It’s a boring title, but a super interesting thing I’m reading, trust me.
Since I’m in the middle of a cross-country move, I thought I would post something interesting from my research. I’m in the middle of the end-of-semester paper for one of my classes which I’m hoping I can expand into my thesis. Either way, it’s super interesting. [Context: I’m interested in how corporate culture makes collaborating with other groups easier and harder. This section of the article is discussing how the 4 types of cultures can benefit from each other and it totally reminded me of our current political and social vibe in America right now.]
Article Credit: Weare, C., Lichterman, P., Esparza, N. (2014). Collaboration and culture: Organizational culture and the dynamics of collaborative policy networks. Policy Studies Journal. 42, 4. (590-619).
First, the authors lay out Culture Theory’s 4 types of cultures in this handy graph:
Then they say:
Within collaborative relationships, cultural difference can create tension but can also offer complementary strengths and hence collaborative advantage (Huxham, 2005; Thompson et al., 1990). In an alliance between individualists and hierarchists, for example, one would expect individualists to benefit from the introduction of hierarchal order required to enforce trades, while the hierarchists benefit from the innovation provided by individualists. Egalitarians can benefit from collaborating with other organizations to help them effect change based on their critique of the status quo, change that can be difficult to achieve due to the consensual decision making and suspicion of expertise inherent in the egalitarian way of life. Individualists profit from collaborating with egalitarians or hierarchists to the extent that cultures with greater emphasis on group can provide support for collective action. Hierarchists can profit by the critique of egalitarians, which can prevent systems of authority from becoming stagnant and unresponsive (Thompson et al., 1990). (pg. 597)
There are a lot of problems in our society today that are making a lot of people really angry: rape culture/slut shaming, Ferguson, microagressions, White Privilege, etc. Americans are frustrated with Congress and/or Obama. We wish the government had more control or less control. We wonder why it’s so hard to get “the other side” to do what we want. It’s because America is made up of Egalitarians and Individualists, and Hierarchists (the government, mostly). It’s fundamentally a question of collaboration among very disperate groups. But Weare, Lichterman & Esparza point out an area of hope. We have stuff we can offer each other. Together we’re better. That’s why democracy–as frustrating as it is–works the best.
When I was a kid, I belonged to an organization remarkably similar to the Boy Scouts (except for both genders and religiously based) in which you learn to “Be Prepared”. I learned First Aid and knot tying and wilderness survival (I mean–I also learned cake decorating and how to identify shells, but that doesn’t apply here). I was memorizing how to be ready for anything–especially the worst. A little later, I joined an Improv team which I discovered I liked SO MUCH better than play-acting because I didn’t have to memorize lines and worry about forgetting them. After 2-3 sessions of training, I was much less nervous about going up on stage with nothing prepared than I was going up for a speech. The difference was, in Improv, you learn principles about story telling and good gamesmanship. You learn to save your partner if they get stuck (and they learn to save you). You learn to treat everything your partner says and does like fact and to build from there. You learn how to adapt to your constantly changing environment.
Emergency Managers talk a lot about resiliency which is how well stuff resists damage. It can be applied to buildings, the environment, networks of people and processes, etc. If I wanted to be “resilient,” I would pack a solar charger in my evacuation bag so that I could charge my cell phone if we lost power. But if the cell tower goes down or becomes overloaded, a cell phone is mostly useless. So if I wanted to be resilient, I should buy a satellite phone. But that’s prohibitively expensive (and you’d only get, like, 1 minute of time every 24 hours, so….) The thing about Emergency Management is: there’s always something worse that could happen. We literally cannot plan for every scenario. Instead, we plan for the most likely scenarios and make our communications towers as strong as possible so that hopefully it won’t get knocked down in a storm. This is our current “Being Prepared” philosophy. It works, but I think it needs something.
The temptation of “Being Prepared” is to plan to exert control over your environment. This is motivated by fear. It’s scary to feel out of control; you want to memorize lines so that you can say them at the right time and return the theater to a familiar place. But disasters are an Improv game. The environment changes constantly with new information, arriving responders, evolving problems. There are surprises which require creative solutions. “Being Prepared” should be about learning the tools of response. It should be about giving yourself lots of options by both bringing a solar charger (just in case) and packing quarters for a pay phone (just in case). I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but preparing to adapt will be much less scary than preparing to control. You can’t pack everything you’ll ever need (that’s what houses are for), but you can learn how to be adaptable. Here’s how to get started:
* read all those cool articles about how to make things with paracord or duct tape. (i.e. pack stuff that has more than one use or that can open up potential uses in other things. Click on the pic above, for instance.)
