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Carla Nyquist

Carla Nyquist
Personalised Aid
Faculty of Social Sciences
Friday 27 January 2017

Data collection for the extent and characteristics of personalised aid in the Norwegian society

This project focused on collecting quantitative data on personalised aid initiatives in Norway, as part of Hanne Haaland and Hege Wallevik’s wider and ongoing research on the concept. Personalised aid, or homemade aid, is typically characterised by individuals that engage in smaller development projects in the south. The initiators choose to engage directly and often rather immediately instead of supporting the more established NGOs. For this project, I retrieved information on localised and personalised projects through systemised searches in Atekst retriever; an interactive collection of printed local and national newspapers. The goal was to establish a better idea on the scope and extent of personalised aid.

This project focused on collecting quantitative data on personalised aid initiatives in Norway, as part of Hanne Haaland and Hege Wallevik’s wider and ongoing research on the concept. Personalised aid, or homemade aid, is typically characterised by individuals that engage in smaller development projects in the south. These initiators will collect resources, often from personal networks at home, and donate these to aid recipients in the south. The donations, often small, can be monetary or practical, and the projects themselves are rarely recognised as part of the official aid system. The projects are often connected to specific socio-economic problems or humanitarian emergencies based on personally identified predicaments. The initiators choose to engage directly and often rather immediately instead of supporting the more established NGOs. This allows for a personalised and instant connection between the initiator and the receiver, based on the formers own perceptions of, or experiences with, a humanitarian issue. Even though these initiatives are usually loosely organised and small in scope, some of them expand over time, and transitions into more permeant and established projects.

The phenomenon was recently visible during the refugee crises as seen with the participation among civil society in engaging with smaller and self-produced help initiatives. Some individuals left Norway with funds, often collected through facebook and personal networks, with the goal of helping refugees in affected areas. Personalised aid can also become the result of previous travels and experiences, engagement with volunteer work, or personal relationships and associations to the forthcoming project. It can have a religious connotation, an entrepreneurial drive, or simply be the materialisation of someone’s personal morality, generosity and urge to help. Globalisation and social media are closing the informative distance between the north and the south, making humanitarian issues ever more visible.

For this project, I retrieved information on localised and personalised projects through systemised searches in Atekst retriever; an interactive collection of printed local and national newspapers. The goal was to establish a better idea on the scope and extent of personalised aid. As there is little official information on the range of these small projects, local newspapers were examined as they frequently catch up emotional stories of initiatives that may not be registered elsewhere. The search words were designed to identify relevant stories within the ‘jungle of aid’. These words included the Norwegian equivalent of ‘started+ ‘help (or humanitarian) organisation’ and ‘collected or crowd fund + orphanage (or poor). The searches focused on the years between 1990 and 2016. The collected material was arranged based on a project’s start-up year, the name and cause of the project, the gender, age and educational background of the initiators, the receiving countries, and the potential motivations based on the interviews. The collected data material, consisting of 356 individual cases, was exported and organised into an Excel sheet.

The personalised aid projects discovered were many, varied and widespread, going from sporadic to more linear engagements with the recipients. The variety of backgrounds of the initiators reflects the sporadic and uncontrolled nature of personalised aid: anyone can do it, despite previous experience or knowledge of the projects purpose. The uncontrolled nature of these scattered initiatives may question their sustainability, even though many seems to be going on for quite some time, strengthening their organisational structure in the process. The most interesting part was the stories themselves, revealing how initiators wants to help directly with a hands-on approach to the DIY-project. A desire to do good and to help was indeed mutual to most of the cases.   

It has been great to learn more about the ‘new’ concept of personalised aid. It will be interesting to see how these project and small organisations will sustain, and how the bigger NGO’s will operate around them. As a student, new to quantitative research, this has been a valuable and highly appreciated experience, and I am looking forward to Haaland and Wallevik’s continual research on the subject.