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11 May


EWB 101: Who is Dorothy?

May 11, 2010 | By |

Orangepedia: The Source on EWB

Admittedly, EWB can be, at times, a hard organization to fathom; partly due to the industry in which we work and partly due to our organization’s approach. EWB doesn’t claim to have the answers to all questions, but rather approaches challenges with a humble servitude ever-learning mindset. As such, things like terminology or even direction, change, and keeping track of them can some times be difficult.

Thankfully, a new tool has recently emerged on the EWB communications scene, named Orangepedia (The Orange Wiki of Change). As the name suggests the website is a Wikipedia-style compendium of all things EWB. The tool “captures the important things you need to know and lessons learned” as contributed by knowledgeable people in EWB communities from across Canada.

We’ve pulled the Orangepedia entry for “Dorothy” into this post not only to introduce Orangepedia as a tool, which may answer many fundamental questions you have regarding EWB, but also to address an EWB-ism with which many new members have difficulty: just exactly who IS this Dorothy?

Dorothy: An Introduction

“I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest (wo)man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, then contemplate if this step is going to be of any use to him. Will (s)he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melting away.”

Even though these words from Mahatma Gandhi were quoted in one of his last notes from 1948, they remain true 62 years later and a central tenet in the philosophy of EWB. In the same way that Gandhi considers the face of this man or woman, in his decision making process, we at EWB, consider Dorothy as who we are working for, and  the ultimate benefactor of our decisions.  As stated in EWB’s newly defined values, ‘We put Dorothy first’.

Dorothy: Our Boss

Quoted directly from Orangepedia:

“Dorothy is our boss. She is the one to whom we ultimately report, and she is the one with whom we partner and work beside. Our commitment to her is enshrined in our charter: “Notwithstanding the various stakeholders – members, donors, management, board, the engineering profession, partners and others – there is one stakeholder who must always come first: the people in the developing communities with whom and for whom we work.” The name ‘Dorothy’ personifies the “stakeholder who must always come first.”

Dorothy represents a development worker that EWB met in our work overseas. We came to see her as a representative of the people with whom and for whom we work. She represents the poor women and men who struggle every day within a cycle of poverty and vulnerability to make positive change for themselves, their families, their communities and the world.

EWB understands the heterogeneity of developing communities, and does not try to represent this reality in the person of ‘Dorothy’. Dorothy is instead a reminder to us of those caught in a cycle of poverty. When we have to make a tough decision or plan, both in Canada and overseas, we try to step back for a moment, and ask ourselves “What would Dorothy think? If we could explain the challenges and tradeoffs of our potential action or inaction, what would she want us to do?”

We feel that everyone involved in human development, and everyone passionate about helping to build a better world will be faced with tough decisions and trade-offs in their personal and professional lives. Keeping someone like “Dorothy” in mind helps keep us focused on the impact of our decisions.”

The above definition of “Dorothy” is admittedly rather generic. Personal definitions are as individual as the members themselves and creating this personal definition is important. Do you have a personal connection with “Dorothy”? Do you agree with this wiki-definition? Let us know by posting a comment below.

To read more about “Dorothy” and other EWB foundational topics, visit the Orangepedia website and browse around. We encourage you to contact us if you have any further questions.