* buy a (small) survival manual AND download some apps (it’s called redundancy and it helps us be more resilient)
* meet your neighbors (it’s overwhelmingly likely that they’ll be your partners in this Improv game. Besides, two minds–and sets of tools–are better than one)
* expect to be fearful, anxious, sad, etc. and get what you need for emotional support.
How about you? Is it hard to give up control? What worked for you? Tell us below!
There’s a huge push in my Emergency Management classes to ingrain us with community-building values. Over and over I’m told (and I believe) that 1. the best way to respond to an emergency is to let local leaders direct the resources, 2. that the best way to keep people safe is to make sure they’re connected to each other* and to processes/institutions (neighborhood watches, hospitals), and 3. that the best way to prepare for or rebuild after a disaster is to be responsive to the ones who have to live in the houses you’re building**.
It turns out to be a very democratizing process if you do it right. And it also happens to synergize very well with the internet and social media. (Think about how Twitter aided the democratizing process in Arab Spring).
The following blog post from Raptitude summarizes a “Grand Historical Theory” that explains why community building is so important and so powerful. [And secondarily, why I, for one, am hugely in favor of net neutrality. Allowing corporations to control the speed of the internet for profit would create a hierarchy which would degrade the powerful crowd-sourcing democracy that’s happening on the internet.] I’m going to give a bullet pointed version of Raptitude’s summary (whoa, so meta), but I highly urge you to read the article. It’s short, interesting, and well written.
1. Early man roamed about in small groups where everyone grew up with everyone else and understood all the viewpoints in their society (represented by knowing each person very well). Decisions were made by consensus–a long, boring, but equal process.
2. As we grew into cities and towns, societies were too large for everyone to know or even understand everyone else so hierarchies formed in order to organize society. This silenced all except for the those at the top. When they wanted to make a new society (America, for instance), it was those at the top who made the laws and processes of getting work done.
3. But the printing press and now the internet allowed anyone (almost–although it’s getting more and more accessible) to write and disseminate their viewpoint and opinions. We began to reincorporate society… or to put it another way, we began to dismantle hierarchy. Which has been painful (French revolution, American revolution, civil rights, LGBT marriage equality, etc.) But it’s happening and it’s awesome and we should encourage that.
Because it makes our world safer, healthier, and better.
* So there was this study done of two neighborhoods who experienced a tremendous heat wave. In the wealthier neighborhood the death rate was much higher than in the other poor neighborhood (very unusual). Authorities couldn’t explain it until they realized that the poor neighborhood was made up of minority groups who had stronger ties with one another. They would look in on one another to make sure people were ok. Elders in the wealthier neighborhood didn’t have anyone to call 9-1-1 if they collapsed from heat stroke. So connecting people to people keeps everyone safe by leveraging social ties to get information disseminated.
** In an earthquake zone in India, NGOs used to come in and build villages with cinder block houses. Sturdy, square. But the square huts fell over in the next earthquake while the more traditional mud huts stood firm. It took a while for NGOs to figure out that the simple mud huts stood during earthquakes while Western styled houses–though cement– fell because the huts were round and could resist the movement of the earth in every direction. Squares get warped. Since then EMs have learned that you can’t just import solutions out of context. You have to listen to the community because they know these things.
Today, I watched John Oliver’s net neutrality video.
I get so frustrated with the cable company’s assurances that consumers won’t notice any change with a two-tiered system. How stupid do they think we are? They have no motivation to treat us “right” when they have a monopoly. Furthermore, why would I give up a freedom I enjoy to pay for it? I went ahead to the FCC’s comment section and wrote my own letter to the FCC in the comment section.
Dear Mr. Wheeler,
It is my job as an American citizen and as an Emergency Manager to prepare our country for disasters. If you allow corporations to tamper with the internet, you will be the architect of the most insidious disaster our country is likely to see. In short: 1. the internet is the first truly democratized process in this country. It is a tool for change and affects not only the future direction but day-to-day lives of the American people–ALL people, Mr. Wheeler, including you, your cronies, the cable companies, and the poorest of the poor. Do you want to be the man who silenced a nation?
2. The internet is the fastest information disseminating tool we have. Highly useful in times of emergency. Don’t tie up our ability to save people’s lives and property with a private company’s red tape.
