Great Stories, Partners, Philanthropy

What WestJet Did Right

In the last 2 days WestJet, a Canadian airline with a similar strategy and culture to SouthWest in the United States has generated an enormous social media response, and a lot of tear filled tissues, with this year’s holiday video. It’s well worth watching. The Dominican community they show is one I’ve visited several times. I recognize both faces and places. I have walked those streets and met those people. I know some people will bring a skeptical bias to this thing. It is in some ways a publicity stunt I suppose and no doubt WestJet is hoping it draws customers as well as “likes”. There is room for asking some questions. North Americans showing up in a struggling village a sleigh full of gifts the local folks simply couldn’t afford and then filming a party together for corporate promotion lends itself to the kind of critique books like When Helping Hurts do very well. Isolated acts of extravagant gift giving tend to offer more in good feelings to the givers than meaningful impact in the community. That’s why I’m glad WestJet also released a second video: For those who missed the line at the start of the first video, WestJet has been doing projects in Nuevo Renacer for several years. Their partner (and ours) Live Different have been there frequently for even longer. They know every person you see in the video, they understand the complexities present, and they took on this project not as a one time glory story, but as a legitimate celebration of an ongoing transformation that is truly rooted in what the local people are doing for themselves. So, enjoy the video. Shed a few tears. And trust that it is only a glimpse into a much more involved and more joyful process that is a whole lot longer than the six minutes or so you get to see.