Ethical Decision-Making and Grassroots Diplomacy: Women’s Co-Op


  • 35% of the children in this East African region have stunted growth.
  • If children are breastfed for too long they have a higher chance of contracting HIV
  • Maize and banana gruel is the common food for babies starting around 2 months to 24 months and accompanies breastfeeding
  • The gruel isn’t that nutritious despite common opinion among the locals
  • People are skeptical of the pesticides and the adverse health effects these pesticides can give to the babies
  • You have a grant to establish a women’s cooperative to improve the nutritional status of the children and improve the livelihoods of rural households.
  • The funds will help the women’s group make a nutritious self stable porridge to help children wean off breastfeeding.
  • Approximately 500 women in the area are willing to join
  • WHO says to breastfeed exclusively until 6 months
  • The longer someone with HIV breastfeeds the more likely they are to transmit their diseases to their child


  • Children at breastfeeding age: are not old enough to understand their stake in this situation, thus have no needs other than food
  • Lactating mothers: want their babies to grow up healthy, want to prevent them from getting health complications from HIV, pesticides, malnutrition, etc
  • Other Women: they may be in the women’s cooperative making the porridge as part of the project, potential employment opportunity with the cooperative, will want their future children to be healthy
  • Women’s cooperative Grant Donor: Want women to be healthier, want their money to go towards a productive venture (worthy investment)
  • You as a researcher: want to make everyone happy, professionally need to develop a successful co-operative
  • Local Farmers: your crops may be used to produce the porridge that will be created with the women’s cooperative, you will make money
  • Doctors: want healthy communities, want to be equipped in the case of new health problems arise because of pesticide use?
  • The future co-op: motivated to stay open, be useful – help women, make money

SOLUTIONS to this ethical question: “Is it okay to add a risk of childhood sickness from pesticides in order to lower the risk of HIV/AIDS”

  • Triage system to diagnose mothers with HIV before birth
    • Ethical Principle/code: Utilitarian
    • Useless to prevent against HIV if the baby gets it during the birth process
    • Pros: HIV can be better monitored for women, helps to ensure that the baby does not get HIV, women who test positive can seek treatment and help stop transmission
    • Cons: added task to medical staff
  • The current solution is: Fortify the current gruel with vitamins and minerals but has a problem with pesticide use
    • Ethical Principle/code: Virtue –  process also matters too
    • Pros: would sufficiently replace breastfeeding and meet nutrition needs
    • Cons: wouldn’t eliminate women’s skepticism. Would still have pesticides
  • Eliminate crops in the porridge that have a higher risk of pesticide harm i.e. utilized covered crops like pumpkins, bananas for making gruel
    • Ethical Principle/code: Utilitarian – the greatest good for the greatest number
    • Pros:  Simple, no added cost or big change of process
    • Cons: Fewer nutrients from losing various other foods
  • Create a protocol that people can follow to properly wash crops
    • Ethical Principle/code: Virtue
    • Pros: Helps reduce amounts of pesticides left on crops, creates healthy habits, could prevent ingestion of harmful bacteria left on crops
    • Cons: even with the wash, there may still be pesticides present on the crops, people can get sick if the protocol isn’t followed properly
  • Look into pesticide chemicals and decide if there are “cleaner” pesticides or more natural methods for getting rid of pests
    • Ethical Principle/code: Duty
    • Pros: less toxic pesticides used=not as harmful effects on the body, pests likely won’t destroy crops as much as no pesticide use
    • Cons: there is already a negative connotation regarding pesticides people may not believe there are “cleaner” pesticides
  • Recruit specific farmers that practice safer growing w/o pesticides
    • Ethical Principle/code: Duty
    • Pros: it could support local business and keep the economy strong in the community, it would eliminate the stigma around having food made with produce grown with pesticides. We could get a deal with a farmer for cheaper prices
    • Cons: these farmers might not be able to handle the amount of produce required



Combination of FIRST and LAST Solution – The combination of these two solutions would attack all of the necessary problems: it educates women, creates more job opportunities for farmers and educators, eliminates pesticides from the production of gruel and makes it more marketable.


  • Women can protect their children
  • We would want to start with a small population whose health clinics have the infrastructure, time and money to screen mothers for HIV
  • Women will know their HIV status, minimizing the HIV transmission rates
  • Provide education on what steps they should take if they have been diagnosed HIV positive
  • Supporting the local economy
  • Creates social mobility
  • Educate farmers on how to grow top quality produce without pesticides





  • Business is thriving
  • Women work for nine hours a day and make about $3
  • Women save time traveling to market (and $)
  • Happy with the coop and the sense of identity
  • Women turn over their money to men in the family
  • Men waste the money
  • One of seven members of the leadership council
  • Have six months left on the committee
  • Committee wants things to change
  • A patriarchal society where men have say on money
  • Though the cooperative is thriving, it is not achieving the twin social outcomes of improving the nutritional status of children and the livelihoods of rural households.


