Operationalizing Empathy | Reboot

Empathy allows us to understand and share in someone else’s experiences. The concept plays a prominent role in design methods—where understanding the user experience is critical—but this kind of thinking is less apparent in the international aid and development space.

This might sound surprising. A deep empathy with victims of poverty or disaster should be central to the approach of donor organizations, NGOs, and social enterprises.

The caricature of aid workers and development consultants who parachute in, spend all their time meeting officials in the capital, and fail to relate to the people on whose behalf decisions are made, however, does have its truths. The typical fundraiser’s or journalist’s portrayal of aid recipients is also often dehumanizing. They’ve earned the moniker “poverty porn” and drawn calls for reform for a reason.’