“When Helping Hurts, Part 2″

Posted By on May 13, 2011 in FH Blogger Trips | 3 comments


Relief: Immediate and temporary emergency aid in which a provider does something for a passive recipient. The Good Samaritan is a great example of a relief effort.  There is a provider and a receiver. When people are helpless, relief is the appropriate intervention. Relief is a handout of material resources. Once the bleeding has stopped, we need to rehabilitate or restore people to previous conditions.

Rehabilitation: Restoring people and communities to their pre-crisis conditions.

Development: The process of ongoing change that is moving people closer to being in right relationship with God, self, others, and the rest of creation. Development is not done to people or for people, but WITH people. The key dynamic is promoting an empowering process. This will typically be done around, or result in, some products or project.

It is harmful to do relief when the situation calls for development. But it takes a lot of time to do the proper approach. And we need to seek to do relief and rehabilitation as developmentally as possible.

Maintain a core focus. It is difficult for the same person/organization to do relief and development with the same community.  You create a dynamic that is hard to change.

Find your niche. What are other organizations doing in your neighborhood? What are their primary needs?  What are your skills? Fill in the missing gaps.

The vast majority of organizations do relief. Yet the vast majority of people in the world are in need of development. One reason organizations opt for relief work is that donors like quantitative, measurable, material things. Donors don’t typically want to hear about relationships. Once the relationships are in place, the rest is just the details. Jesus himself engaged in highly relational ministry.

Avoid paternalism, habitually providing resources or assuming tasks a person can provide or do for themselves.

Asset-Based Development – Identify what is there. Focus on what is there. Mobilize what is there.  Focuses on the capabilities, skills and resources of the person or community.

Assesses existing resources using “asset inventorying.” This is the first step.  What gifts, materials, resources, do you have? Let’s list them all. When you ask a person who has felt like they have no value, what are your gifts and abilities, you are alleviating poverty. The question in itself is poverty alleviation.

Blueprint Development vs. Participatory Development

Blueprint Development: Pre-packaged solution imposed upon poor people. It does it TO them and acts UPON them. McDonald’s franchising meets poverty alleviation. Can intensify marred identity/God-complex.

Participatory Development: More of a learning process approach. It works WITH them, including poor people as full participants in the selection, planning, execution, and evaluation of the intervention. Can help to eliminate the marred-identity/God-complex dynamic. This is a slow process of learning together.

Participation is not just a means to an end, but a valid end in itself.

Do you find yourself championing, giving to, supporting organizations who do relief work, rehabilitation work, or development work?

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  • http://alexspeaks.com Alex Humphrey

    I love this too, Lindsey!

    This is the difference between salvation and discipleship.  Jesus speaks to us clearly, Go out into all the world preaching the good news and making disciples. 

    And yet one of those is easy and the other so very hard. Salvation takes an instant while discipleship (development) requires an entire lifetime.

    And how keen a reminder it is that development is not molding someone into my image but directing their natural growth into the image of God.

    Thank you again for this other great reminder. The harvest is plenty, development is desperately needed – but the works are so very few.

  • bethanyplanton

    The When Helping Hurts posts are excellent. These are great ideas and thoughts to think about as individuals, but these ideas are also challenging me in my career. Where does my nonprofit job fit in? Are we relief, rehabilitation, or development? Are we really accomplishing the things we need to be? Thanks for these posts, Lindsey! ? Are we really accomplishing the things we need to be? Thanks for these posts, Lindsey! 

  • http://twitter.com/katielipovsky Katie Lipovsky

    I just borrowed this book from a friend–such good points! I’ve seen a lot of well-intentioned people do more harm than good, unfortunately. But, we’re all a work in progress, right? Thanks for posting this :)