Worst and Best Practices in International Aid

This Studio will offer an in-depth exploration of the damaging yet widespread interventions –  such as donation drives, voluntourism and buy-one-give-ones – undertaken with the aim of helping disadvantaged people or disaster victims. Some of the actors are amateurs and volunteers, though many are not (Unicef). The interventions range from just wasteful (non-local donation drives) to harmful (international used clothing dumps). The pervasiveness of such bad practice demands focused attention and action to counter the ignorance and naivete surrounding these efforts, and turn worst into better if not best practice.

Students went to Nairobi, Kenya. Learn about their experience!

“While it can be fun to criticize efforts that are Worst Practice, the point of the Studio is to design alternative Best Practice interventions that have long term benefits.”
Mark Johnson
Faculty Supervisor

This Studio will explore damaging yet widespread interventions – such as donation drives, voluntourism and buy-one-give-ones – undertaken with the aim of helping disadvantaged people or disaster victims. Some actors are amateurs and volunteers, though many are not (Unicef), with interventions that range from just wasteful (donation drives) to harmful (used clothing shipments). The pervasiveness of such bad practice demands focused attention and action to counter ignorance and naivete surrounding these mostly well-intentioned efforts, and to turn worst into better-if-not-best practice. Each Studio participant will choose an intervention, research its detriments and benefits (particularly to the receiving country), design an alternative model, and contact worst offenders to see if they are interested in changing their model. We will also create a website to get our work out to the public and conduct advocacy. 

Field work opportunities include: Ethiopia IFP (or any IFP site, field work in New York). 

Each participant will choose an intervention, research its detriments and benefits (particularly to the receiving country), design an alternative model, and contact worst offenders to see if they are interested in changing their model. We will also create a website to get our work out to the public and conduct advocacy.

Potential Interventions to explore: You may have your own specific intervention that you are interested in, or choose one from below –

  • Disaster Drives, e.g. for hurricane relief
  • Consumer One-for-Ones, e.g. Toms Shoes
  • U.S. Used Clothing Dumps Overseas
  • U.S Used Books, Toys, Sports Equipment, etc. Dumps Overseas
  • Voluntourism
  • Trick-or-Treat for Unicef
  • Unicef School-in-a-Box

The specific work will be coordinated according to the project, however generally we will follow Project Cycle phases of Needs Assessment (Research), Project Design and Implementation. For example, donation drive  activities might include:

Best Practice, Aid, Development, Economics, Production and Supply Chain, Micro-Macro Paradox, Corporate Social Responsibility, Charity, Altruism and Egoism.

Click here to see past student projects. Throughout the course of the Studio, students engaged in a number of topics and projects ranging from developing a course on fast fashion to slum tourism. 

RE IMAGINE BRAZIL: Youth Media has been proven to highlight the problems of the world through the eyes of the next generation that will run it. Re Imaging Brazil is a social experiment to allow Brazil’s youth to Re Imagine Brazil from what they see today. This experiment will explore the reality of race in their country Participants will be both white and black, poor and/or rich, girls and boys, and have the chance to create something meaningful, and important in order to gain awareness and dialogue with an audience and their peers who are Brazil’s next leaders.

RE IMAGINE BRAZIL: Youth Media has been proven to highlight the problems of the world through the eyes of the next generation that will run it. Re Imaging Brazil is a social experiment to allow Brazil’s youth to Re Imagine Brazil from what they see today. This experiment will explore the reality of race in their country Participants will be both white and black, poor and/or rich, girls and boys, and have the chance to create something meaningful, and important in order to gain awareness and dialogue with an audience and their peers who are Brazil’s next leaders.

UNRAVELING SECOND HAND CLOTHING’S IMPACT:  Though it is only a small piece of the puzzle, our project work in 2019 focuses on the unsustainable relationship between rampant overconsumption of apparel produced in a fast-paced, monster scale industry with supply chain nodes spanning the globe; and the increasingly mammoth secondhand clothing industry.   

BIRDS OF A PASSAGE: Brazil is number one in the world in terms of terrestrial biodiversity contained within its six major terrestrial biomes (IBAMA, 2001), three of which have been seriously affected by deforestation, degradation and species loss. Between 60% and 70% of the trafficked animals in Brazil are purchased by Brazilians. Ownership of Tropical birds has been a tradition dating back to the 15th century when early French Colonizers noticed the Indigenous tradition of using bird feathers for religious ceremonies. Many South American and Caribbean cultures have the tradition of keeping tropical birds because they connect Their songs to the soul of every living being.