Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Discussion Notes - Toxic Charity

A few months ago, Tayest, one of our Ember guides, recommended the book Toxic Charity to me. Since then lots of other people in my circles have also been talking about it. And Taylor asked if Ember would host an evening discussion on the book, specifically to talk about the ideas and her context of a team of college revolutionaries. Here are some rough notes to the conversation:

+ Participants
Tony, Trevin, Clancy - Ember guides, Lauren - Ember intern
Taylor, Dylan, Rachel, Brooke, Jenny, Wendy, Jack, Nathan - Salisbury students
Glenn - Nathan's dad, professional in intl comm dev

+ Context
Salisbury Uni - core team of about 10 college students who are serving the fringe via off campus ministries
three venues:
God's kitchen - a soup kitchen model
HALO - a womens and childrens shelter and homeless day center
Salisbury Urban Ministries - a soup kitchen model

+ Intro
"Giving to those in need what they could be gaining from their own initiative may well be the kindest way to destroy people."
examples from the book:
free church food pantry transformed into a food co-op
giving Christmas gifts to needy families versus a discount toy store
affluence - this topic may be more intense because we have so much
those who have been given much, much will be required
unique to us gathered here in this room
see more notes on the book here

+ Initial Thoughts
most everyone agrees with the basic premise of the book
difficult to generalize - but most seems very valid
attentive to the spirit - tension of helping and giving in the right way but also being attentive to how God is leading
requires change - not everyone will want to change what they are doing because it makes them feel good
sometimes we are not in charge at the places we serve. not easy to make this kind of organizational change

+ Glenn B, special guest [seriously, read his resume]
agriculture and intl development
peace corps - Guatemala
a do no harm approach
'we facilitate opportunities for people'
accompanying them, training microgrants, design and implement together
base principle - we don't know what is best for them
physical and spiritual components have to be done together
relief and development

measurement and indicators are important but you can't be driven by them - 'best effort' stewardship

counterpart contribution - onwership, dignity, value,
donor results can erroneously drive a free gift, quota approach

+ Idea Models
[this was totally stolen from Ben Arment, see this and this]
The question is really how to bring some of these ideas back to your context at Salisbury so lets play around with some idea models based on the idea of sustainable charity.
resume writing
cooking in a soup kitchen
toy store versus food co-op [from the book]
church partnership - big clothes swap
CVS or Wal Mart store
addiction counseling/Christian counseling
PAC access center - paradigm for church community development - better practices
survey the population - methodical strengths/skills assessment - value clusters, evaluate the demand in the community for the skills - don't want to train them in skills that are not in demand by the market
skills job training mentoring
homeless paper in DC - Streetsense
lots of resources in the university
someone at God's kitchen thinks the college kids are all actors. can't believe people actually serve like them.

My biggest impression after this group left was that I'm excited to see what they come up with. I think it's going to be an idea model that is completely out of the box.


  1. Sounds like it was a great evening!
    I wish I was able to make it, but am excited to hear from those who did when I get back to SU

  2. yup lots of fun. i'm not sure exactly who you are but i have a few guesses. LOL