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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.

Click on image to download PDF, print, laminate, and avoid the wrath of Bill Easterly

SWEDOW Flowchart v2

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  1. Jim says:

    I’m sad that while I’ve been following this debate/dialog from the beginning, the question of over-consumption in the industrial countries has come up all too little.

    While one might critique Jason Snandler for an amateur project to “clothe the people of Africa”, he was on to a valuable insight– out closets in North America are way too big, and filled with things tha maybe never should have been acquired or manufactured in the first place.

    If you haven’t seen The Story of Stuff yet, please do.

  2. Scott Gilmore says:

    Jim, I think you’re right. And that Story of Stuff does stop you in your tracks, doesn’t it?

  3. […] on the initiative, so I might be missing something here. But on the surface, using the handy SWEDOW flow chart, (created by Scott Gilmore at Peace Dividend Trust) it looks like the best thing to do a used […]

  4. Da Mad Cyclist says:

    You want to connect the “yes” branch from the right hand “is the transport cost better spent elsewhere” to the right hand “can the stuff be sold here”; otherwise you still have a mistake as Aaron stated on the other blog.

  5. You guys have a great website planning here, KIU!…

  6. Curious to see what all you intellectuals have to say about this……….

  7. […] (There are also resources that should not be brought to bear. In disaster situations, outsiders often attempt to dump stuff-we-don’t-want on a country. For some reason, this seems to happen a lot with shoes — see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for more commentary. What should be sent and what shouldn’t? Here’s a useful flow chart of the questions to ask.) […]

  8. […] out what that means). On the bright side, there are flowcharts on how to decide on what to do with SWEDOW, and Rwanda has banned the import of second-hand […]

  9. […] from Good Intentions, Tales from the Hood and Peace Dividend Trust amongst others, have detailed the need for gifts in kind to be properly evaluated if they are to […]

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