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What Exactly is the Common Good?

We talk a lot about the common good here at Elephante. We call our center the common space for the common good, and we work with common heroes for the common good, but what are we really talking about?

The Common Good is referring to the collective benefit of all or most members of a given community. On a sliding scale from idealism to realism, it could be considered the pursuit of ultimate thriving for every person in the world, to the other side of the scale of alleviating the suffering of as many people as possible.

When you ask what that said "good" actually is for some or all people, and how to achieve it that is when the great debate begins. Who gets to define what "good" is for one or all people? Does ultimate good for someone in America look the same as ultimate good for someone in Uganda? Even when we know what that good is, how can we actually achieve it? How can we overcome all the ill will and violence that is causing so much of the suffering? What is the role of politics, nonprofits, or businesses in the common good or harming it?

We especially like this video from Duquesne University summarizing the pursuit of the common good, including some of its difficulties and pitfalls.

We don't have the answers to those questions (and if we said we did, I hope you would seriously question us). It's been said that nonprofit and aid work is the great experiment to figure out what a thriving world would look like. Perhaps this is the best evidence we've gained so far towards the pursuit of the common good, in what has worked and what hasn't. One thing we know for sure is that no one person can do it on their own, and it has to be fully localized to be the most effective.

The Common Good has essentially been an objective of humanity since the first sign of suffering in the world, and it sure seems like it will never be fully realized. Some people might be discouraged chasing after a goal that can never be reached, but to others, like Elephante and our partners, this is participating in the greatest calling in humanity and therein lies the power and inspiration to keep going.

As Jesus Followers we believe a few key things about the common good as well. First, we believe God and Jesus knows what the ultimate common good is and have guided us towards that through the Bible. Second, we believe Heaven, or God's Kingdom will be when the common good is finally fully realized, and we celebrate that hope.

Third, we believe God has called each of us to work to bringing God's Kingdom to this present earth as much as we can. Each of us has been gifted in unique ways that God wants to use to bring a small piece of Heaven to Earth to share with others. I'm not sure why God wants us to participate in such an important job, considering how often we fall short, but the Bible has made it clear that he does, and what an honor it is to be part of!

We don't have all the answers, but Elephante is dedicated to continuing the great pursuit of the Common Good in Northern Uganda, and so are our partners.


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