The Financial Value of a Life

by | Dec 12, 2022 | Development, Strategy |

financial value of a life

Scale and reaching the vulnerable rarely go together. Often when we think of scaling, we think of systematising processes, measuring (a certain type of) efficiency, and increasing volumes. Scale looks at the target population, focuses primarily on the majority and sets its metrics accordingly.

If you are on the margins, the edges of the majority, it’s unlikely you will be served.

Some organisations decide to shun the majority and focus on the edges. Their target population is different, but often their metrics will be similar. We see this in the UK with rural broadband companies. Their size is different which allows them to target rural communities.

And yet, if you are vulnerable, beyond the edges of the majority, the metrics no longer work and you remain unserved. We see this in the charity world, including humanitarian aid. Ratios regarding cost per beneifciary are considered are meant to help with evaluating the effeciency and effectiveness of a project.

However, at times it can feel like we are putting a financial value on a life. If you are a person living with disability and elderly, there is no way around the fact that you will ‘cost’ more to assist than someone who is able bodied and young. There lots of factors impacting the financial cost of assisting those who are vulnerable. Simple metrics can be helpful, but rarely the answer. The problem is that they are, well, simple. That is their appeal and their downfall. Assisting the vulnerable may cost a thousand times more than assisting the majority.

Does that mean it is not worth it? Does that mean assisting them is not ‘value for money’?

The choice is up to us.

Photo by Galen Crout


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