This page is modelled after a charity we follow with great interest, called GiveWell. In the interests of complete transparency, they regularly publish accounts of the mistakes they’ve been making and a summary of the steps they’re taking to fix them.
We liked it, and so we wanted to start giving it a go ourselves. It is for external readers to look at if they are interested in our progression and improvements over time.
Documenting 2017: Perpetuating the white-savior complex
Misstep: Early on in building Step Changers, Rosie moved to Cambodia to spend three months living remotely to get Step Changers registered. In this time, she visited with a number of charities and documented these visits with photos. While taking the photos themselves were approved by the communities affected at the time, there was an unrecognised element of a white-saviour complex and uneven power dynamics at play that lead to these permissions being granted. With reflection, it has become clear that some of these photos were inappropriately used to further the work of Step Changers rather than tell the stories of those they captured directly, and this likely perpetuated the white-saviour complex further, especially where first names were not recorded properly.
Change made: In December 2018 we took steps to remove these photographs from our website and social media feeds, and made a commitment to only use approved photos we take in direct storytelling contexts and with names recorded appropriately. When promoting Step Changers now we only use photos of people we know, landscapes, or our volunteers with permission. Further thinking is also underway internally on how to effectively tell fundraising and corporate partnership stories without compromising the dignity and privacy of those impacted by corporate sponsorship, especially when those people are based in other countries or are children. We will continue to provide updates on this as we progress our understanding of this issue.