Day without Dignity: Awareness raised, now next steps…

April 12, 2011

Last week I wrote a blog post on raising awareness to participate in the Day without Dignity campaign. As part of that effort I wrote about the importance of placing a one day event in the context of what those whose awareness is being raised can do afterwards.  As either organizers of these campaigns, or ‘consumers’ of them, the challenge is once awareness is raised, how do we spur continuing action?  To ‘model this process’, the week after the Day without Dignity ‘event’, it seems fitting to look at what can be done as continuing action.  Some ideas that were generated from the day’s discussions:

  • Educate yourself. Learn more about the area that interests you or the type of aid you’d like to support.   If you are a campaign organizer, do you ‘due diligence’.  Make sure you really understand the issue you are focusing on and especially have explored any negative consequences that may result.  If you have participated in an awareness raising campaign that wants you to donate, learn more about the cause to which you are being asked to support.  How will the money be used?
  • Find ways to listen to the intended beneficiaries of the aid project. A ‘foreign aid’ cause should not be developed just by people far removed from the beneficiaries.  If you are not able to find ways yourself to learn more about the needs of the intended beneficiaries in person then do so by reading their own words in books, or on websites (such as Global Voices) or listening via videos.  Ian Thorpe wrote a blog that provided a number of resources for ‘active listening’. The Listening Project is another good source.
  • Help change the story and challenge the causes you are being asked to support. We have become very accustomed to accepting aid projects that are designed without input from local beneficiaries.  We need to change our assumptions about ‘the world’s poor’. Very often those who may need help have very specific ideas of the kind of help that would be most useful to them.  Challenge the projects you would like to help to include local beneficiaries in their project development if they have not already done so.
  • Shop ethically in a way that supports local businesses and creates jobs that can lessen the need for ‘handouts’.  Learn more about movements such as fair trade.
  • Don’t neglect your local community.  Poverty exists everywhere – it is important to be a good global citizen but just because it may seem more exotic or exiting to help those in another country, don’t forget to help out locally and encourage others to do the same.