Please Stop Using the Term “Beneficiaries” in ICT4D
October 24, 2013 Editor 0
We do it every day. We refer to the people we are working with as “beneficiaries”. For years, I used this term as well, but I’ve stopped. I’d like you to stop too.
The definition of the term “beneficiary” means a person who derives advantage from something, usually a will, trust or other financial instrument. The implication is that this recipient is a passive recipient of largess. And somehow, we have adopted this term in development. That the people we are working with should be passive recipients of our financial gifts.
Would you use “passive financial recipients” in talking about development? Then stop using “beneficiaries”.
In technology solution design, it is a standard business practice to work with the clients and customers. In international development we are (or should be) working with people to find ways to accelerate social and economic development. So the term “beneficiaries” should never be used.
If not “beneficiaries”, then what?
When I’ve asked my peers to stop using the term “beneficiaries”, the first question I’m asked is, “Then what term should we use?” I don’t have a perfect answer to the question. I like the term “constituents”, as it can refer to many types of people. “Citizens” feels too constrained as not everyone is a citizen. “Partners” feels too vague and “clients” implies a financial exchange.
But I am not the language expert. There has to be a better term than “beneficiaries”. What’s yours?
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