Making Coffee for People who want Tea

by | Dec 13, 2022 | Change, Development |

coffee and tea

I can be efficient at raising pigs and making coffee, but if you drink tea and don’t eat pork, my efficiency is meaningless to you.

We see this all the time in the aid world or how our societies’ view those in need of assistance. We tend to focus on our capabilities, things we are good at and have available. Then we figure out systems and processes to efficiently delivering these to those in need of assistance.

When I offer you coffee or pork, you will say no and go somewhere else. You have that choice and agency. However, most people in need of assistance do not have that choice and if they request it, we call them entitled and tell them to be grateful for what we are given them. It’s about us, not them. We are the hereos and we blame them for their circumstances.

Perhaps we need to worry less about efficiency and more about meaningfulness. Meaningfulness metrics would need to include the person being assisted. Assistance can only be judged to be meaningful by the person being assisted.

This is not to say my pigs and coffee cannot be meaningful, we just need a better ‘matching algorithm’ to find people for whom it would be meaningful.

And yes, being ‘demand driven’ requires us to rethink humanitarian logistics and design. And a whole lot of listening. Strive for meaningfulness, it’s hard, but do it anyway.

Photo by Bo Kim


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *