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.

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