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Here's Why You Don't "Help" People

Author, physician, and professor Rachel Naomi Remen has struggled with Chrohn's disease her whole life, which informed her view of life and medicine.

She wrote a piece that makes a powerful distinction between traditional views of 'good' work, and articulates why you really shouldn't help people.

Three Distinct Paradigms

Naomi explains that . . .

1. When you help people, you treat them as if they're weak.

2. When you fix people, you treat them as if they're broken.

3. But when you serve people, you treat them as if they're whole, as equals - or dare we say superiors - and as indispensable co-creators of a sustainable solution.

This is why traditional aid and charity models have proven ineffective and unsustainable.

Aid models are inherently designed to emphasize a group's perceived deficits, create a culture of dependency, reinforce imperialistic paradigms, and fail to create sustainable solutions. Instead, we need to adopt a truly people-centered approach.

“If you’ve come to help me, you’re wasting your time. But if you come because your liberation is tied up with mine, then let us work together.” -Lilla Watson, Aboriginal Educator, Activist | Australia

People-Centered Solutions

  1. Significance: People are more than their past, their trauma, their needs. They possess creativity, resilience, and extraordinary potential.

  2. Expertise: People are experts of their own experiences, culture, and contexts. They possess wisdom necessary to the solution.

  3. Agency: The people closest to the problem have the resources and mechanisms to create culturally responsive solutions.

  4. Design: When invited, we can contribute to the imagination and co-creative practices of people and communities.

So don't just help people. Serve them.

“All changemakers have one thing in common. They are creating platforms that unleash human potential.” - David Bornstein


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