Jack and the Four Hats

In class this week we discussed grassroots diplomacy. One topic that stood out to me was the concept of saving face. This basically means that an individual is trying to lessen the social or political burden that he or she may have faced. Obviously, that did not make sense. Here is an example: In Sierra Leone, we had several issues working with the Health Projects Director of World Hope International. Instead of calling him out and compromising our relationship, we copied his boss on the email! This saved face on both sides. We were able to accomplish our goals while maintaining a friendly relationship with this individual.

This week we focused on a case study around these topics and ethical decision making. Here is the prompt below. I am going to follow the same steps as last week’s blog post.

Step 1: What are the facts and what decision needs to be made?

  • Jack is American
  • Kids are in charge of handing out gifts
  • The staff have not acknowledged the problem, they think it’s a “trivial” matter
  • The 4 kids who received hats are angry at Jack
  • Jack wants the kids to like/trust him
  • Jack will be in Kenya for 5 months
  • Jack works at a youth center working on a social venture
  • The kids think the gifts were from Jack because he was assigned to give them out
  • There weren’t enough gifts for all of the kids
  • The staff members want Jack to solve the “problem”
  • All the gifts were labeled and assigned to the kids

Step 2: Problem and Stakeholders

We know that Jack is an American that is working at a youth center. It can be assumed that he is a volunteer. There are several issues at play here. First, the donor sent gifts for the children but four of them did not receive them as ceremoniously as the other kids. For this reason, they are upset at Jack and he because Jack is working there for five months, he does not want his experience to be made difficult. Second, Jack is both personally and professionally invested in his work at the youth center evidenced by his concern that the children were upset at him and that he was not sure how to proceed with his colleges. Third, Jack’s superiors do not want jack to be a “child rights activist” here and tarnish the reputation of the youth center. They do not see this issue as a problem.

The larger issue at hand is whether or not Jack should do anything about this issue. On one hand, if he does take matters into his own hands he will be looked down upon by his superiors while the kids will be happy. On the other hand, if he does nothing, the kids will be upset while his superiors will continue to think that there is nothing wrong.

I think it is interesting that in both cases, jack wants to “save face” as much as possible. How might he reduce social and political losses? This issue is extremely important to two stakeholders: Jack and the children who received the gifts unceremoniously; this can affect Jack’s ability to perform his job effectively in the next five months.

Step 3: Who are all the key players in this situation and what are their personal and professional motivations?

  1. Jack:
    1. Professional: Jack wants to have a great relationship with the kids that he is working with every day. He is there for five months so he wants to reduce the amount of strife he is faced with each day. Jack wants to also have a good relationship with the staff at the youth center. It is important to him that he is able to effectively do his job without creating a problem within the organization
    2. Personal: Jack feels that he is at the center of the issues that are arising. In the kid’s eyes, he is to blame and in the youth center’s eyes, he is a potential risk. He wants to deescalate the issue before it gets any larger. Jack also wants to be a good person. In his eyes, the children deserve some sort of compensation.
  2. Youth Center:
    1. Professional: They are used to the way things are. They do not see a need for any change to be done. They also blame Jack for creating a larger issue out of nothing and are concerned that he would tarnish the image of the youth center in the long term.
    2. Personal: The youth center did not have any obvious personal motivations other than not creating unnecessary drama.
  3. Children who did not receive their gifts ceremoniously:
    1. Professional: The children do not have any obvious professional motivations. Their main issue is that they wanted to be given the gifts ceremoniously. It did not matter what the gifts were, just the way they were given.
    2. Personal: The children felt wronged by Jack specifically.

Step 4: What are some solutions that could be done? What are the short/long term implications and how does it affect the stakeholder’s relationships?

Solution 1:

  • Using a utilitarian lens, Jack should not do anything at all. Jack has already given these kids hats and if he did anything else, it would show favoritism towards those kids. In this situation, we are trying to maximize the amount of utility or happiness in the long term. The children will forget about not receiving the gift ceremoniously and jack avoids any trouble he may have gotten in while being a whistleblower for a non-issue. Jack will face hardships for the next week with the kids because they will be mad at him. However, that does not outweigh the fact that Jack is also saving face with the youth center staff. He is still looked at favorable by the staff and does not cause any excess issue. In the long term, all stakeholders are happy and Jack should have a positive relationship will all parties at hand. In addition, no extra resources were used in this solution including time which is beneficial both in the short term and long term.

Solution 2

  • Using a deontology lens, Jack should go out of his way to purchase gifts to give to the children and hold a ceremony to deliver these gifts to the four kids who got hats. The children who previously felt left now feel included. This solution has a complex variety of issues at play. First, while the children who got hats originally feel happy the other who did not receive an extra gift may feel bad because they did not get something extra. Second, Jack is using his own time and money to get these gifts and would likely have to disrupt the operations of the youth center to do another ceremony. Third, Jack saves face with the kids who got the new gifts because they trust and appreciate him. He loses face with the staff because he took time out of the already scheduled day to do this and may have created an issue with the other kids at the center. In the short term, the children and Jack are happy while the center is upset at Jack. In the long term, this problem will likely happen again and Jack set himself up for going out and buying more gifts. He also compromised his relationship with the center staff as they did not think this was an issue.

Solution 3

  • Using an absolutism lens, Jack gives the other kids who did not receive gifts leadership roles in the youth center. This makes the kids feel good about Jack and they would not view Jack as badly as before. In this situation, Jack saves face with all parties involved by not escalating the situation with the staff and appeasing the children. The issue with this case is that he does not solve the issue at all. He puts forth more energy to appease the kids with no guarantee that they will be responsive to his efforts. In addition, he may create a sense of mistrust between all children and the staff there.

Step 5: Seek outside help: My group asked Khanjan what he would do and he said that the Utilitarian approach would be the best. We spoke about the need for Jack to understand his role and cultural norms. While he loses some face with the four kids in the short term the other two solutions create precedents that could be maleficent in the long term.

Step 6: Solution 1 is the way to go: Solution 1 provides the most effective solution when understanding cultural practices. In this case, Jack saves face with the staff who are ultimately most important to Jack in the long term. Unfortunately, Jack will have to face strife between these four kids in the short term, they will eventually get over it. It is important to not as seen in my fieldwork experience that there is significant donor fatigue in this space. Sometimes there may be gifts to hand out, sometimes there may not be enough (or any at all). The youth center staff understand this, and Jack does not understand it. By doing nothing he reduces the risk to the children by not building up their expectations in the future and solidifying his relationship with the center staff.


Step 7: Actionable steps: For this solution, Jack does nothing. There are no clear steps other than carrying out his normal day to day tasks.


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