The term "beneficiaries" no longer used?

A current discussion in humanitarian work is the call to stop calling recipients of humanitarian assistance "beneficiaries". How would this translate to nature conservation? Your thoughts are appreciated.
The term "beneficiaries" no longer used?
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I am following a current discussion in humanitarian work whether the term "beneficiaries" should be used for those who are recipients of humanitarian assistance. Perspectives include that this term can lead to the assumption that the recipient is passive and that the aid provided was beneficial. Encouraged alternative terms included "participants" or "affected communities". Are you, as an individual conservationists or within your conservation organisations currently having similar conversations? Which terms are you using that you could share? Thanks for your help!

Please find some perspectives that I picked up on below. 

Words by Rahul Mitra, Humanitarian Lead for Oxfam in the Pacific :

Simply put, the word "beneficiary" implies that an individual or a community is a passive recipient of aid, and that the aid provided was beneficial. Oftentimes, these are both incorrect assumptions to make. Additionally, referring to a recipient of assistance as a "beneficiary" upholds power dynamics and does not promote systems of accompaniment where the group needing assistance is seen as an equal to those providing it. Let’s remove the word "beneficiary" from our vocabulary and instead use words like “participants” or "affected community" or "affected population".

Other people, who work in nature conservation responded to this message. For example, Barbara Nakangu, Programme Manager, Voices for Climate Change-WWF NL:

I also cringe when I hear the words "we help them" by development workers, it connotes a saviour mentality. I rather words like "partner or work with" to acknowledge people's dignity and agency.

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Go to the profile of Frank van der Most
about 2 months ago

Check out the RINGO project, which is all about what is behind such idiom when it comes to internationally operating NGOs. https://rightscolab.org/ringo/

A couple of weeks ago they had a very interesting and inspiring festival/conference about the project's outcomes and experiments.

Go to the profile of Thirza Loffeld
about 1 month ago

Thanks for sharing this useful resource, Frank! What was your main take-away from their festival/conference about this project's outcomes? 

Go to the profile of Frank van der Most
about 1 month ago

The project is trying out interesting ideas and the experiments, as they call them, seem to be promising. I am very curious though what happens when it comes to 'scaling up', when not everything is under the close inspection of these experiments anymore. From what I read, I understand that the people involved are curious about that too, so I am trying to keep track.

Go to the profile of Eden Plummer
about 2 months ago

I thought that stakeholders was used? I've never seen beneficiaries used in nature conservation

Go to the profile of Lize Gibson-Hall
about 2 months ago

There is a really interesting discussion on why some organisations are also no longer using stakeholders which has been added by @Molly Maloy. Check it out here :) 

Go to the profile of Adyasha Nayak
about 2 months ago

I have been encouraged by senior professionals to use 'community partners' or 'participants' in conservation projects. Interesting enough, I have been part of conversations that 'stakeholders' should be removed from use, since the term implies a business-like power dynamics.

Go to the profile of Thirza Loffeld
about 1 month ago

Hi Adyasha, thanks for adding your thoughts; useful context that you shared about the term 'stakeholder' implying a business-like power dynamics. Have you been able to ask your community partners about which term they prefer themselves perhaps?

Go to the profile of Lara Reden
about 2 months ago

This is a fascinating and challenging problem! Words often express a power balance (intentional or not), so it can be hard to avoid offending somebody. I'd like to see more on the topic.

Go to the profile of Thirza Loffeld
about 1 month ago

Hi Lara, yes, I agree. Thanks for adding your thoughts and let's keep this conversation alive in our community with the aim to improve our terminology in conservation. 

Go to the profile of Thirza Loffeld
about 1 month ago

@Kay Farmer  and @Katie Heffner : perhaps that the above is of interest to you? Which term do you generally use or recommend to use in this context? 

Go to the profile of Kay Farmer
about 1 month ago

I have been following this discussion here and elsewhere. ASAP is based on on a formalised partnership system so uses the term 'partners' and does not use the term beneficiaries. I have seen some organisations use the term 'partner' more loosely. Also some organisations use 'stakeholder' but again there I know there are problems with that word as well. I also recently listened to a discussion about moving away from the term 'in the field' and this is also included in the BONDF document  https://www.bond.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Bond_Decoloinising-and-depoliticising_updated-2022.pdf

Go to the profile of Thirza Loffeld
about 1 month ago

Hi Kay, Many thanks for sharing this useful resource, much appreciated. Also good to know that ASAP uses the term 'partners'. On a different topic (and you may already have seen this), this other resource published by @Chloe Hodgkinson may be of interest to your ASAP partners: https://wildhub.community/posts/webinar-recording-leadership-transition-for-building-resilience

Hope you're well and wishing you a good holiday season!