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#219 Being Discovered

January 6, 2015

Although it may feel supremely un-aidworker-ish to admit it, one thing that most Expat Aid Workers have in common is that they want to be recognized for their contribution to the greater good. One can only make one’s living ensuring Sphere standards for the unfortunate and downtrodden for so long before the need for a bit of copious Facebook self-promotion takes over. Insisting on carrying one’s own luggage, or treating locals like peers, for example, are all great for making the point that one is all about solidarity with all things local/poor (or at least good at blending in). But for every EAW there eventually comes a point when they just want to be acknowledged. Preferably publicly.

Unfortunately, there really is no obviously right space for EAWs to assert themselves and take hold of this rightful recognition. Blogging is a go-to rookie move (any amateur can start a blog and front like they matter. Heck, any amateur can start their own NGO and go viral.) Some try to build an industry-wide reputation by being enigmatic (tough to make it work because everyone else is cynical, too, not to mention much too busy to be bothered knowing who’s who). Some go on a solitary quest to find themselves with the hopes of writing a best-selling novel  memoir later, but that’s a long-shot (the best-selling part). Others simply make stuff up.

But none of that is exactly it. No, the prize that today’s self-aware EAW pines for is a serendipitous, unsought, nod of public acknowledgement — affirmation — by a prominent voice outside the aid world. To put it simply, EAWs want to be discovered.


From left to right: The Real World; Expat Aid Worker

While preferred discovery is that by a “mainstream” media outlet (or perhaps well-known journalist as a proxy), it is nevertheless of critical importance to understand that not all discovery is equal. There is a hierarchy of coveted discovery.

Here’s how it works:

  • Discovery by an established publication is better than discovery by an individual journalist, unless the journalist is really famous.
  • Discovery by a partially famous journalist who’s shtick is being critical of aid is better than discovery by a really famous journalist with a history of discovering things that turned out to be fraudulent.
  • Discovery by an established dynastic publication is better than being discovered by the Huffington Post.
  • Discovery by the Huffington Post is better than being pinged for discovery by Al Jazeera, only to be pulled later over a technicality (e.g., someone’s “rule” that you can’t be interviewed anonymously… true story).
  • Discovery by the aid world journalism equivalent of pirate radio is better than discovery by a politically middle-of-the-road tabloid-gone-web-based and trying desperately to maintain an air of “liberal” and “non-corporate.”
  • Unless of course we’re talking about that particular publication sometimes known as “an organ of the middle class” (there’s a mental image). In which case…



One Comment leave one →
  1. Julia Stewart permalink
    January 6, 2015 9:43 am

    congratulations! you made it! Date: Tue, 6 Jan 2015 13:08:23 +0000 To:

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