What's In A Name?

7th December 2018

In our discussions with people about this project we've encountered some challenging and thought-provoking feedback about the name #HelpAndKindness. It seems that people might be worried that it makes the project appear too "soft" or "fluffy", and alienate some of the professional organisations in the area. It's also been mentioned that "help" seems to imply that people need help and might put people off becoming involved as they don't want to be seen as "needy".

These are not unexpected comments, as our naming has been very deliberate, and although we're not rigidly stuck to it, we did carefully choose the words. Here's what we were thinking...

Professional Language and Values

Over the years so many of the helping roles have become professions, and likewise many groups have become organisations and businesses. Many of the organisations have become formalised or statutory (or subject to statutory and legal oversight) and the object of Politics. Consequently many of the people who are providing the services can end up being commoditised by role and activity, and their motivations and personal commitment for providing these services can be overlooked or unaccounted-for. Workplace stress can arise from the disjunction between the personal values of the individuals and the institutional goals and frameworks of the organisations they work in.

These slightly mismatched senses of value and purpose are further compounded by funding prioritisation and cuts, with a drive to commoditise and procure services based on outputs not reason (in the sense of personal purpose). Individuals are transmogrified into statistics; performance is measured in work done, which is often different from personal value (to the provider and recipient).

This model also makes the helping "transaction" a largely one-way street; donor to recipient. It doesn't easily allow for reciprocity and joint benefit. In certain circumstances this can be seen as a non-permissable outcome. Any concept of friendship or personal connection for instance is frowned on in provider-client relationships. ("Don't get over-involved.")

And yet when speaking to "providers" about their work they are always quick to talk about their personal fulfilment, their relationships, and their enthusiasm and personal passion for offering the service. One of the greatest causes of anguish is when this value and motivation is overlooked or ignored. The long term effect of this kind of erosion of personal values becomes a contributory factor in burnout.

The language that arises in these settings has become more and more corporate, more business-speak, more about economics, more about regulation and uniformity. From this choice, the cultural expectation is set, and everyone "helping" feels that they should adopt this language-value framework. There's some good reason for this if you're running a nationwide service, but we think it comes at a cost.

Our Choice of Language

So instead of using this language of the economics of care, the board room and consultancy, we deliberately opted for the language of ordinary people, the human words, the simple phrases; childlike possibly, but words that challenge the presumption that you have to be 'authorised or a "professional" to make a difference.

We also want to reclaim the dialogue of care; the to-and-fro of helping one another, of communities helping individuals and vice versa. We are all in need, and many of us are able to help at any point in our lives. Our project, we hope, will provide for this two-way sharing and celebrate the fact that we all are helpers, as well as all in need of help, from time to time.

We may choose a different name in future, but we're welcoming the debate and ideas and responses that people are sharing with us. It's revealing a greater understanding of the climate we live in and giving space to think whether there are broader cultural issues we need to consider around our relationship to need and care.

Words have power. And we hope that the power of the three words "Help and Kindness" will show that this project respects, welcomes and values the billions of everday acts of will that lead in turn to acts of charity, kindness, compassion, friendship, and care, whether they're from someone doing their job, fulfilling their vocation, or simply living in their community.

What do you think?


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