22 Apr

I’ve talked about Gifts-in-Kind – that notorious GIK – a number of different times on this blog. And of course I’m not the only one. Alanna, Saundra, Bill & Laura, and plenty of others have also voiced critique of GIK programming at different times.

It’s not that I’m patently against GIK. There are instances when it works and works well. And just to be clear, in this post I am talking about the kind of GIK that comes new by the palate or container or ship load from the corporations that manufacture and distribute it as their core business. (I am patently against shipping loads of miscellaneous used stuff to disaster zones for relief distribution.)

It is a reality that relief programs in the field need stuff. Those relief supplies, those NFIs, all the component parts of all of those different kinds of kits we hand out. All that stuff has to come from somewhere, and if someone can give it to us to save us from having to buy it, then so much the better. And so, on the face of it all, there is most definitely scope, in theory, for GIK arrangements to work out very well.

For me it all comes down to two main principles. In my opinion, if you can deliver GIK within these parameters I don’t have an issue:

GIK cannot (or should not) drive program design. Programs need to be designed based on evidence gathered through assessments, surveys and the like. The data – that evidence – then tells you what is change is needed and, by extension, what kinds of stuff are needed.

Do your assessment. Understand the needs. Plan an appropriate response. The need for GIK is driven by what’s needed to implement the planned response. Not the other way around.

Defining field needs in terms of the GIK on offer is bad aid, straight up. Don’t do it.

We need what we need. We don’t need something kind of like the thing that we need. We don’t need something totally different but that, with a little or a lot of imagination, could be used to sort of serve the same purpose as the thing that we need. No. We need what we need.

Don’t take inappropriate or substandard or just plain the wrong stuff just because it’s available.

8 Responses to “Gifts-in-Kind…”

  1. Michael Keizer 22 April, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    Can I add a third parameter? The GIK should not, in the end, be more expensive than giving the money. The reality is that, taking into account cost of shipping and handling, it is often more expensive to send the stuff over than to buy it locally or regionally.

    Perhaps surprisingly (although probably not to logisticians) it can even be more expensive to deal with GIK than to buy the exact same items in the same country as where they are donated. A longer explanation of that one is forthcoming on my blog.

    • J. 22 April, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

      That’s a great point, Michael. I’d planned to go there in a second, follow-up post. But it sounds like you may be saving me the trouble😀

      Look forward to reading your update!

  2. zenpeacekeeper 23 April, 2010 at 12:47 am #

    And do you both think that the lost opportunity to buy in-country should be a factor?

    This is a topic that I’m getting tired of explaining over and over and over again to well-intention people, so thank you for your clarity. Now, if only I could get all the folks who don’t read development blogs to read this.

  3. Matt 29 April, 2010 at 9:06 pm #

    The people behind Toms shoes have been doing this for a while….

    Do you think this is in the same category?

    • J. 29 April, 2010 at 9:34 pm #

      oy-vey. Probably.


  1. The unkindest cut: why gifts in kind are often a bad idea – Logistics for health and aid - A Humourless Lot - 24 April, 2010

    […] limited number of narrowly defined situations. Over at Tales From the Hood, J. has come up with two preconditions for GiK to be acceptable: they should fit programme design (instead of vice versa) and they should […]

  2. Another GIK Start-up: 1 Million Shirts « Amanda Makulec - 27 April, 2010

    […] nation, even if you think it could be helpful. Read the post on GIK (“gifts in kind”) here or in response to the rush to donate ‘stuff’ for the Haitians after the earthquake or this post […]

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