Worst/Better Humanitarian Aid Practices

Schools of Public Engagement: Grad Programs in Int'l Affairs

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Graduate Course
Degree Students (with Restrictions)
Worst/Better Hum Aid Practices
Fall 2024
Taught By: Mark Johnson
Section: A

CRN: 11093

Credits: 3

This course explores damaging yet widespread interventions - such as food aid, food and clothing donation drives, and opaque buy-one-give-ones, CSR and social enterprise schemes - undertaken to help disadvantaged people or disaster victims and which may satisfy an immediate need but with longer-term damage. Aid and development problems are complex and seemingly intractable, working with key stakeholders and populations who face immense challenges; solutions are thus understandably elusive, with both real and avoidable obstacles. While acknowledging the real obstacles, there is no excuse for repeating proven failed interventions that are not only ineffective, but harmful. Some actors are amateurs and volunteers, though many are not (Unicef, USAID), with interventions that range from just wasteful (donation drives) to harmful (used clothing shipments); their projects satisfying a short-term need but causing long-term harm. The pervasiveness of such bad practice demands focused attention and action to counter ignorance and naivete surrounding these mostly well-intentioned efforts, and to turn worst into better practice. So, while Worst Practice serves as an entry point, we will in fact focus on Better, with each participant choosing an intervention to research and design a superior solution through the semester. Note: Your chosen intervention does not have to be international, nor strictly humanitarian aid. The two main outcomes for the course should be a critical and even skeptical “Best/Worst Practice mindset” that challenges patently ineffective and harmful interventions; and that you will think globally, and act globally. Please email the instructor, Mark Johnson ( for any questions.

College: Schools of Public Engagement (NS)

Department: Grad Programs in Int'l Affairs (GPIA)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Studio (S)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 15

Add/Drop Deadline: September 9, 2024 (Monday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: November 17, 2024 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Open*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 5:40am EDT 6/17/2024

Meeting Info:
Days: Thursday
Times: 4:00pm - 5:50pm
Building: TBD
Room: TBD
Date Range: 8/29/2024 - 12/5/2024