Refugee Crisis: When Strategy and Humanitarian Impulse Go Hand In Hand

            For an organization as sharply focused as Share Our Strength is on our No Kid Hungry campaign in the U.S., one might ask if our recent grant of $100,000 to organizations dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis is “on strategy”. It certainly is. That’s because while our priority now and for the last 8 years has been our No Kid Hungry campaign, our mission is and always has been much broader than that: to address hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

            Even if that were not the case, there are times when humanitarian imperatives trump blind devotion to strategy.  Sometimes there are events so cataclysmic, unprecedented and unforeseen, that it won’t suffice for only the usual suspects to respond. Rather it will require all of us to extend ourselves beyond business as usual.  It is not “on strategy” for most of us to respond to such events as the Ethiopian famine, Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, and now the refugee crisis. But in each of these, Share Our Strength and many other Americans responded generously. In each case our staff and stakeholders expressed pride that we were willing to extend ourselves in such a way. 

            The New York Times on February 3 published a story called “The Migrant Crisis: No End in Sight” @ http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/02/04/world/europe/migrant-crisis-by-the-numbers.html   The figures are daunting:  67,000 migrants arrived in Europe in January of 2016 compared to 5,000 who made the journey in January of 2015.  The U.S. and European governments have pledged almost $5 billion and it is not enough.  Half a world away, the suffering is hard to imagine. But a few iconic photos move us nevertheless.

            One thing worse than being off strategy is being indifferent. Indifference undermines every aspect of one’s effectiveness.  It is as corrosive strategically as it is morally. In our case at Share Our Strength, there is no conflict between strategy and humanitarian impulse. Both were built into our founding. Both live on today. And both inspire and motivate our colleagues and supporters to aim even higher.

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