3. The internet is our last great potential. It is humanity’s very breath containing crowd-sourced science, art, discussion, and dreams-turning-reality. I leave you with this example: During Fuukishima’s meltdown, the Japanese government was reticent about releasing contamination information. When they did release numbers, they were inconsistent and untrustworthy. A common Japanese citizen used the internet to educate the public about radiation and how to detect it. He crowd-sourced radiation detection and collected a database disseminating up-to-date health and safety information for the Japanese public who could access the data freely and easily. You will not convince me that net neutrality is not a moral imperative, Mr. Wheeler.
Do not let this proposal pass. The result could never be worth the money.
You know that weird guy at the party where you’re having a nice banter and people are cracking wise about a topic and the poor weird guy puts in his two cents–maybe with a little chuckle, or maybe with a grim face–and the joke is just over? And there’s an awkward silence until the nice person in the group thinks of something to say. And in the end, the weird guy just stands there as the group breaks up and wanders away gradually. I was totally that weird guy on Facebook the other day.
My friend–who happens to work as an outside contractor for nursing homes and independent living facilities–posted that the power went off in the facility where she was working that day and it made her wonder what she was supposed to do if she had had to evacuate the wheelchair-bound patients on the second floor without an elevator. (Curious? Check out this post for the answer.)
Let me just pause right here and say: I basically wander God’s green earth every single day hoping someone will talk to me about my studies. I never get this kind of opportunity. I mean, let’s face it, I basically wrote this blog so I could talk about my studies without people asking me about them, lol.
So right underneath the comment where someone had suggested parachutes as an evacuation method (My delivery is all wrong, you have to really picture the fat old granny in her pink, frilly nighty floating gently to the earth), I sent three hasty links answering her hypothetical question about how to evacuate immobile people over stairs. Suffice to say, there were no more jokes underneath my comment. (Whatever. I totally would have killed at an undertaker’s party. Heh….killed….)
I guess this is my life now. I face the sticky task of making safety fun. It’s my job to carefully balance humor, to make it palatable, and gravitas, to make it meaningful. I’m that weird guy at a party–too passionate to let an opportunity to do some good go by.
There are worse things to be.
By the way, I found this video while I was doing research for a more serious post which I think is hilarious. Watch it and tell me I’m wrong.
(I mean, come on! He so weirdly calm about evacuating someone and the music is so….elevator-y. Hehehehehe…… If you like this one, then you’ll love the 1950’s Nurse’s Training one. Talk about nerd heaven.)
What are you passionate about? Is it hard to get people to care about it? Let’s chat below!
Recently one of my friends who works at an independent living facility called my attention to the difficulties of private businesses who don’t necessarily have plans for getting frail or immobile patients down flights of stairs (even just one) without an elevator in an emergency. She was expressing frustration for her position because–as an outside contractor–she doesn’t know very much of the facility’s emergency plan or whether they even have one and doesn’t feel like she can tell her employers to get into shape.
First thing: If you’re in a similar position, it’s always ok to ask questions or bring a safety issue–even a hypothetical one–to the fore. If you care for special populations like children, the elderly, or people with other special needs, then you need to know what to do in an emergency–that’s your job. Don’t be afraid to kick some butts over things like this. Because the last thing you want is Grandma suffocating in a house fire because the facility didn’t have a plan.
Second thing: Nursing homes and other facilities are required by law to have some kind of emergency plan. Generally, the evacuation procedures are more fleshed out the sicker the residents. Hospitals, for instance, train regularly and can invest in cool stair wheelchairs (technically called “evacuation chairs”). However, sometimes residents decompensate as they get older or gain weight. Meaning that just because they can live on their own, doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to get down stairs or to get their oxygen etc downstairs. Or they can simply have a surgery that inhibits their mobility. (Hip surgery anyone?)
So here are some links to get you started:
* If you don’t know the state of your business’s preparedness. Take this 10 min Ready Rating self-assessment from the Red Cross. I watched a few businesses in my city go through the process and it wasn’t that painful and SUPER helpful.
* This guide from hcPro is a quick read and gives easy instructions on when to decide to evacuate, how to evacuate, etc.
* Invest in some equipment. Do some research–there’s all sorts of things that are affordable. You’re not stuck with expensive electric chair lifts. Here’s a whole bunch of videos to pique you’re interest:
And I simply can’t resist this 1950s Nurse’s training video. Please NOTE: most instructors will tell you NOT to do these carry’s because you could hurt yourself. This is true–people are a lot heavier today than they used to be. But, I thought it would be interesting to show you some history of evacuation. (Besides, knowledge is power, eh?)
Did you find anything helpful during your research? Share them with the class below!
