Send, Sell, or Trash? Use the SWEDOW Flowchart (2.0)
The debate in the blogosphere and twitterscapes is raging over what has been cleverly christened by aid blogger Tales From The Hood as “SWEDOW”: Stuff We Don’t Want. After some well-intended entrepreneurs decided to ship a million t-shirts to Africa, aid critics of every stripe united in an unprecedented (dare I say mob-like?) manner to shout down the idea.
Now that the noise is abating, and the mob aid community is settling down to wipe the blood off their pitchforks, the question is being asked “Is it always wrong to send stuff we don’t want?” For example, surely it would make sense to send tents to a Caribbean island that just got wacked by a hurricane if you have access to free shipping? Not necessarily, if you sold those tents here, then sent the money to buy tents locally over there, you could effectively double your impact by both providing shelter and boosting the island economy. But what if buying hundreds of tents on the island drove up prices because the supply was limited? In that case maybe sending the tents would make more sense. Or would it?
This complexity could make your head spin, especially if you are just a simple man with a million flip-flops (or a shockingly large pile of ladies underwear) who just wants to make the world a better place. Which is why I’ve produced this handy, pocket size SWEDOW Flowchart™. Print it, laminate it, keep it in your wallet, and rest easy knowing you won’t inadvertently attract the bloodthirsty wrath concerned interest of the aid critics.
UPDATE: Some suggested changes came to us via the smart folks who read Laura Freschi’s blog at Aidwatchers. These have been incorporated into a Version 2.0. More changes are welcome, but I have to confess V3 may wait until I can convince one of our interns to learn FlowChart Graphics on Microsoft Word. Good lord, it is finicky to use.