6 Forms of Harmful Dependency (Part 2)

By Jeff Palmer, CEO on August 24, 2017 | Print

In our previous blog, we began talking about harmful forms of dependency that manifests itself in our paternalistic tendencies. We cited When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert and their list: resource, spiritual, and knowledge paternalism. This blog post focuses on the next two types listed by Corbett and Fikkert with an additional one that I’ve added…

  1. Labor Paternalism – This stems from seeing the poor as helpless. We assume there is nothing they can contribute to their development process. Thus, we take over not only procuring the resources for the community but also bypass the one thing that, in many cases, they have to contribute: their labor.
  2. Managerial Paternalism – This type of paternalism manifests itself in the planning and implementation steps of the community development cycle. We trust the community to identify their problems and come up with solutions. But when it comes to the implementation and monitoring of their project, we take control. Sometimes this comes from good intentions. Oftentimes, it comes from a deep-seated belief that they cannot be good managers (as evidenced by their current conditions). We must avoid this type of paternalism if we really want the community to take charge and move forward with its development.
  3. Cultural Paternalism – This is probably the most hidden and thus dangerous form of paternalism. We are all ethnocentric, believing either consciously or subconsciously that our way of doing things is “right.” Generally, we succumb to this naturally because, at the core, it is who we are and how we interpret life. Our ethnocentricity makes it hard to trust others with their way of doing things. In terms of community development, it tempts us to always want to step into the process and help people/communities make the “right” decision and choices.We have to guard our hearts, motives, and actions so as not to impose our cultural understandings and choices on the people with whom we are working. One of our core community development principles used in training to overcome cultural paternalism is to bring every question and decision back to God’s way found in the Bible. This reinforces that we don’t know all the answers as well as demonstrates to our community that we are people of principles and faith. It also lays a foundation for the community in the future to be people who look to God’s Word for answers and not to us.

So, what are some ways that we can avoid dependency and especially harmful paternalism? Stay tuned! Our next blog will offer some practical tips on this very subject.

If you are interested in the community development process, our blog posts about community development are full of great information. Have questions or comments about paternalism or community development? Ask in the comment section below!