Last week my Crisis Communications class looked at the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings as an example of government using Twitter effectively to communicate with the public. What I noticed most was that the author’s attributed Boston PD’s adept handling of social media to the fact that they had had a standing relationship with a Twitter audience already–long before the marathon even happened. Granted, their followers were fairly few, but when people flooded to their stream (heh, pun) they had the culture and infrastructure in place to handle the misinformation, the safety concerns, and the expectations of the public. [If you want to read what the academics are saying about the event a year later, check out these summaries of journal articles. Fascinating.]
All this prompted me to think about the public’s relationship with the government and how unusual it is to find a government (or sometimes even private business) entity that does Twitter well. As an Emergency Manager, part of my job is making sure people get warned about impending doom and more and more, people are getting warned through breaking news on Twitter. So I want to make sure that the information people get from their social networks is high quality information: useful, accurate, and timely. By the way, my textbooks tell me that according to a recent survey, about 80% of you expect someone to be monitoring Twitter during a disaster for distress calls. That’s an important expectation for us to respond to. I have a vested interest in making sure that the communication that happens over social media is effective and that the public develops a good relationship with high-quality informers BEFORE a disaster happens. Because after a disaster happens, we’re in the “fog of war”.
That’s a lot of build up to say that basically, I went forth onto the Great Information Highway and collected tips for you. Free of charge.
How to Find Quality Disaster Tweeps:
1. Twitter Alerts. Before you do anything, I want to talk about Twitter Alerts. Go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) twitter page. These are the storm people. NOTICE: on the left side under the “Tweet to NOAA” button there’s a little statement that says “In times of crisis this account helps share critical information with Twitter Alerts. Be Prepared“. Accounts with that statement are top priority. If you’re only going to follow one person, make sure it’s a person with that statement. Click the Be Prepared link and Twitter will take you to a page that explains how Twitter Alerts works and allows you to sign up to get alerts from NOAA. It’s sorta like a mobile version of a reverse 911. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Ok… now when we talk about other accounts, watch for that little statement.
2. Quality Accounts. Here are a few people already doing a stellar job in the Twitterverse.
* Craig Fugate, FEMA Director. If you’re still thinking about the last director who some believe tanked the Hurricane Katrina response, don’t worry. This guy is new, experienced, and pretty hip. His site has cool new facts, FEMA programs (like this partnership with Disney’s Big Hero 6 movie), and a nation-wide/birds-eye view perspective.
* Besides NOAA (above), you also might like the National Weather Service. They also provide information about storms and unexpected freezes.
* Bill Gates, entrepreneur/philanthropist. You never hear much news about Bill Gates anymore and that’s because he’s traveling all over the world doing work for his foundation. He just met with the House of Lords in England and Germany’s Chancelor, Angela Merkel to garner support for Ebola aid in Africa–and more broadly–world health. I’m a huge fan of his work. You might like to follow him if you want a world-large perspective.
* I like Ready.gov ‘s account because it retweets from the Fire Department, National Guard, Homeland Security, and almost anyone else talking about preparedness. It’s nice because people like the Coast Guard don’t ONLY talk about preparedness, but when they do it’s important. So Ready.gov is like a filter for all the non-emergency news. They also have some content in Spanish. It might be a good starting place to see who else you like.
* FEMA en espanol. Pretty much the only Spanish-only Twitter Alerts I could find readily. If you know someone who speaks Spanish as a first language, send them here.
3. Local Accounts. How to find people near you.
In America, it’s the local authorities who are in charge of the disaster response (and the national authorities who send the money). When a disaster happens, you’ll want information from the people in your jurisdiction just like Bostonians wanted the BPD’s info. Here’s how to identify quality local accounts.
* WeFollow.com is a user-generated director that collects Twitter accounts into hashtags. Best of all, it displays them based on influence and/or follower counts so you can get an idea of who’s awesome on Twitter. Furthermore, the little search bar on the side lets you search by location so you can find quality people near you. Check out these Emergency Managers. Notice the grey bar at the very top suggests other key words to search with.
* Go to Craig Fugate’s Following list. Hit ctrl+F or find your browser’s search bar then type in your state’s name. He follows all the state’s Offices of Emergency Management, but they’re not all called the same thing, so it’s sometimes hard to find them. Chances are your state’s OEM (or EMD, SMEM, etc.) will be following local entities worth noting. For instance, my state’s –Washington Emergency Managment Division– follows the National Weather Service, Seattle branch.
