound and long term FTF Immersion. Upon this foundation we stack Project Certification, Project Execution and Project Governance. By living humbly in a depressed community for 18 months we are able to “put on” and share the hardships of those with whom we live and work thereby giving our development projects an authenticity so often lacking in the international development world.
This is the foundation of the Foundation and cornerstone upon which rests the entire FTF Pyramid. The social entrepreneur on site develops patience, hope, a vision based on truth, humility and profound relationships; all essential ingredients for healthy human development.
FTF Fellows Program
FTF provides our site coordinators with the opportunity to integrate their immersion experience with a high school entrepreneur teaching position that gives them at least one year to teach and share a unique world view with young Americans yearning for an authentic experience in the classroom. These teachers will also be given the opportunity to create FTF workshops within their classrooms so as to integrate their relationships overseas into their course curriculum.
A toasting dinner in the Georgian Republic (sometimes called a Supra) where the table represents the majesty of communion between human beings, and the wine the very blood that unites us all as brothers on this earth. This unique dinner has become a central theme and point of unity where supporters of FTF gather to share their thoughts on the eternal themes found in the 16 traditional toasts that comprise a Kepi.