Why is it Easier to Help “Them”

While interviewing the CSR manager of a large firm in China, we got onto the conversation of how easy it seems to get staff and executives to support programs where the benefactor was half way around the world, but so difficult to engage those same people to engage in a local issue.

this is something that I have seen fairly frequently as many I speak have come from the “west”, and are in Asia “doing good”, even when we have our own problems “at home”.

Which led me to begin wondering why is it easier to engage donors to help “them”, even when there are people down the street who could benefit from a similar program. It is a question that I have no answer for, but two theories came out during the conversation and I felt it would be interesting to open a debate on the issue

  1. “We” feel “Our” problems are self inflicted, fixable, and “we” have options
  2. “We” feel They “need” the money, and will be “grateful” for the help.

Using Africa as the example.

Africa has always been held as a place that cannot help itself. Giving money to deliver clean water, food, education, and healthcare to African children, was matched to message of dollar a day “help”one could help “them”. A pitch supported by the images of children in need against those taken from the field trips taken by Oprah, Madonna, Bono, and executives who leave Microsoft to leave the world.  It is no wonder some donors look to those who “appreciate” the help, and will at times go half way around the world to do so.

But, where this becomes an issue for me, and where I have myself begun questioning my own role as a global citizen who actively engages “locally”, is whether or not by going half way around the world a loop is being broken.



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