One way to think about the difference between literacy and competency is that literacy focuses on basic skills and knowledge. You can use a mobile phone or engage with money to a basic degree. While competency means you have greater experience and are capable of using a wide range of applications, performing various tasks, and are able to learn or ‘guess’ how to utilise new applications based on common experience with similar.
Literacy is about knowing, competency is about applying the knowledge in a beneficial way.
As the aid world pushes further and further into cash and voucher programming, there are a growing number of literacy and competency requirements. Not just for our organisational systems and staff, but most importantly for the communities we work with. First and foremost, there is linguistic literacy, but then quickly added to that is financial and identity literacy. And then of course there is digital literacy, data literacy, and technical literacy.
However, as noted above, literacy is about knowing, while competency is about application. Too often we stop at literacy because it is easier than competency. Literacy allows us to tick a box, competency enables those we seek to assist to thrive.
The choice is up to us.