  • Cooperative women
    • Personal: they want the money to be used for their children. If they speak up, they might be subjected to domestic abuse.
    • Professional: they want their hard-earned money to be put into good use.
  • 7 women on committee
    • Personal: they want their fellow women to have control over their paycheck because “girls stick together”
    • Professional: same thing but as committee members, they want to do what’s best for the cooperative
  • You as the entrepreneur
    • Personal: the morally good person in you just wants equality
    • Professional: you want the grant that went into creating the cooperative to be used wisely
  • Children:
    • Personal and professional: they want and need healthy food to grow up healthy
  • Husbands, brothers, fathers
    • Personal and professional: they want that extra pocket money to spend on useless shit that will give them a good reputation among their men friends and have that cultural capital for socializing.
  • Grant donors
    • Personal: they want to empower women
    • Professional: they want their money to be used well.


Potential Solution: The choice to take a certain number of gruel products and $ per day

  • How does it solve the problem?
    • Pros: controls money flow going home, gives women choice to just take food for kids if that’s what they want and is needed
    • Cons: the husband might be angry that not as much money is coming home
  • How does it save face of those involved?
    • Gives mothers the option to what they want without confrontation with husbands
    • Implications on relationships
    • Short-term: confused husbands, might be frustrated
    • Long-term: adjusted, even distribution of food for kids and money for family when needed or want it
  • Implications on the venture
    • Short-term:  supports women instantly for wants
    • Long-term:  further advertise food in local community

Potential Solution: Women receive vouchers instead of money. The vouchers can be used to buy coop food

  • How does it solve the problem?
    • Pros: Money gets spent on food for the children, women in control of voucher and how it gets spent
    • Cons: Husband mad that there isn’t any extra money coming in, the voucher can’t be put towards other goods needed (can only get food), does not support women selling food in markets (only within the co op)
  • How does it save face of those involved?
    • Puts blame of money distribution on the co-op, not the women
    • Implications on relationships
    • Short-term: women are protected from unfortunate consequences
    • Long-term: animosity and backlash
  • Implications on the venture
    • Short-term: ensuring women are getting food to feed their children
    • Long-term: principal-agent problem and company store logic

Potential Solution: Have events where the women can bring their kids to work and pay for the kids’ lunch out of their wages — “Daycare”

  • How does it solve the problem
    • Pros: women will be able to pop in and see their kids, the kids will have access to nutritious food, the women will have control over some of the money to feed their kids
    • Cons: school aged kids might not be able to participate because of school
  • How does it save face of those involved
    • The women won’t have to stand up to the husbands but still make sure their kids get good food
  • Implications on the venture
    • Short-term: could potentially be a financial burden to pay for caretakers/find space to house a lot of kids
    • Long-term: shows that the venture is very family oriented, doesn’t separate women from their children, makes sure that their employees families are well fed



The best course of action would be to host a daycare. I chose this option because it saves face of the most amount of people. The women still get to bring home money for the husbands (won’t end up fighting about loss of wages) but they also get to spend more time with their kids during the day, and buy nutritious food for their kids as a mid-day meal. It also creates more jobs in the community and reflects positively on the co-op.


  • Same amount of wages
  • Some wages spent directly on meals for kids
  • Nutritious food available for kids
  • Able to visit kids during work day
  • Avoids confrontation with husbands

Grassroots Diplomacy Case Study

To start out, here are the facts of the case:

  • Jack is an American student working on a social venture in Kenya for 5 months
  • International donor organization donated gifts
  • Jack lives and interacts with kids at the youth center
  • Jack works with the staff at the youth center
  • Jack handed out gifts
  • Kids thought Jack provided the gifts
  • Jack was thanked for the gifts
  • Four children did not get gifts
  • Those four children got black hats unceremoniously 
  • Staff does not think there is an issue
  • Kids are resentful of Jack
  • Jack wants a good relationship with the kids and the staff
  • Staff thinks Jack is creating a problem out of nothing
  • Staff is worried Jack will act out of line


Here’s the problem: Jack wants to make a good impression on the children and the staff, but is in an uncomfortable situation as he is being blamed by 4 children for not giving them gifts. The staff is also worried about an outsider come in for a short period of time and criticizing them either rightfully or wrongfully about their professional choices. 


These are the stakeholders involved in this case:

Jack: He wants wants to be seen as a good person and for both the kids and the staff to like him. Since he will be working there for a long time, he wants to avoid an uncomfortable living and working environment filled with tension. 

Youth Center Staff: The staff doesn’t want an outsider (Jack) to look down upon their work. THey see the mishap with the gifts as a trivial matter. They want to keep good relationship with Jack to preserve relationship with his institution and not to let a trivial thing take over their valuable time and resources.

