Nice and Ineffective

Let us put an end to people, organizations and communities being really nice, but ineffective. Inappropriately trained and nice is no way to solve a complex social issue. Well-intentioned uninformed people remain uninformed people. And all the niceness of the world does not take us even one step closer to solving a complex social issue.

Shame on any industry that confuses having a big heart with having a big head. Don’t know the theoretical underpinnings of one approach to service over another? Stop practicing. Don’t understand how to collect and use data to evaluate and inform practice? Stop practicing. Don’t know the main currents of thought and practice and how to execute that knowledge? Stop practicing.

Or start learning. Please. A really big heart may be killing people.

Today in your city, if I were to go to an emergency room, I bet there would be people in a waiting room of some sort. Goodness, I hate that. It is so sad. Don’t worry. I have seen my share of House, MASH, Doogie Howser, and ER – plus I love TLC medical shows. I will throw on a lab coat or some scrubs and go down and start practicing medicine immediately. No? What do you mean I should be trained first? I have had my gall bladder out and my appendix, plus my hip has been reconstructed. I am a person with lived experience. Not enough expertise? But c’mon, people are suffering there waiting. No? You want standards of care? Certification of expertise? Years of practice and experience? I am NICE, dang it! I care! No? Not enough? Huh.


Yet arguably there are people experiencing homelessness, economic poverty, domestic violence, housing insecurity, immigration hardships and the like in your community that have deeper, more in-depth needs that the folks that I would encounter in an emergency room. And who do you turn to for help? Sadly, in too many cities, well-intentioned, big-hearted but untrained volunteers and untrained staff. Well-intentioned but uninformed people. There is no doubt in my mind this makes matters worse, not better. It exacerbates the complex social issues. It ruins people’s lives when people try to provide service when the service providers are untrained. When someone confuses “common sense” with “education, practicum experience, and standards of service” we are essentially suggesting that we don’t care if people receive quality, professional services to alleviate their issues.

And what happens? People get worse, not better. Voluntary responses grow, not shrink. People get band-aids instead of solutions. I think it is about time we invested in the services people deserve and invest in professionalizing services rather than remaining nice, but ineffective.

About Iain De Jong

Iain is a playful nerd, hellbent on ending homelessness, increasing affordable housing, creating vibrant communities, and expanding the knowledge amongst leaders that influence social issues. Having held senior management and professional positions in government, non-profits, and the private sector, Iain has a wealth of experience and has garnered dozens of awards for his work across Canada and internationally. His work has taken him across Canada, the United States, and to Australia. In 2009, Iain joined OrgCode as its President & CEO, and in 2014 assumed full ownership of the firm. In addition to his work with OrgCode, Iain holds a part-time faculty position in the Graduate Urban Planning Programme at York University.

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