By Todd May, professor of philosophy at Clemson University, and the author of the book, A Significant Life. In this article, Mr May gives us his take on how to make global development projects successful.
“There’s a huge difference between giving people charity and empowering people with the tools they need to change their lives. When thinking about the different effect both of these routes have, I’m always reminded of an historical event that took place after World War II.
In 1946, much of Britain lay in ruins after the devastation of war. In particular, housing was hard to come by since so many homes had been destroyed. The British government was slow to find alternative housing for many of those who had been displaced. So many families decided to take matters into their own hands. They started squatting in old army camps, usually without official permission.
At first, the British government opposed these families. But as their number swelled, the government decided to allow the camps to become official. The group was active in taking care of the camps, painting and cleaning, setting up partition and turning the camp into a village. People, like those who lived in these makeshift villages, who are given agency make active efforts to change their situation. Often people who are simply given charity or are told what to do often do not feel as empowered to improve their lives.
And this is one of the reasons why FXB is so successful. FXB does not give charity; it provides opportunity. The resources FXB gives to participants, such as business training and education access, provides people with the tools they need to take charge of their lives.
Too often, the urge to help those in need takes the form of paternal care. This may be well-meaning, but it is often not sustainable. FXB, through intensive study of what works, emphasizes the central lesson of such research: if given the right means and training, people will lift themselves out of poverty.
I am grateful that organizations such as FXB exist. They point toward a better way of thinking about our fellow human beings. It’s a way of thinking that defines people not as helpless individuals that need to be cared for but rather as active agents seeking, like all of us, to craft lives they can be proud to live.”