(Photo Credit: Janet Ramsden, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

As people around here headed out the door for a week of vacation filled with family, friends, and yes, Christmas presents, I asked a few of my colleagues in the Global Development and Population Program what gifts they’d already gotten this year from our grantees. Puzzled, one colleague gently reminded me that our employee handbook specifically proscribes accepting gifts from people whose work we support. So I explained: “No, not material gifts. I mean what gifts of knowledge or joy or time did you get?”

Here are some of their responses:

“Several of my grantees have provided very frank and honest assessments of challenges they’re facing in their work. That candor is a gift. They’re not trying to sell us anything—they’re treating us as trusted partners. It allow us to know what’s going on and to help if we can. That’s a gift, too.”

“I’m grateful for the gift of something-better-than-I-ever-imagined from the team that put together the Data Impacts cases. I shared the seed of an idea with amazing people, and they grew it into something fabulous.”

“I got the gift of seeing how our funding benefits real people—through the storytelling done by Marie Stopes in their great video series we supported, and through the Images of Empowerment project, which generated hundreds of beautiful photos that anyone can use for free.”

“One prospective grantee gave me the gift of breaking up with me before I had to break up with them. The grant was getting complicated and I was starting to try to problem-solve and ask them to change elements of the proposal. But it looked like it was going to fall through. Before I had a chance to say ‘no,’ they emailed to tell me they decided not to pursue the grant. That was a gift.”

“Although we’re concluding our funding for the Population and Poverty Research Network, some of the young researchers who had been funded under that initiative have volunteered to self-organize future conferences on a smaller scale to continue the scholarly exchange on population and development research. That’s a wonderful gift—a testament to the value of the PopPov network, and it shows that we did indeed help to revitalize the field.”

“The inaugural steering committee meeting for the People’s Action for Learning Network was a true gift. The spirit of collaboration, open sharing of success and failure, and incredible warmth across the network is so special.”

“We all got the gift of feedback from the Grantee Perception Survey.”

“I got the gift of reading findings from new, creative, and rigorous research, and realizing that I can actually use those findings in my work. The AidData reports—Marketplace of Ideas for Policy Change and Listening to Leaders: Which Development Partners Do They Prefer and Why?—tell us things we truly did not know about how external actors influence policy change around the world.”

That’s only a partial list, of course. We are often (and repeatedly) amazed at the creativity and commitment of the people whose work we support. We learn new things and feel buoyed by the spirit of genuine partnership they bring to each conversation. We are indeed grateful for the many gifts our grantees give us every day.