Are Nonprofits Villains or Superheroes?

Nonprofits often appear to the world as superheroes. They swoop in to help people in need with food, water, and more. But is this the story of development that we want to tell? What if there isn't a superhero around the next time someone is in trouble?  What will happen then?

There is another narrative that I truly hope can change the way nonprofits and storytellers look at development. It is not a story that you hear often, but it is starting to creep into the development landscape. All around the world there are nonprofits tying capes around the shoulders of capable people and watching them fly.

People in the developing world don't need sympathy. They need opportunity and empathy.  They need the world to understand that they have the capacity to change their own lives. And nonprofits and storytellers have the chance to show how this shift in attitude is making great change in the world.

The real villain here is dependence.  Fostering an attitude of dependence steals integrity and opportunity from humanity. We are actively supporting this villain when we only create stories that show a world where people are incapable of helping themselves. It’s time to put sympathy away and act from a place of empathy.

To truly empathize with someone else we must take on the other person’s perspective, stop judging, recognize their emotion, and then communicate their story. This may be the most valuable formula that storytellers have ever been given. An opportunity to use our passion for compassion, truly connect with people, and show the world what is possible when opportunity is created.  


What stories are you telling? How can we change the narrative from dependence to opportunity?