Extreme poverty is one of the worst ongoing disasters in the world today. Giving What We Can’s entire mission is predicated on recognising the substantial privileges that those of us fortunate enough to be born in the developed world enjoy, and using our relative wealth to make a meaningful and ongoing difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world. We recognise that we have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a way that doesn’t essentialise, stereotype, or otherwise take away from the dignity of people who do live in extreme poverty.
Giving What We Can has received information that one of our student groups was planning to run an event that did not adhere to these values. The information provided to us about the event shows that it was clearly insensitive and completely inappropriate. We were unaware that the event was going to take place, but to the extent that it was planned by a student group with a connection to us, we sincerely and unreservedly apologise.
To be clear, nobody at Giving What We Can was aware of these plans, prior to hearing about them through the understandable backlash generated by the event. This was an event independently organised by students at a university chapter, and had we had any idea that this event, we would have asked them to cancel it immediately.
We will learn from this — we obviously need to be clearer in the guidance that we give to our student chapters, to avoid something like this happening again. As a rapidly growing organisation, it hasn’t been possible for us to individually vet all the events that our worldwide network of student chapters. So far, nearly all of these events have been handled sensitively, and have raised awareness and thousands of dollars for charities like the Against Malaria Foundation and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, which do amazing work reducing suffering around the world. We don’t want this to happen again, and we’ll do our best to make sure that it doesn’t.
Giving What We Can is committed to creating an inclusive, diverse, welcoming community, where people from all backgrounds can stand together in a commitment to ending the ravages of extreme poverty. We hope that we can put this incident behind us, learn from it, and continue to work towards our goal of people pledging to give a substantial portion of their income to the most effective charities in the world.