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Humanitarians against humanity

Humanitarians against humanity

Humanitarian and development practitioners have often treated their world weariness with a combination of alcohol, cynicism or despair. Travel on enough missions or work in too many disaster relief contexts, and resisting the Dark Side can be an uphill battle. While advocates such as the likes of Bono and events such as the Global Citizen Festival preach humanity, goals and foreign aid, you’re stuck writing logframes and in uncoordinated cluster meetings, just trying to make it through to R&R.

What if I told you there was a card game for that? All of it. I caught up with the creators of the next big thing in humanitarian card games and asked the tough questions.

In 140 characters or less, what is JadedAid?

JadedAid is the perfect gift for aid workers to be the cynicism they want to see in the world.


Who are the creators behind the game?

TMS Ruge is an honest-to-God African tired of teenagers coming to his community to build their capacity. Jessica Heinzelman is looking for that perfect photo of a Burmese monk holding a mobile phone. Wayan Vota is working through decades of psychological scars from too many squat toilets and daredevil motorcycle taxi drivers.

What was your motivation for collaborating and creating this game?

We see a real need in the Development Industrial Complex (the DIC) to break through the existing power structures and unleash latent grassroots innovation through the catalytic effect of indigenous alcohol and biting satire on community stakeholder dialogs. We believe that current cluster meetings can be radically improved, and systematically more impactful, when development actors accept the need for a triptych of optimism, cynicism and alcoholism in the humanitarian value chain.

Why did you decide to crowdfund, rather than grind out 100 grant applications in the hope of getting the Gates Foundation on board?

From the beginning, we saw JadedAid as an innovative public-private partnership with the potential to be sustainable. By going through Kickstarter, and being funded in less than 48 hours and on track to be a viral success, we are proving that our pilot is sustainable, and we are dramatically scaling through direct participation with our intended constituents.

We also welcome direct donor funding, and as a stretch goal, are in the process of applying to the USAID Development Innovation Ventures funding window, through an Open Source crowdsourced proposal we intend to submit on 25 September.

Clearly, it is inspired by Cards Against Humanity, but is this just replication, for which the aid and development sector is so notorious? Or just some sneaky irony?

We believe that we are following in the time-honoured tradition of replicating programs with different funders, each tailored to its unique context. JadedAid draws inspiration from many word-matching games, such as Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity and others, and the deck will be interchangeable with them, just as many development programs are interchangeable, what with the same logframes, M&E plans, etc. However, JadedAid is a unique game, localised to the aid worker context, and we are further localising it with grassroots design parties around the world.

Veteran aid and development professionals can be quite jaded. Can the SDGs really be achieved with such cynicism, or is a dose of humour needed?

We believe that the SDGs can only be achieved through a triptych of optimism, cynicism and alcoholism, and we believe that JadedAid supports all three goals by reminding aid workers of the joys of their profession, offering a safe space for their cynicism and reinforcing socially acceptable opportunities to get pissed.

Is nothing sacred in the game, or have you left some people and organisations out of your crosshairs (e.g., Malala, who is seemingly untouchable)?

We are actively soliciting card ideas, and we don’t want people to go up to the line and stop. We want them to pole vault over it to find the photogenic rape victim that their marketing department demands, as even the most demented card ideas are coming from real-life experiences, like being asked to find the closest training venue to the capital that qualifies for per diem.

Is there a Buy One Give One model like TOMS Shoes? I want an extra packet to go to a poverty-stricken village in Africa.

Of course we have a BOGO model! Backers in the USA can have one deck sent to them, and the second sent to a poor aid worker without home leave anywhere in the world. For humanitarian sponsors outside the USA, please choose the International Shipping Reward and have both decks shipped to you. Sadly, international shipping isn’t cheap, and someone should really investigate the Post Office overhead rates!

How will JadedAid end extreme poverty?

JadedAid will end the extreme poverty of its founders, who hope to achieve the rich experience of upgrading our lives to become donor organisation staff and never have to write a damn proposal again, but instead issue Requests for Proposals before most major holidays and summer breaks. Then extend the deadline when we’re too lazy to respond to questions in time.

If Bono were to review this game, what would he say?

We thought we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong. As a rock star, I have two instincts, I want to have fun, and I want to change the world. I have a chance to do both with JadedAid As an artist, I see the poetry of it. JadedAid is so brilliant. “Development is ridiculous. It’s absurd. In the past, U2 was trying to duck that. Now we’re wrapping our arms around JadedAid and giving it a great big kiss.”

Every era has its defining struggle, and the fate of Africa is one of ours. It’s a proving ground, for the idea of equality. But whether it’s this or something else, I hope you’ll pick a JadedAid card and get it.

You can support their KickStarter campaign and get your very own pack or two. 
ja_photo_cardsFeatured image shows JadedAid cards. Photo from the creators.

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Brendan Rigby

Managing Director & Co-founder at WhyDev
Brendan is an education specialist and co-founder of WhyDev. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education exploring complementary basic education and the literacy practices of out-of-school children in northern Ghana. Formerly, he was an Education Officer with UNICEF Ghana, and Director of Venture Support with StartSomeGood. Brendan has also been an education consultant and trainer for Plan, UNICEF, ScopeGlobal and the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. He is obsessed with tea, American football and karaoke.

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