Helping people help themselves

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As a self-help refers to the principle that puts the action underlying that the emergency suffering people (z. B. the destitute , the patient ) to enable them to help themselves and themselves help to organize.

Help for self-help in development cooperation

Unlike even decades before some will donate funds these days are used to in developing countries to create jobs, desert areas to utilize that infrastructure to improve and promote local industries. The aim is to enable people to build a better quality life for themselves.

A special form of help for self-help are loans ( microcredits ) to families who lease and work on a piece of land with the money or who set up a craft business themselves. When they have earned enough, they pay the money back (in installments). Small loans are often used by non-governmental organizations in the form of in kind awarded such. B. of seeds, chickens or goats, whose products and offspring serve both to supply and to repay the loan. The best experiences were made with the award to groups of women who proved to be more reliable than men in caring for their families. Natural produce also circumvent the major problem of the completely inadequate infrastructure in many African countries, which minimizes the marketing opportunities for small farmers. Some development organizations give the loans to development committees of five to ten villages each, which decide for themselves how the aid should be used. Such self-administered projects concern hygiene, latrine construction, well construction, care for orphans, education about HIV / AIDS, school attendance for children, reforestation, etc. They are a means of meaningful and sustainable help for self-help. Development cooperation exists on a direct personal level between European development workers and villagers in developing countries. The fact that projects are increasingly being led by those affected themselves and by local project managers is an expression of the tendency towards helping people to help themselves in development aid / development policy .

Help for self-help in medicine

Here, helping people to help themselves can mean that the treating doctor gives the patient tips on prophylaxis or further treatment . In addition, the patient can obtain information about his illness from brochures , medicine books and self-help groups . However, this is only possible if he has an insight into his state of illness. The book Where There Is No Doctor occupies a special position here , which in developing countries - where there are often only one, two or three doctors for every 10,000 inhabitants - is intended to enable laypeople to provide competent medical help.

Help for self-help in education

Even with Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1824) the basic concern of a pedagogy that enables people to help themselves can be found. When imparting knowledge and skills, Pestalozzi strives to develop forces with "head, heart and hand" that are naturally inherent in the students. At the beginning of the 20th century, this is also the motto of the reform pedagogue Maria Montessori (1870–1952): "Help me to do it myself. Show me how it works. Don't do it for me. I can and will do it alone. Have patience to understand my ways. They may be longer. Maybe I need more time because I want to make several attempts. Dare to make mistakes, because I can learn from them. "

Help for self-help in psychology

A psychologist or psychiatrist can also help the patient help themselves by giving them advice, handing out brochures, or instructing them in relaxation procedures.

Help for self-help in social work

Helping people to help themselves is an important guiding principle in many approaches to social work . The person to be helped should therefore be helped in such a way that they can cope with the problems in their life again (“can help themselves again”). Among other things, the concept of family classes is based on this. This idea can be found z. B. already with Alice Salomon, nowadays z. B. also in systemic and lifeworld approaches. Helping people to help themselves was also criticized in social work, e.g. B. from the perspective of governmentality and system theory as a paradox (and neoliberalist) invocation or expectation.

Support groups

Nowadays there are self-help groups for many diseases and disorders , e.g. B. for overweight , bulimics , people with speech disorders and various disabilities . There are also self-help groups for relatives .


A more advanced approach are empowerment strategies (self- empowerment ) and psychoeducation .

Help for self-help in the social security code

The tasks are described in Section 1, Paragraph 1, First Book of the Social Code as follows:

“The law of the Social Security Code is intended to create social benefits, including social and educational assistance, in order to achieve social justice and social security. It is intended to help ensure a dignified existence, to create equal conditions for the free development of the personality, especially for young people, to protect and promote the family, to enable a livelihood through a freely chosen activity and special Avoiding or compensating for the stresses of life, also by helping people to help themselves.

The principle of subsidiarity must be observed: Social assistance is subsidiary, which means that all other social benefits take precedence and social assistance only occurs as a “makeshift” (ultima ratio, last resort).

See also