If not CS, then what? Alternative actions to CS
Why do we need to look for alternatives to child sponsorship? Because child sponsorship does not address global injustices and, in fact, can be seen to do more harm than good. Research shows that child sponsorship neither works towards global justice nor is “better than nothing.”
Working towards global justice requires developing critical thinking, challenging our privileged positions and finding practical actions centred on equity, justice and solidarity. Based on the interviews with participants, alternative actions to child sponsorship are presented in this tackle box drawer. Some of them might require further reading and education. However, you can choose those actions that suit you best, and you can take one step at a time towards being a responsible global citizen.
Research Voices on Alternative Actions to Child Sponsorship
Challenge raising money as the way to end global poverty, and challenge the decisions you make as a ‘good person’.
“…there must be other ways I can do that without using a child… without the person needing to have a picture of a child on their fridge door and saying they’re part of our family”
“Yeah, I think when you say how do we educate ourselves, how do we change? I think this is mindset and that’s why I think we must stop doing certain things, which is stop being the expert; stop trying to localize for our benefit in the North, the Global North; downsize and give the power really to local people and that, the decision-making power, which can happen… because I don’t think a lot of people really understand the privilege, or the white privilege. You know what I mean? But when people start being told about… and stories contextualize, people will start thinking about ‘Oh, yeah, you know, yes, I do have this privilege. Yes, I would like to say help communities’, but there must be other ways I can do that without using a child… without the person needing to have a picture of a child on their fridge door and saying they’re part of our family, and I think they do understand that, it is a changing, changing world. And these discussions are happening much more often in public. But it’s a challenge because as I said, in my articles, these discussions never happened internally. It’s only a year or so that they’re starting to happen… I believe, partly due to some charges of racism existing within INGOs and the aid system and the impact from the Black Lives Matter movement which has triggered discussions and reflection.”
“sometimes you need to be a little bit uncomfortable before you re-examine your own personal position […] because these issues are complex and because they’re sometimes uncomfortable”“The idea of being generous, the idea of helping your neighbour, the idea of equity comes out of the Scriptures and out of the teachings of Jesus. And so, that is not a surprise that we would […] talk about that with North American audience, with Canadians. I still think that, you know, there are times when people are caught unaware or disturbed. And sometimes actually that might be our aim— not to overwhelm people, but to get people [to understand that] sometimes you need to be a little bit uncomfortable before you re-examine your own personal position […]. We find that there’s a certain segment of society that is quite ready to listen and that is already quite aware of the discrepancies between the Global North and Global South, and these are the folks that are the core of our supporters. So, sometimes we do struggle to get beyond that core and to reach out to new folks, because these issues are complex and because they’re sometimes uncomfortable.”
“…this lack of a development philosophy fulfills a fundamental goal for these organizations. And that is allowing the raising of money to be seen as a good act, in and of itself. […] one of the key teachings in international development is often that money flows more from the Global South to the North, than vice versa. […] the lack of seeing that systemic perspective allows—it allows these organizations to both imagine that they are doing good, and publicize themselves as doing good simply because they raise money”
“…this is a critique of development organizations that use child sponsorship, from my book. And part of that critique is that— and I mentioned this in the book, I don’t know if you remember reading about this—but my impression of many of these organizations is they lack a fundamental philosophy of development. Like I interviewed people who work for these agencies— and it’s possible that, you know, because it was a research project, where I use interviews, so maybe I didn’t get the core, but it wasn’t published— they don’t, in my understanding, have a cohesive idea, and one that’s shared among the employees and shared among the public, about why global poverty exists. It’s just, it just is, right? And as you can already see what we talked about, it’s a very superficial way of thinking about things. Because it just is, it just is a problem. But this lack of a development philosophy fulfills a fundamental goal for these organizations. And that is allowing the raising of money to be seen as a good act, in and of itself. And this is