Most people have an expectation of what philanthropy or humanitarianism should look like. And much of it has little to do with the impact being made through their efforts.
If someone drops they’re “normal” existence, moves to Calcutta and dedicates their life to attending to the sick and the poor, it’s expected they will undoubtedly be revered as a humanitarian.
Teenagers and twenty-somethings are protesting, signing petitions, volunteering, resisting tyranny and flocking to conflict zones all over the world. It’s become trendy to do so, and frankly, I can’t think of a better trend to foster.
However, this pervasive belief that humanitarianism needs to look a certain way, or be in a certain place is quite problematic. With new technologies, ease of travel and the proliferation of social entrepreneurialism, the face of humanitarianism is evolving daily.
A woman in New York City can create a business selling luxury home décor items sourced from a tiny village in Nepal. She may have a beautiful boutique and wealthy customers that she wines and dines in order to keep up solid client relations. Her life does not look the same as the woman tending to sick children in the streets of Calcutta.
But the work this woman is doing in NYC is likely providing income and dignity for a multitude Nepalese families. This work is just as powerful, and likely more sustainable and beneficial than the work of the woman tending to the sick in Calcutta.
We need both. It’s easier than ever to do good in the world. And it has a lot of different faces. The more we embrace this dynamic, the more long lasting good we can incite.