Development isn't pithy. Aid isn't simple. Your $20 will not solve hunger.
You wouldn't know that any of the above things were true from most conventional charity marketing. Fundraising is designed to make giving convenient and make us feel good. We're busy people: we're writing essays, we're on hold with Rogers, there's fun to be had somewhere else that isn't here so make it quick, I've got places to be and the light's about to change.
There's nothing wrong with feeling good while giving: you've just helped another human being in a potentially life-changing way. That's an incredible thing to be able to do. But I think we have to be smarter not just about how we give aid and what we do with it (although we need that too), but about how we communicate aid - its challenges, successes, and realities. We need to raise the level.
I believe that donors can handle the complexity. Poverty is complex, development is complicated, and people are unpredictable. Continually having a conversation with the lowest common denominator does nothing to change peoples' habits or challenge their assumptions. The world is full of smart people - I'm continually surprised and amazed by the wit, knowledge, and questioning of Grade 7s when I visit their classrooms with EWB's Youth Engagement programs, and there are tons of other smart people I interact with every day.
One of those smart people said that "people don't invest in victims; they invest in survivors." Partners in development are too often and too easily portrayed as victims, as passive receptors of our charity, as living simple lives and having simple desires that can be met with simple solutions. EWB endeavours to communicate the true resilience and ingenuity present in developing communities and to share the difficulties they face. We work with entrepreneurs and farmers and businesspeople and parents and teachers, none of them victims, to create meaningful change in their communitites and institutions that will enable them to achieve more. More opportunity, more profit, more security - more of whatever they choose to seek in their lives.
I want more, too. I want more questions, I want more thought, I want more information. I want more failure and I want more learning. I want more giving: I want more thoughtful giving, I want more skeptical giving, I want more giving with every ounce of feeling in your blood. I want more partnership. I want more head and I want more heart.
And not only do I want more, but I expect more. And I know you can handle it, because you're smart. The world is a complex place: the only thing I do on a daily basis that isn't complex is put on my socks, and even that's debateable. We all work with complex issues every day - let our partners in development be one of them.
If you agree with me, please support the work of Engineers Without Borders. True, your $20 will not solve hunger. But by supporting the work we do, you will be contributing to sustainable structural change in Canada and overseas. Let's raise the level, together.
much, much love,
If you do want some Perspectives with more concrete explanations of EWB's work and why it's important, see here and here. Or shoot me an email or ask me questions, I love to talk about this stuff - it's incredibly important to me.