Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Citizens of the world are increasingly demanding more from their leaders, organisations and businesses, and humanitarian organisations are no exception.
Last year, this urgent reality was discussed at the One Young World summit in London.
The nature of the work of humanitarian organisations means that consumers expect them to have a sound moral compass.
Yet financial abuses, arrogant CEOs and workers embellishing statistics of grant reports are just some of the reasons why these organisations find themselves facing increasing scrutiny and mistrust.
But the actions of a few, shouldn’t make us lose faith in humanity, in humanitarianism. Reform is necessary, but it needn’t be daunting. The solution is both surprisingly simple and intimate in nature: get personal.
Giant organisations often feel inaccessible and faceless; it is far too easy to forget that these organisations operate because of individuals with principles and ideals that were first envisioned, and then realised.
When you know the people who are involved—when you have heard their stories and seen their pictures—you are more likely as an individual to support their organisation.
Internet and social media have made it easier than ever to access organisations and for organisations to access their benefactors.
The communications landscape has changed, but it’s necessary to keep these mediums social in their nature. You can “like” an organisation’s page and receive updates from them, but you can’t hear the stories of workers, of life on the ground, of why these people are doing what they are doing.
Numbers, statistics, reports…what we need is more “face-to-face” interaction; more stories. Stories of hope, stories of despair, of loss, of feeling.
Numbers only go so far: what matters more are words. We know stories inspire action amongst an overwhelmed and increasingly de-sensitised population, which is why we have created It’sOneHumanity (IOH).
IOH is a virtual space where humanitarians come to educate each other, share the work they do, connect, and act for humanity as a whole; it’s a social network seeking to democratise humanitarianism.
Its goal is to create and unite humanitarians around the world, engage them in discussion and facilitate the mutual education process to ultimately create powerful social movements that will help us change the world for the better.
It’s easy to get lost behind words, but the meaning of “humanitarian” is nothing flashier than “anyone concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare.” Isn’t that you too?
I personally look forward to One Young World 2011 in Zurich, to show over 1,200 young “humanitarians” what we have built and invite them along on the journey with a special One Young World premiere.
I believe this youth summit is truly special because the delegates who make it come alive are exceptional. Delegates of One Young World are all humanitarians of their own with ideas and projects, and personal stories that explain why they decided to act upon their ideals and not stand by the sidelines.
It is my greatest hope that The Humanitarian Social Network can make more of such stories shine and inspire the world around.
Follow @ElliottV and @ItsOneHumanity