It’s easy for organisations in a wide variety of industries to pay lip-service to ethical practices. In the same vein, it’s easy for entities to think they are operating and conducting business ethically when they just aren’t. When studying, interning or volunteering abroad, sometimes well-intentioned individuals and organisations enter into an unequal power dynamic. In this dynamic, they unintentionally position themselves as the would-be saviours of a “poor” community.
Here at GVI, we don’t want to be guilty of that. We want to be better and try harder.
Ethical best practice has always been at the heart of our work as a social enterprise operating in the international development space. As ethicality in global development continues to evolve, we strive to participate in this process and to constantly develop our understanding of ethical best practice. Where we assess that practices are still the best fit within the local and global contexts where we operate, we work with our stakeholders to apply them.
We haven’t always done everything right. However, we recognise that it is not possible to reach a final point on the ethicality journey. And it has been, and will always be, one that we take.
This badge is a manifestation of our journey of reflection and growth. We call it the Badge of Ethics, and it symbolises everything we believe about ethicality in sustainable development. It was developed through a process of collaboration. It took several months and the intuition, experience and research of many team members to arrive at a symbol we felt could begin to capture the way we see ethicality as an organisation.
Our CEO Andrew Valentine encapsulates our stance on human empowerment – deeply intrinsic to ethicality in sustainable development – with the phrase: “A hand up, not a handout.” Locally-driven development is a collaborative cycle. The hope is that foreign organisations will eventually be cycled out. We hope that the communities and ecosystems we work in will no longer need our support.
We believe that they will be able to guide the hands of others in their families and communities going forward. A “hand up” must be asked for, and not blindly offered by those who think they know better. This is why the hand faces outwards, almost in a “stop!” gesture.
In the media, some nations are portrayed as less able to develop themselves and needy of foreign intervention. Wanting to serve others, who can benefit from the help of fellow humans, is beautiful. But the best intentions can still do permanent damage when action is taken in poor practice.
Once, GVI was a part of perpetuating these ideas. But we took a moment to stop, and think about it. And that is what we want this badge to say. “Stop. Think about it.”
Take a look at the four fingers in isolation. They are reminiscent of a bar graph. Long-term, measurable impact has always been important to us. The bar graph represents progress in a very particular sense.
When looking at a bar graph, or analysing data in general, we look to find answers to questions, and solutions for problems. Data that highlights weaknesses is just as valuable as positive data. We take the lessons learnt from our mistakes along with our successes: this is our ethos.