Want to Help Someone? Shut up and listen

By Lee Stevens


Click here to watch the Ted Talk by Ernesto Sirolli: Want to Help Someone?  Shut up and Listen!

(Or paste the following into your web browser https://youtu.be/10Su8LUjNsU)


This Ted Talk by Ernesto Sirolli is an excellent example of how paternalism so often accompanies aid to people living in poverty. Although he is referring to aid in developing countries, there are parallels to the way programs and services are delivered right here in North America.  Ernesto declares, “The first principle of aid should be RESPECT!” What he is referring to is the situation where the people providing help, charity workers, and NGOs often prescribe to people what they need, rather than asking them the question “what do you need?” Ernesto’s presentation is framed around how to help people become better entrepreneurs however his approach can be applied to poverty reduction.  One of the goals within the Enough for All strategy is that everyone can easily access the right supports and services because we know a gap exists between what people living in poverty need, and what services are available.


Sadly many programs and services come with strings attached and hoops to jump through, largely because they were developed for people instead of co-created with people.  Its true, some people suffering with a severe mental illness, or an addiction, might not know what is best for them. However, I believe people living in poverty deserve to get help on their own terms.


Lee Stevens is a Community Facilitation and Engagement Specialist at Vibrant Communities Calgary. Please feel free to email Lee or comment below.

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