For years, I’ve resisted the TOMS Shoes craze. It wasn’t just because the early shoes look like slippers, but because it seemed to perpetuate an out-of-style paradigm of charity.
But today, the shoes I’m wearing proudly display the blue and white TOMS flag. I’ve finally joined the tribe and I have to admit, these shoes are really comfortable and way more stylish shoes than anything I’ve ever owned. More importantly, I finally feel good about supporting them. Here’s why.
The philosophy of TOMS Shoes—buy a pair of shoes and give one to a child overseas—sounds good.
But I’ve seen enough bad results in the wake of good intentions to know that giving stuff is never the solution to global poverty. We’ve seen how indiscriminate charity ends up hurting the local economy. It puts local producers and sellers out of business. And it creates unhealthy dependency.
And what happens when shoes wear out? You now have a community that no longer has local producers or sellers.
Simply stated, handouts tend to create dependency in the long term and can actually undermine a local economy (read Uncharity).
But now, TOMS Shoes is changing their approach. And I’m dancing in my new shoes.
TOMS Shoes will open a shoe-manufacturing business in Haiti this January. 100 Haitians will be on the payroll. It’s a small step. Yet it’s a huge change in the company’s approach.
They recognize that the greatest good might not be the shoes they give away, but the jobs they create.
TOMS Shoes has pledged that one-third of their shoes will be produced locally by December 2015. For more of the story, read “TOMS Shoes rethinks its ‘buy one, give one’ model of helping the needy.”
So today I’m proudly wearing my TOMS and celebrating the jobs they’re creating.