Prometheus…Teach a Man To Fish

For all of those who may be wondering about the title of my blog, you are in luck. I will explain exactly what the Prometheus Effect is, but first who is Prometheus?

As some may know, Prometheus is a Greek god (a Titan to be exact). I could bore you by telling each story about him and how he ended up tied to a rock where his liver was eaten by an eagle all day and regenerated at night… but I’ll get straight to the point. Prometheus is known as the great philanthropist; he loved humans. He cared for the humans. He even defied the other gods and suffered for the humans (no wonder he is commonly depicted as Christ-like in paintings). The reason why I love Prometheus so much is because of the way he thought strategically. He knew the humans were suffering and he could have easily given them food, water, or some other material goods that would have provided temporary relief, but he was much more clever. He decided to steal fire from mount Olympus. Fire? Why is that any better than food or water? What he did was brought them light, and this gave them something that would enable them to help themselves. By simply giving them food or water (which would run out) they would have become dependent upon the gods to provide for them, but that obviously wouldn’t last long.

So what exactly is the Prometheus effect? As modern day philanthropists and activists fight to end global poverty, something just isn’t working. Global poverty is one of the longest, broadest issues prevalent among mankind. Perhaps we need to shift the way we think about poverty. As the Chinese proverb implies, you can give a hungry man a fish, or you can teach him to catch it himself. We need to think about which choice is more effective. Bringing water bottles to Africa might actually be counterproductive. I believe that when attempting to aid those in poverty, we should approach it as Prometheus did. Create a macro solution instead of a micro one. Changing entire villages opposed to feeding a few families. If all philanthropists had the mindset of Prometheus, I believe the strides being taken to end global poverty would be much more effective. We have to think on a higher level. Go beyond the small things and think about the whole infrastructure. Instead of just bringing them water why don’t we come up with a sustainable innovation to filter clean water and pump it all over the area. Maybe even hire a couple hundred laborers from the area to build the structures. Providing jobs and creating a system to deliver clean water- two birds, one stone. That is what the Prometheus Effect is all about.


I understand that there are many organizations doing amazing things and I do not mean to neglect the fact that many people are taking great strides to help. The people who are bringing gallons of water to Africa are doing great things and there’s nothing that brings me greater joy than knowing people are trying to do good. Every bit of aid being provided IS helping, we just have to direct their help in the right direction.