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Values-Based Development

More than 75 years of working in impoverished communities has underscored one important lesson: change isn’t linear. Transformation in one sector influences changes in others.

Knowing this, we developed Values Based Holistic Community Development (VBHCD), which focuses on total community transformation and is grounded in societal values or principles. Our approach encourages people to use their collective strengths and values to overcome what is often felt to be a hopeless situation of poverty.

The VBHCD model strengthens livelihoods and local economies with a community-focused process that puts our Theory of Change into action, allowing families to become self-reliant for food and income. Combined with the strategy to connect farmers to value chains, we are energizing economies in the developing world.

The 12 Cornerstones

The essential values we apply to our projects are called the Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development. Cornerstones stimulate group wisdom and personal insights, and keep people’s hearts, minds and actions balanced, focused and productive. Using the Cornerstones as a framework, project participants develop the attitudes, behaviors and skills necessary to improve their own lives and transform their communities.

The biggest strength of Cornerstones training is that it teaches us to look inward and actually examine ourselves – also dispelling our notion that poverty is something to be solved through external support and alms. -Nisha Thanet, Nawalparasi

Together, these values form the acronym PASSING GIFTS, echoing the quintessential Cornerstone and trademark practice that makes our projects unique and sustainable. The purpose of combining personal leadership with the Cornerstones is to let participants see how their own personal values connect with those of the project.

Lasting Change: The Ripple Effect

The end result of applying the key components of VBHCD is an empowered group with a clear vision that has the skills necessary to transform their lives and community.

The Ripple Effect

  • Deep Impact
    Attitude and Behavior Changes of Individuals, Increased Community Cohesiveness
  • Surface Level Impact
    Tangible changes easily seen in communities, increased income, better nutrition, and health.
  • Lasting Impact
    Community Recognition, Influencing Local or National Government Development Practices, Adoption of the Heifer way among other organizations.

Heifer in Action: Belsi, Nepal

Before Heifer

The days were painful for the women of Belsi. Finding enough for two meals a day was a struggle. Most families were barely able to feed their children, let alone afford to send them to school.

The First Steps

The transformation started in August of 1999 when 25 women formed a self-help group. Through the VBHCD approach, they began changing their own lives—and then transforming their entire community.


Livestock from Heifer provided high-quality protein, draft power for crops and transportation and manure for fertilizer. Income was generated for education, health care, housing and emergencies.

Sustainable Livelihoods

Now, women are respected members in their communities and men share equally in the division of labor. Women now lift their heads as they walk with dignity through the village, offering the traditional greeting, “Namaste” – “The light in me salutes the light in you.”