*Podcast available on googleplay, iTunes, and podcast apps like Castbox.

WE, EWB, and Doing Harm by Trying to Do Good

CW: abuse, institutional violence


Aakhil Lakhani and Chelsey Rhodes, two of the co-organizers of Total System Failure, talk about the WE Charity scandal and draw comparisons with EWB.  They refer to Boris Martin (above left) and George Roter (above right) as the “Kielburgers of EWB.”

To kick off the episode they discuss the reception of Chelsey’s recent profile of Aakhil’s experience at EWB, in Briarpatch Magazine: “What do we do when humanitarians are the disaster?”

They go on to discuss labour issues in the nonprofit and charitable sector, the use of unpaid internships, lack of employment protections or union representation, and abuse in the workplace.

Chelsey draws distinctions between isolated or seemingly disconnected “victim narratives” versus a larger political critique, the latter being the intended focus of Total System Failure. Aakhil emphasizes that sexual harms in these organizations are connected to a larger culture of supremacy that operates globally.

They also discuss EWB’s ties to the mining and extractive sector; the myth of Canada’s foreign benevolence; NGOs’ relationship to the crushing of dissent; and EWB’s refusal to critique the engineering profession and their role in globalizing capital, militarism, and unfettered industrial development that is harmful to people and planet.

The episode concludes with a discussion of how to shift from a traditional aid model to mutual aid or reparations, and the urgent need for more people to speak up about these issues.

Hosts: Aakhil Lakhani, Chelsey Rhodes

For more info: www.totalsystemfailure.org

Musical theme: by Buda Bap Beats https://www.instagram.com/budabapbeats/