Case Study 2: Grassroots Diplomacy

The Facts

  1. Jack is American on a social venture
  2. Jack is at a youth center in Kenya
  3. Int. donor Org. sent gifts for the children at the center
  4. Children are younger than 14, 4 of them did not receive gifts ceremoniously
  5. Jack was in charge of handing out gifts
  6. Jack was thanked for the gifts by the children
  7. Children were convinced the gifts were from jack
  8. Jack is going to be there for 5 months (lots of contact w/ the children)
  9. Children that didn’t get gifts blamed jack
  10. Staff did not care about the children not getting gifts
  11. Staff calls Jack a “children’s rights activist” because they were annoyed that Jack brought up the 4 children not receiving gifts and how he felt awkward

Stakeholders and Motivations

Both: Personal and Professional Motivations

  1. Jack
    1. Both: Wants to be liked by the children/wants them to be happy (save face)
    2. Both: Wants the venture to be successful and to be praised for his work, gain (even more) approval from the university/people backing him
    3. Professional: Wants to keep a good relationship with the center staff
    4. Personal: Wants to be approachable and be able to candidly speak/hang out with the children and center staff during his 5 months there 
  2. Children that got gifts
    1. Personal: Like Jack for giving them gifts, that situation gave him a good first impression
    2. Personal: Think the foreigner (Jack) got them the gifts and will get them more (bringer of gifts)  
  3. Children that did not get gifts
    1. Personal: Want to have the same dignity as the children that received the gifts ceremoniously, don’t want to be seen as “ unworthy” of receiving gifts  
    2. Personal: May think that Jack doesn’t care about them 
  4. Youth center staff
    1. Professional: Don’t want their work to be seen as unfair
    2. Professional: Do not care about the issues of the children, they care about the bigger picture and not about one kid, that didn’t get one gift, one time 
    3. Professional: Want Jack to help the youth center (make a difference) and do the work he is there to do, want his work to benefit the center/community as a whole (not just one child) 
    4. Personal: Want to be seen as people who are doing well and care about the children
  5. Int. donor Org. (Gift funders)
    1. Both: Want to look good, need to uphold a reputation that they are doing good, therefore they sent gifts to the children at this center
    2. Professional: Want to successfully present a nice gesture
  6. University (Jack)
    1. Personal: Want this venture to bring good publicity to the school
    2. Professional: Want the social venture to prosper and their funding to go to good use
  7. Parents of the children
    1. Personal: Want to send their children to good youth center that cares about their children
  8. Locals (Will hear about situation from parents of children)
    1. Personal: Could be expecting parents and may not want to send their children to the youth center


Possible Solutions


  • Jack finds/makes/orders gifts to ceremoniously give to the other children in front of the group


      1. Pros: The children who did not originally receive gifts would be happy because they were validated and got their gifts and ceremony. This act would mend Jack’s reputation/relationship with the original children who were originally affected/received a bad impression of Jack from the first ceremony. This will also make him look better in the parents and communities eyes because the event proves he truly cares.    
      2. Cons: This could cause an issue between Jack and the children who originally received a gift because some children have 2 gifts (black hat and gift) and some have 1 (gift). This will cost Jack money and time both of which could have been used for the venture. In order to pull off this ceremony Jack will need help from the center staff; the center staff already thinks Jack has overreacted and will resent him/dislike him/have a worse impression of him for making them do extra work. This event will also emphasize to the staff that Jack is a child rights advocate and could turn them off to working with him which could potentially greatly affect his venture. This event will emphasize to the children and the children’s parents/community members that Jack was originally responsible for not having enough gifts for all the children.


  • Jack wears a black hat every day (frequently) to make the other children feel special


      1. Solution pros: The children that were originally left out from the ceremony may feel more included, respected, or dignified since the foreigner/adult is also wearing their hat. The issue with the staff is mended with time, tensions from the ceremony will eventually fade as long as Jack leads the movement/makes an effort to move past that one moment. This solution allows Jack to save face quietly, and without confrontation, solving the issue with the children/community and the staff, and avoiding conversation that could potentially come across the wrong way, making things worse. By solving everyone’s adverse feelings towards Jack this solution benefits the venture by allowing it to continue without a bad reputation behind it. 
      2. Solution cons: The children that did not receive the original gifts could still be upset because the hat was not given to the ceremoniously. The children that did not receive the hats could feel left out and think that Jack does not like them/think they are cool because they don’t have a hat. Could result in a divide between the children and the community. The center staff could still hold a grudge against Jack which would hinder collaboration and productivity affecting the venture. 


  • Jack approaches the staff to try and save his own face by suggesting they change their perspectives on working with the children


    1. Solution pros: This straightforward solution will allow both Jack and the center staff to be on the same page when it comes to working with the children and would solve the awkwardness/tension formed from the ceremony rapidly. Would hopefully ease the tension from the ceremony and restart Jack and the center staff on the right foot. Could possibly change the centers staffs mentality to help improve Jack’s experience for the rest of the time he will work there. Could lead to increased levels of collaboration and productivity that would otherwise not be achievable. Could result in a better relationship between the children and the staff, bettering the youth center overall. 
    2. Solution cons: This solution only addresses Jacks issue with the center staff not the children. The children who did not receive gifts could possibly spread rumors about Jack and influence the other children not to like him. this would greatly impact his relationships with the children who he is supposed to be working closely with for the next 5 months, ultimately, greatly affecting the venture. Jacks suggestions could come off as inconsiderate because even though he might be right (it is wrong that only some kids get gifts and others don’t) he truly do not know the constraints the staff is working in and that there are probably way bigger issues than a few children not being presented a gift. This situation of Jack confronting the staff forms sort of a power complex; the staff could feel obligated to do what Jack wants them too because he is a foreigner and it could be frowned upon making foreigners upset. This solution could backfire and completely ruin Jacks chance to save face; he could lose dignity in the eyes of the staff and ultimately lose social influence. All in all, this solution will lead to less productivity and collaboration between Jack and the staff and Jack and the community/children.