a little complicated argument, and again I get at it more in depth in my book, but I align, again, to go back to our developmentality, the idea of doing good in the world, international development, with organizational development: how these organizations raise money. And, ethically speaking, they do good in the world by raising money. And the more money they raise to give overseas, the better a development organization they are. You know, and it’s not that there’s not any accounts of what they provide, and all this kind of stuff with that money, but they see that as their fundamental job. Also, because this division, right, their job as a national office is to raise money, it’s not to set development priorities, it’s not necessarily to educate, some of them will say that they do that, right, but they don’t see that as their core job. And the reason is, because it’s this distribution of money, transferring from the north to the south, which is seen as the route to poverty alleviation. Just like we can’t see official development assistance, right, where Canada sends money overseas, as the solution to global poverty; it is part of the solution. But it ignores the underlying connections. Like one of the key teachings in international development is often that money flows more from the Global South to the North, than vice versa. And it does this in all sorts of ways. But it does this, you know, for example, in the products that get created in factories overseas, where the profits of those products go to northern corporations, and the wages are depressed in these places, right. So again, it gives them job opportunities, but the real money isn’t in the work. We all know that; in a capitalist society, the real money is in the profit, which flows to the north, and sometimes in the design of products, which also, with the designers being located in the north, flows to the north, right? So, the money is flowing more in one direction. So even if we send money overseas, it’s like trying to empty our boat with a hole in it with a little bucket. The water is pouring in, you’ve got to patch that freaking hole to empty the boat, right? But what this idea allows— and the lack of seeing that systemic perspective allows—it allows these organizations to both imagine that they are doing good, and publicize themselves as doing good simply because they raise money; the more sponsors they can attract, the better they’re doing. And they never asked themselves, in my mind— or at least I didn’t see this; hopefully, they are asking themselves this right—what’s the purpose of this money within a broader systemic perspective? What are we doing? And if, you know, it’s perfectly acceptable to say, well, we can’t do all of it. But what we can do is make our sponsors aware of these systemic issues. And I think that’s the fundamental problem. Not that they aren’t educating right, but they don’t see that as their primary responsibility.”
“In this marvelous, enormously instructive book, Jordan Flaherty explores how we too often allow the struggle for change to be undermined by would-be saviors—and how today’s grassroots social movements, led by communities on the frontlines of crisis, are charting a far more powerful path forward.”
Flaherty J. (2016). No more heroes. Grassroots challenges to the savior mentality. AK Press.
Access it here
“The white saviour complex constructs poverty as natural, hiding the histories and neocolonial structures that produce suffering in the global south, including displacement, exploitation of labour and land, debt, unfair trade policies, neoliberal austerity programs, and ecocidal development projects.”
Jefferess, D. (2020). WE Charity and the white saviour complex. Canadian Dimension, August 12, 2020.
Access it here
“The white saviour is defined by their paternalistic attitudes towards suffering others, their lack of meaningful knowledge or skills… and, significantly their belief that providing aid or care will provide self-fulfilment” (p. 423)
Jefferess, D. (2021). On saviours and saviourism: Lessons from the #WEscandal. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 19(4), 420-431.
Access it here
“Me and White Supremacy leads readers through a journey of understanding their white privilege and participation in white supremacy, so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on Black, Indigenous and People of Color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too.”
Saad, L. (2020). Me And White Supremacy. Sourcebooks.
Access it here
Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation. (n.d.). Education Resources Collection.
Access it here (retrieved 23 November, 2021)
Working Through the Smog: How White Individuals Develop Critical Consciousness of White Saviorism (article)
“One step that can be taken to work toward eliminating white saviorism is to support white individuals in becoming more effective in their racial justice efforts, particularly with regard to changing the structures and systems upholding current power imbalances.” (p. 4)
Willer-Kherbaoui, J. (2019). Working through the smog: How White Individuals Develop Critical Consciousness of White Saviorism. Community Engagement Student Work. 29.
Access it here