The Problem with “Help” in Global Development

Posted on by Brandon Klein

To move beyond good intentions, the development paradigm must shift toward collaboration, community involvement, and empowerment.

Aboriginal educator and activist Lilla Watson said: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

By viewing development work through the “help” lens, we neglect our own stake in global development, and tend to inevitably and unintentionally perpetuate the systems of oppression and injustice we seek to break down. Instead, we have to recognize that we too are harmed by global injustice, and therefore must work with the global community toward mutual liberation. Models of “allyhood” in social justice and “accompaniment” in human rights parallel this theory. We cannot just be external visitors; we have to engage with the communities we serve and recognize how our own privileges and social behaviors impact our roles.
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