A day without dignity – listening
Saundra Schimmelpfennig is organizing a countercampaign to Tom’s shoes “Day without shoes” entitled “Day without Dignity.” Here is my contribution:
People have a lot of ideas, good and not so good about how to help the poor. But often these are as much informed by the beliefs and the needs of donors, researchers and aid workers as they are the needs and desires of the people they are intended to help.
Yet the poor themselves have needs, desires and hopes. They also have valuable insights into their situation and local knowledge about what might or might not work to improve it, or what it would take to introduce new ideas from the outside.
Even without these insights, surely the poor have right to a voice, to say what they want, and what they think about what is being done for them in their name.
But isn’t it hard to know what the poor really want, or what they think about our work? While it might not be easy, there are in fact many ways that we can listen to the poor. Here are just a few examples, most of which don’t involve sophisticated social media or “crowd-sorcery”:
Participatory qualitative research:
Beneficiary feedback surveys:
Complaints and anti-corruption mechanisms
Local partner surveys:
Other feedback mechanisms and tools
And this is just a few examples – saying nothing of the possibilities offered by use of emerging technologies such as social media, cellphones, open data etc. So why don’t we do this more?
On the other hand, perhaps we should just give them free shoes?