CUC Board Member Publishes Book on International Social Justice

Tanya Cothran

“Teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for life” is the old adage that most people associate with global charity, aid, and philanthropy.

But what happens when the man already knows how to fish?

If the pole breaks or the river is polluted, what could help the most then?

We are pleased to announce that Tanya Cothran, CUC Board Member and member of First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto, has edited and contributed to a new book of 30 essays from 22 authors, called Smart Risks: How small grants are helping to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. This book looks at the ways that international organizations are moving beyond “teaching a man to fish,” toward a partnership model that listens to grassroots wisdom and builds close connections with local leaders.

In one of her essays, Cothran describes her experience of listening to local leaders in Malawi. They needed access to low-interest loans to boost the economic development in their area. Cothran, in her capacity as Executive Administrator of Spirit in Action, worked with community leaders to find models of savings and loans cooperatives. In 2009, the locally-led Manyamula Villages Savings and Loans group started with 40 members. Since then, the group has grown to 180 members (60 percent of whom are women) who all save and access low-interest loans through the program. Cothran has visited the community three times over the past six years and has seen the positive change that is happening in the community and in the lives of members.

Smart Risks is a book for everyone who cares about global poverty and injustice. Peter and Jennifer Buffett, the generous philanthropists at NoVo Foundation, said, “Smart Risks is a powerful reminder that local leaders are the best experts of the challenges facing their own communities, and that trusting in their knowledge and experience is the single most promising way to build lasting change.”

There will be a Smart Risks book launch with a panel on stories of risk and collaboration (and then a party!) at the Centre for Social Innovation – Annex on October 18 at 5-8pm. The event is free and all are welcome to attend!

To learn more about Smart Risks (including links to purchase the book), see: