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131,000 People Sleeping Amongst the Chickens

I was talking with Tinashe, my colleague in Southern Africa, about a budding poultry business that is an investment of Partners Worldwide. We discussed the various actors that would determine this enterprise’s success the suppliers, the lenders, the technical support, and the market itself.

Then Tinashe said something so profound and simple, that it stuck with me and has become something of a guiding metaphor for Partners Worldwide’s work: “Who’s going to sleep with the chickens?”

The point is, for an enterprise to really thrive, the most important people are the ones who have the most at stake: the business owners, the farmers, the entrepreneur. When the chickens get sick or when the chicks first hatch, they need a lot of attention. When things get difficult, who’s going to grab a pillow, go to the chicken house, and sleep amongst their birds?

Partners Worldwide is a network of over 131,000 people who sleep amongst their chickens.

That’s our core customer and the reason we do what we do. Sure, we connect businesspeople to other businesspeople, we facilitate mentoring and training and loans. But at the end of the day, we support those who sleep in their fields and work countless hours and drink entire pots of coffee—those who sweat and bleed and pray earnestly for their business. We exist to support those who take the enormous risk of entrepreneurship, with hopes of a better life for themselves and their families. We support the people who sleep with their chickens.

Each December, as we wrap up our year and reflect back on the metrics and impacts throughout our vast global network, it’s easy to get lost in the numbers. 156,000 jobs supported, 14,000 graduates from business training, and millions of dollars mobilized through small loans. But this simple question— who’s going to sleep with the chickens? —keeps us focused on the individuality, the humanity, and the inherent dignity of each and every person in our network.

Each of the 131,376 business owners and farmers in our sphere of influence has a name and a story. They each have hopes and dreams and challenges. Most importantly, each one bears the image of our Creator and is filled with the very breath of God’s spirit.

We celebrate, humbly and in awe, the growth and power of this global network, and the thousands of incredible people who sleep amongst their chickens.