*FEMA Regions. FEMA breaks up the country into regions and those regions have their own Twitter accounts. The posts often overlap with the national account, but they sometimes have good regional information like storm-specific preparedness tips (not a lot of Tornadoes in WA state.) or tribal news. Look at the map below to see which region you belong to then go find that account by searching Twitter’s search bar.
* Search your local city hall, state government, police/fire departments and anyone else you can think of to see if they’re on Twitter.
* Make sure their profile is fully filled out
* Determine how frequently they tweet. If they’re last tweet was a week ago, ditch them.
* Determine quality of tweets. Do they retweet relevant material? Do they balance their retweets with original content? (If they only retweet, they’re lazy. If they only post original content despite what everyone else is talking about, they’re not good listeners and probably won’t be too helpful during an emergency) Do they participate in the conversation or do they treat their account like a bulletin board? Can you tell if they’re responsive to other users?
* Who do they follow? Maybe it’s someone useful. Make sure they follow a wide range of relevant people. They shouldn’t be following everyone who follows them and they shouldn’t be too insulated by following only people who they agree with.
4. Preparedness accounts. Other honorable mentions. These people don’t necessarily post emergency updates, but they do talk about preparedness topics.
Why Pinterest might be a super-great thing for public education.
I read a cool report in a magazine while I was standing in line for my coffee which discussed a recent consumer survey studying American spending habits since the Great Recession in 2008. It was particularly interesting to me, because–as a Millennial– I came of age during the recession and therefore have (according to most industry experts) a permanently altered spending strategy. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the article again on the internet, but I did find others which I will share below.)
Here’s what happened. The 2008 recession was so huge and long lasting that it created a new generation of spend-thrifts with almost the exact same values as we saw from those who lived during the Great Depression. (My husband’s grandparents lived through the Great Depression, and they behaved remarkably similar to the way we do.) We carefully research before we buy big ticket items. We save our windfalls or apply it to debt instead of taking expensive vacations. (Read more here and here) And–most important to this blogger–we’ve seen a rise in the DIY movement.
Pinterest was created during the upswing of this “return to self-sufficiency” mentality. (In 2011/2012 according to Wikipedia). Parents (mostly women in America) began to see their job as home-makers to encompass self-sufficient activities. Like cooking in instead of eating out (which is both cheaper and healthier); Remaking clothes out of thrift store finds; Planning stay-cations instead of expensive trips; and making gifts instead of buying them at Christmas and Birthdays. Pinterest became the ideal place to save recipes, sewing patterns, furniture fixes, life hacks, gardening tips, and more. It supported this drive toward “make it work” in a compelling, visual way.
Neo-Survivalism Finds an Audience
This return to self-sufficiency also triggered a renewed interest in “prepping”. This 2008 New York Times interview illustrates the image shift survivalists experienced during this time. They went from gun-happy weirdos in the mountains to normal, concerned citizens who no longer believed in the infallibility of governments and infrastructure. (And just look at how Hurricane Katrina went).
It turned out that Mom’s on Pinterest–focused on their family’s well being– responded eagerly to “prepping” activities. They melded family preparedness with DIY values and crafting skills into a powerful, synergistic model. Pins about Bug-out bags stand shoulder to shoulder with pins about canning, document organization and retention, pet first-aid, and educational kid’s activities, games, or puzzles.
Consider the paracord.
A good example of this kind of influential melding can be seen in paracord crafts. During war time, troops were taught how to use their parachute cords in a variety of life-saving ways like making tourniquet’s, shelters, snares, etc. Survivalists rediscovered (or at least re-disseminated) all kinds of military and back-country survival methods and began advocating taking paracord on hikes, in bug-out bags and emergency kits, etc. On Pinterest, it rapidly took on the facade of crafting as cool paracord macrame crafts became available: bracelets, key chains with hidden compartments, water bottle slings, shoelaces, and on and on. Survival techniques like this one become cool on Pinterest. Conversely, crafting becomes useful. Many people (myself included) are less willing to do crafting for the sake of the craft. We want everything we do to have both form and function.
A Motivated Audience
Pinterest is host to an audience of highly motivated, caring citizens. We want preparedness education. We love our families and want them to be safe. Emergency Management is in a prime position to be an influential voice on Pinterest because there’s already a culture of self-sufficiency and life hacking there. While Emergency Managers don’t often view their messages as “life hacks” maybe they should. Maybe it would get more attention.
Here’s a list of some of the best Preppers on Pinterest. I highly recommend a peek:
* The Survival Mom –anything you would ever want from a book list, to craft projects, to frugal living, to fire arm safety/self-defense, to health, to fashion… I love her.