Additional Assistance 

  1. Kenyan gift culture: Kenyan Gift Culture
    1. Guests invited to someone’s home may bring a small gift of appreciation.
    2. Common gifts to give are flowers and tea leaves.
    3. In rural areas of Kenya, coffee, sugar, flour, and maize are usually given. These gifts are presented in a woven bag (‘kiondo’ in Kikuyu). The host will return the bag at the end of the visit after placing gifts for their visitor inside.
    4. It is impolite to return a kiondo empty.
  2. American Gift Culture:  American Culture
    1. If you are invited to a wedding, baby showers, bar mitzvah, or other celebration, it is expected that you will bring a gift. Unless you know the host very well, the gift should be modest in value, about $20.
    2. For a wedding, the bride will have “registered” at one or two local department stores, indicating the items and styling she prefers. You can buy the couple a gift that isn’t listed, but most people buy something listed on the registry. If you buy an item listed on the registry, be sure to tell the store that you are doing this, so that the couple doesn’t receive duplicate gifts. For a baby shower, bring a gift appropriate for a newborn baby. For a bar mitzvah, bring a gift appropriate for a 13-year-old boy. Bar Mitzvah gifts tend to be more formal in nature. For example, a gold-plated Cross pen is quite common. Personalizing the pen by engraving the recipient’s full name will be appreciated.
    3. If you wish to give a gift when you leave to return to your home country, the best gift is something that is unique to your country. It does not need to be especially valuable or rare, just reminiscent of your home. Possibilities include a book about your country, an inexpensive handicraft or piece of art, or something else that reflects your culture. If the children collect coins and stamps, they would be very pleased with a set of your country’s coins or a selection of mint stamps from your country. Items that are common in your country but difficult to find in the USA are also good.
    4. If you owe a debt of deep gratitude to an American host family, a common way of repaying it is to take the family to a form of entertainment, such as a baseball, basketball, or hockey game, the ballet, or to a good restaurant.
    5. When giving gifts to a business acquaintance, do not give anything of a personal nature, especially to a woman. Do not give cosmetics. A scarf is ok, but other types of clothing are not. Something appropriate for the office is the best. But gift-giving is not as important in America as it is in other countries, so there is nothing wrong with not giving a gift.
    6. If you need help selecting a gift, talk to a salesperson at a department store. Tell them about the person who will be receiving the gift and the reason for the gift, and they will help you find something appropriate and within your budget.

The best course of action

In order to effectively mend Jack’s relationship with the children who did not receive the gifts and the center staff, Jack should wear the black hat that was also given to the children. Even though the children were not given the hats ceremoniously by wearing the hat Jack will hopefully make them feel included and respected. If the children appreciate this gesture this solution will mend his relationship with those specific children but also the other children and the community members who could have been influenced by these children’s adverse feelings toward Jack. The community members, children and staff will also be able to visually (with the hats) see that Jack truly cares about these children and that he wants to make things right. Jack will insure that the situation does not being clique by only wearing the hat every so often in order to insure the other children do not feel left out. 

With this solution, Jack will be able to mend his relationship with the center staff quickly and quietly. He will also be able to avoid confrontation which could possibly backfire creating more of a misunderstanding/divide between himself and the center staff/community. The staff will realize that Jack cares about the children (from his act of wearing the hat) but also that he respects how the staff felt about the whole situation. If Jack had confronted the staff about the issue or had told them that they needed to hold another ceremony, the staff would resent Jack even more and truly believe that he is a child’s rights advocate. The staff’s attitude toward Jack would radiate onto the communities view of Jack which would ultimately greatly hinder the progress for the venture, leaving him unable/challenged to have candid and professional conversations, but also effect Jacks ability to live and enjoy his 5 month stay in this community. 

In conclusion, this solution allows Jack to save face in a way that minimizes the risks of a misunderstanding that could cause even more distrust, aversion toward Jack and the community (children, parents, center staff). This solution will allow everyone to move on from the event (the gift giving ceremony) and come out of it feeling understood. This will allow the venture to move forward without a reputation/stigma behind it, which could negatively impact Jack in the eyes of his funding source (the university), that could have been formed if Jack did not address the gift giving ceremony incident. 

 Implement the solution 

  1. Jack should leave the ceremony behind him and come into work the next day approaching it as a new slate. (should not be holding a grudge against the staff/try to be petty)
  2. Jack should put on the hat in the middle of the day, nonchalantly. Hopefully, the staff have appreciated and followed suit to Jacks new look on a new day and have left the past behind him. 
  3. Jack should candidly get to know the kids and the center while wearing the hat. Hopefully, the kids who did not receive their gift ceremoniously recognize the hat. 
  4. Jack should continue to work on the venture, with the staff and play with the kids as if no feelings were affected at the ceremony. If anyone mentions anything, Jack should apologize if he negatively affected them in any way and move on. 
  5. Jack should wear the hat for his first few days at the youth center and then wear it periodically to insure the other kids do not feel left out. 


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