Kids that didn’t get gifts: They feel slighted by not getting gifts as ceremoniously as the rest of the kids. They want to feel just as important as the other kids

Kids that got gifts (secondary stakeholders): They might tease the other kids, they might feel more important


What are Jack’s options? 

Drop it and do nothing. Trying to resolve the issue makes it into a bigger deal than it has to be.

  • Pros: The issue doesn’t keep getting brought up, he would save face with the staff, the kids will probably forget about it over time,
  • Cons: The 4 kids may be upset
  • Implications on relationship: the relationship with the four kids may worsen, the relationship with the staff will remain the same
  • Implications on venture: the staff will continue to help them out with the venture

Jack wears a black hat: makes the kids feel special and that their gift is cool

  • Pros: makes the kids feel special and that their gift is cool, doesn’t require much effort and doesn’t require any awkward conversations
  • Cons: other kids that didn’t get black hats might feel left out, kids that did get black hats might not think Jack is cool so this does nothing

Give the 4 kids a bit of extra attention

  • Pros: doesn’t single them out in the eyes of the staff, gives them a little something to hold onto– they’ll feel special
  • Cons: other kids might feel left out if it’s not subtle enough, might feel like overcompensation


If I were in this situation, I would wear the black hat. I would be the only person involved so it doesn’t put a burden on the staff. This approach assumes that the kids think Jack is cool. I think that this is a valid assumption because in general, younger kids look up to older kids. I would probably only wear the hat for a couple days, but this would be enough for the kids to see it and feel a little special when they could match the cool foreigner.

Ethical Decision-Making

This week we were prompted with a scenario with the following facts:

  • There is a disease-causing pathogen in the research area that locals and researchers are both aware of
  • Over the span of 2 weeks, researchers (11 in total) want to test the water to understand the life-cycle and characteristics of the disease-causing pathogen
  • The affected community has 75 families and 500 people in it, with people traveling to the water sources frequently for water
  • The researchers would need help finding the different water sources, and getting information about where and how the water is stored
  • There are expectations that the research would be published
  • There are hoped that this research could help develop treatments for the water

One of the main ethical dilemmas that the researchers are facing include “is it ethical to conduct this study?” I think that it is ethical to conduct this study because there is almost nothing to lose by conducting this study and almost everything to gain. This study also does not directly study humans, so it faces a different level of scrutiny. Another ethical dilemma the researchers face is the question of “Are we exploiting people for their time and knowledge for our own gain in publication, notoriety, and the potential for impact?” and “Is it ethical to perform research without delivering some form of solution or aid?” To answer these questions, I looked into the stakeholders and their motivations.

  1. The researchers are interested in completing their research, getting their work published, and creating a social impact.
  2. The people drinking the water in the community are interested in safety, and increasing quality of life of the community members.
  3. The people who are helping the researchers find the water sources are interesestd in getting a clean source of water, safety for the fellow community members, but also some sort of perk or compensation for their help.
  4. The community health workers are interested in the research because the research could lead to water treatment that leaves their community healthier, they will be able to do more of their normal job (not as CHW), and they might get some prestige from working with a foreign source.
  5. The government is invested in this research because it will give them an increased knowledge base about their community, it could improve safety for their people, politicians can leverage this as political capital to gain votes, and it could be beneficial economically.
  6. The home research institution of the researchers is invested in this project because if the researchers are successful in getting published, then the institution will also get recognition for the work that their researchers completed.


Given all of the different stakeholders and facts about this research project, I think that the best course of action would be to go to the community leader and talk to him about the research project. The leader will be able to point out water sources on a map as well as connect you with good guides. The researchers would pay the guides the going wage for labor. This option would put the researchers in good standing with the community leader and encourage their guides to work well and thoroughly. It also would streamline the data collection process.  The only con I can forsee would be if the guides take longer than necessary to do their tasks.

Other solutions could be the following:

  • Potential solution: Compensation for time spent away from main source of income (pay for time lost—hourly rate almost, pay for an extra worker at the person’s job)
  • Pros: Works of a macro scale, people may be more willing to participate, we are easily morally justified in the eyes of peers back home
  • Cons: IRB may discourage compensation for participation in study, people may give us biased information, we need to develop a payment structure for the individuals helping us.


  • Potential solution: Not paying at all – the community can self-select who should come/who’s time it’s worth to spend on this
  • Pros: It gives the decision to the community members
  • Cons: You might not get someone who has the most insights, can help the most, or can speak the best English, might get someone who isn’t super invested


  • Potential solution: Offer to carry one of the jugs and tag along when the person is collecting their water
  • Pros: don’t have to pay, building camaraderie by working together not just alongside
  • Cons: people might still expect something, researchers might be imposing on a cultural thing—it might be the only time that the women get to spend time just with themselves, might limit the number of water sources the researchers get to see, takes time away from getting all of our data