I Should Care Why?… A Humanitarian Consultant’s Conundrum

I just finished watching Madam Secretary’s season finale and am struggling with the emotions of it. If you haven’t read any of my other posts, you may not know that I am the humanitarian of the group, the one obsessed with humanitarian aide, disaster relief, and international relations. For those who follow each of us individually it should come as no surprise that I watch Madam Secretary religiously. Monday nights are a big deal in our house when we watch it on demand. This season they have addressed many of the big issues and they outdid themselves with the season finale. In this episode, they deal with the possibility of nuclear winter from escalating US-Russia tensions and the tenuous condition we have lived in for over 50 years of mutually assured destruction.

Last year I worked on a project for a for-profit company. This is not an anomaly, I work on a lot of for-profit projects as a consultant. This one in particular really tried my humanitarian sensibilities. During the worst of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey we were getting berated for what to me seemed like trivial issues. In light of human suffering, how does one care? I struggled. Hour after hour as I helped with coordinating the efforts to man the radios to ensure that people were rescued and read emails from work about seemingly all issues. As hard as it was, I worked through those feelings in that moment enough to maintain my composure during the next explosion from the client about not liking the page layout or something else minor in the scheme of the suffering happening in Houston. I wanted to scream at them. Why couldn’t they see that people were suffering? How was selling more stuff to people really that important? Why weren’t they doing anything to help when they had products that could?

As a consultant that works primarily with for-profit customers, some days I find myself struggling with the question: ‘why should I care?’. I don’t have a good answer. As I contemplate the season finale of Madam Secretary, I am thinking about this again even if my current projects haven’t spurred this question lately. How does the humanitarian survive in the for-profit world of Salesforce?

I’m still sorting out those answers for sure so if you have the magic answer, please let me know. In the mean time, I focus on what I can do to help others within the Salesforce community and my community in general. I do that through being a user group leader for the local NPO user group. This gives me a platform to help other non-profits make the most of their Salesforce investment. We just finished meeting one of a four part series on process automation. I think it was one of our best meetings yet as I feel like we really empowered everyone in the room to really be able to go back to their org and make a difference with workflows. I can’t wait for meeting number two on process builders. I help non-profits with implementing and improving Salesforce outside of our non-profit user group. And when volunteer opportunities and other “projects” come up where I work, I refuse to be quiet when well intentioned but misdirected projects are proposed. Nonprofits do not need misdirected assistance but few will turn it down and ultimately it will cost them more. I have been on the receiving end of this type of assistance and it costs time and money that nonprofits do not have.

So why should I care? In the face of human suffering, how does what I do every day make a difference? I struggle with this every day. But at the same time, over the last few years I have come to realize, without businesses it’s a lot harder to alleviate suffering. Businesses bring money and money brings opportunity. So I guess that will have to be why I care. But don’t ask me to work for certain companies. I just can’t rationalize my humanitarian side with the actions of certain companies, including one a friend was asked to do a project for. My humanitarian sensibilities just can’t do it. Having been asked to compromise my morals once at a nonprofit in the name of alleviating suffering despite it violating international standards. I left that position shortly after and would do that again. So what does one do when one is confronted with human suffering in the midst of a world of capitalism as a Salesforce consultant? For me, that means ‘keep on keepin” on as long as I am not crossing the barrier of doing more harm than good. And if you figure out a better answer to the conundrum of being a humanitarian in the world of Salesforce consulting, let me know.


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