Photo credit: Calvin Ochieng/The Dignity Project
Case study: Cultures of dignity - 2 MB
Dignity matters all around the world. The structures of aid produce disrespectful relations and processes. Even when people living in poverty are able to access the material aid they need, they frequently leave these interactions feeling unseen, unheard and maltreated.
Across the development sector, leaders tell us they want to respect the dignity of those they serve.
Yet we know that dignity can feel a vague topic. Some of these leaders tell us they are not sure how to get to grips with it. Others have said they worry that pursuing dignity will come at a cost to effectiveness.
To help address these concerns, we profiled five organizations that have worked hard to build dignity into their internal cultures. All are on a journey of constantly reinforcing that value, and we feel we have much to learn from their efforts.
The five are: Goonj, Partners in Health, All Together in Dignity Fourth World, Tostan and GiveDirectly
We take away six common lessons from this work:
Dignity isn’t just about words. You can’t ever divorce it from politics and economics. There is no respectful care if you don’t have the right medicines in stock. Still, language matters a lot.
Dignity is essential, but there are complicated tensions to navigate – you can’t provide everything and you have to liaise with governments. Sometimes you are trying to change social norms to ensure one group’s dignity is protected, and in doing so challenging existing power structures and traditions in ways that may feel disrespectful to some.
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