Solidarity vs. Charity

These last weeks while I’ve been on the road for Give Work (now live here!), I’ve been thinking more about the concept of solidarity. My friend Leah Hunt-Hendrix, founder of Solidaire, introduced me to a flaw in the traditional charity model: it creates a two-tiered system of givers and beneficiaries. The givers have all of the power in this relationship. Beneficiaries are expected to be grateful.

This two-tiered system doesn’t solve the underlying problems that led to the need for charity in the first place. It often robs beneficiaries of agency — of the chance to chart the course of their own lives and invest in what they believe is most needed in their communities. When we donate money to get a feel-good surge of dopamine, seeing our name on a well or the side of a schoolroom, we don’t always force ourselves to think in solidarity with those we help.

Solidarity is a new paradigm with new rules. In this model, we work alongside the people we aim to help, listening to them and valuing their feedback as equals on a level playing field. We use metrics like the Net Promoter Score (some of you might cringe, but imagine what this would do in the nonprofit sector) to measure how well our programs are doing from the perspective of those we help.

This flips the traditional charity model on its head.

Giving work— living wage, dignified work—is one of the best ways to fight the problem of poverty in solidarity with low-income people. Giving work involves a two-way relationship (and, in the case of freelance marketplaces we work with at Samaschool , a two-way rating system) which empowers the giver and the beneficiary.

Do you have a favorite solidarity story? Share it with me in a comment below 😃

ps. check out our new Give Work Guide if you’re interested in buying from social enterprises that give work, or getting your company to think differently about sourcing.