This is an update that we are officially winding down the project and moving on to other things. We won’t be publishing a written report as we were unable to raise the funds to do so, and frankly, don’t feel like it. (*Chelsey is working on a PhD on these topics so the work will continue in a sense).
We began in early 2019 by attempting to chronicle the dysfunction of the development NGO Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB), as a case study of sorts but also as direct action aimed at changing the toxicity, systemic abuse and discrimination at EWB. The project took on an amazing momentum, which was great but also became rather challenging: the form of the project kept shifting and changing at a fast pace as collaborators came and went, as new information was reported and leaked to us, and as the institution resisted change (i.e. the backlash kicked in). It was a challenge to keep up with organizing, let alone documenting or analyzing what was happening in real-time.
I think we were all a bit stunned as the issues quickly spilled outside the bounds of EWB into multiple other organizations: various charities and NGOs, ‘social change’ consultancies, media organizations, legal and PR firms, and most recently, several political parties (the Ontario Liberal Party and the Green Party of Canada). It has become overly exhausting trying to deal with a litany of rapists, rape apologists, bystanders, harassers, misogynists, racists, bigots, bullies, fraudsters, etc etc etc., and the utter refusal by people in charge of these organizations to deal with these issues appropriately or at all (probably because they are often the ones doing these things). We’ve watched multiple cover-ups take place before our eyes, well-known leaders lie and manipulate those around them, and respected organizations engage in outright corruption. It has been rather retraumatizing to have each new organization we encounter repeat the exact same mistakes over and over and over. So much for social change!
A lot of things are unravelling right now, in the world… it’s okay to take a step back and take a rest sometimes. We’re still working on stuff, just not so publicly.
We may continue with the podcast when the mood strikes us, as we’ve found these conversations really rich and valuable.
Thanks again to all those who helped us along the way. We’ve learned a lot about the contours of institutional violence and effective forms of resistance, and formed networks of support that will outlast and outsmart our oppressors.
The Total System Failure team