In this though-provoking talk at the NextGen:Charity conference, Sasha Dichter of the Acumen Fund shares the results of his month-long “Generosity Experiment” where he said “yes” to every request for help. I’ve also put his comments below, where he explains his motivation for his actions.
I enjoyed this talk immensely, but what struck me is the need to describe our emotional decision making process – for some of us, the reflex is to say ‘yes’ to everything, without putting thought into whether or not we are giving our time, our energy or our money to really reflects our own beliefs or values.
To be totally clear, I don’t think I should tell people whether or not to give to the homeless. The homeless person to whom I didn’t give was a catalyst for me, and during the month, while I did give to homeless people I also gave to nonprofits that sent me mailings, street musicians, etc., in addition to tipping much more generously in restaurants, taxis, coffee shops, etc. My goal was to change my orientation towards everything, not just to people asking for money on the street.
My own reflection was that I had come to a point where saying “no” had become a reflex, and I felt that I’d become disconnected from the humanity of the person asking for help. That didn’t feel right for me, and the generosity experiment was a chance to kick myself to a different place where my first reflex was yes.
I don’t think everyone should say yes to everything every time – and I certainly don’t. I do think, however, that striving to be fully human, open, vulnerable and present when I’m asked for help (something I strive for but certainly do not always get right) is something worth pursuing, that that it makes me a better person.
Some more thoughts here: http://sashadichter.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/the-generosity-muscle/