Silo comes from Greek and means a ‘pit for holding grain’. Siloes have evolved since their ‘pit’ days but in most farming communities you see them beside a barn. In general, they are holding tanks of food for animals. And they tend to hold one type of food per silo.

Sandwich comes from the name of an English Lord who would ask for bread to be put around his meat so his fingers wouldn’t get dirty while playing cards. Sandwiches have evolved significantly since then but the main premise stays the same – have a messy and mixed middle, with something (usually bread) on the outside to keep people’s hands clean.

In the humanitarian world, too often we still manage data like siloes, when it should be managed like a sandwich. The bread on the outside are the community members we work with and the overall impact or change we contribute to. Inside it’s messy, it’s where the interactions and interventions happen. The interactions and interventions are our projects, while the sandwich is our programme as a whole.

Too often we build siloes, when we need to be making sandwiches.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao


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