Understanding helping

This is my ‘helping impact graph’ to help me understand ‘helping’ as an activity in its own right. The y axis is the number of people helped. And along the x axis is the amount of help provided, with further to the right being more help.


Low impact helping

The bottom left corner is small number of people helped in a small way. Although it says in my sketch ‘Don’t want to be here’, it is actually ok to help a single person in a small way, so ignore that. This is the kind of helping we all do every day. It’s holding the door open for someone or telling someone they dropped their purse. This is also the kind of helping charities rely on. They have systems in place to aggregate and amalgamate the small amount of help from lots of people (whether it’s donations, fundraising, volunteering, etc) to increase the impact helping.

The median line of impact

Drawing a line from the top left corner to the bottom right corner gives us the median line of impact. This is the balance between helping lots of people in a small way or helping fewer people or one person in a big way. I think my four ‘programmes of helping’ sit along this line.

High impact helping

The top right quadrant is where an act of helping that helps lots of people in a big way is placed. This is high impact helping. It’s a difficult thing to achieve. I guess an example of a single person providing high impact helping might be a millionaire donating lots of money to a worthy cause, or perhaps the Buddha who has had a big positive impact on lots of people (although not directly which calls into question whether the graph should show direct and/or indirect impact).

In trying to understand helping and the impact of helping it brings up the twenty year old question of ‘the evangelist or the monk’. The evangelist goes out into the world to take an active approach to helping, whilst the monk retreats from the world to avoid having a negative impact. Neither is any more right or wrong than the other, but which has the highest impact?