* Preparing for SHTF — Probably the most pins I’ve ever seen. High quality information. Ranges from the intense, military-grade prepping to the more casual “I want a useful garden” type prepping. Definitely worth a visit.
* Backdoor Survival — A few more homesteading basics and some mental health tips and quotes.
* Knowledge Weighs Nothing — it’s true. Very good source for at home medical remedies and survival uses for common household items.
Business owners are asking whether or not they’re allowed to ask their disabled employees if they need help during an evacuation. The ADA released a FAQ sheet with their recommendations which I adapted into a more attractive format.
It is licensed under a creative commons license which means you are allowed to print, distribute, reformat, adapt, and repost to your heart’s content as long as you give attribution. The information you need for proper attribution is at the top of the page underneath the title. Hope you find it helpful!
Do you have more questions about creating an Emergency Business Continuity plan or preparedness in general? Ask below!
Development is inextricably intertwined with Emergency Management
In my last post, I mentioned a little bit about how Emergency Management is affected by different fields–especially Development. It turns out that the people most vulnerable to disasters are often the poorest people because they can’t afford to live in safe areas or in safe homes. On the other side of the coin, when disasters do strike an area, the disaster often damages the poor household more than the rich one. Here’s an example.
Let’s say you are a very poor tenant farmer in Africa. You can’t afford to live on the high-quality land, so you have to tend rockier soil on a hillside. You have one donkey with which to plow and a mud hut. Over the years, more and more people have cut down more and more trees so now, when a heavy rain hits, the water rushes down the slopes unimpeded and washes your crops away (and the top inch of soil which is the best part. So now the soil will yield even less and you will have to clear more trees in order to get enough profit to survive. But that’s a sustainability problem.) Without those crops, you will starve this winter, so you have to sell your donkey in order to survive. Furthermore, part of your mud hut was damaged.The next spring, you don’t have a donkey so you can’t till as much so you don’t harvest as much so you are even less secure than you were. The next flood might kill you. (As it is, you might have to pull your children out of school–if they were lucky enough to go–so that they can help you farm. And an illiterate family has more problems down the road. That’s a different kind of development problem.) Meanwhile, your slightly richer neighbor–who has two oxen which are much better at plowing and a cement house instead of a mud hut is left with an undamaged house and perhaps one ox instead of no donkey. Which is a much better place to be.
These principles can be scaled up to country or regional levels. A poor government often can’t invest in good public infrastructure like high-quality dams, more hospitals, or public awareness campaigns. They might struggle to house the poorest of the poor or refugees or provide security for their citizenry. (Refugees are a whole ‘nother deeply vulnerable population that we can talk about later. Violence profoundly affects both development and crisis management).
So what does that have to do with this video you posted?
Traditionally, development and humanitarian aid has been of the “teach a man to fish” variety. For good reason. Professional aid supported by donors (like you or even banks and countries) builds or props up needed infrastructure like wells, clinics, vaccines, family planning, education, and food security. These are things that don’t get done if you simply give cash to poor people.
But, research is beginning to favor micro-investments, direct cash donations, and the like. It turns out that poor people who receive cash overwhelmingly use it to better their lives. They do not drink or smoke it away. They do not buy luxuries, like we have thought for so many years.
[I’m sure you can think of someone from your neighborhood who is on food stamps and just bought a new car. I can too. But those people aren’t the extremely chronic poor that we’re talking about. There will always be abusers of the system. But there will always be people who need a little outside help too. (Personally, I find it easier to let God or the Universe or someone else judge between them.) But let’s leave that argument to the side for now.]
Here is an experienced aid worker describing how direct cash transfers can be better than third-party directed aid. 1. Families buy what they really need (not what you think they need)–like maternity care or home improvements (which make them less vulnerable to calamity). 2. Much lower administrative costs mean more money gets to the users. 3. Cash infusions are often better than donations. This is true during disasters too. People like the Red Cross and your local disaster coordinator would much rather receive cash than donated clothing because we can use the cash to buy exactly what we need (like lumber or satellite phones for rescue teams or pens) and we can buy it from local businesses (which help them recover). Supporting local business has been proven again and again in both development and disasters to be of critical help.
Note, she also makes the point that we can’t give up the third-party directed aid. Families won’t buy the equipment to make vaccines or HIV blood tests; we will always need to encourage public infrastructure. But, we should not neglect the human. He and she are the most able to decide what he and she need.