"Total System Failure" Report

News/ updates available on our website:http://www.totalsystemfailure.org/category/total-system-failure-news/
Podcast: http://www.totalsystemfailure.org/category/podcast/

UPDATE July 14, 2019: 

We have completed Phase I of the project! We have mostly self-funded the project so far, and would appreciate your help offsetting the ongoing costs of our work. 

The report, when completed, will be open access and available as a free download on our website. 

Please consider supporting the project by donating a few $$ here! 


"Total System Failure"
is the working title for an independent (i.e. no institutional funding or affiliation) research project on abuses of power, systemic harassment, and cover-ups in the humanitarian aid, development, and NGO sector.

While we are focused broadly on issues in the sector, our current work in early 2019 focuses on the organization Engineers Without Borders Canada (https://www.ewb.ca/). All project team members have been associated with the organization in past, as staff or volunteers. Many of these issues and dynamics were present within the organization and this can help to form an important case study.  

The central question we will explore is why development and aid institutions or those claiming to be committed to "systemic change" are unable/ unwilling to deal with their own institutional violence, and what does that mean for their work and impact more broadly?  We will focus on collecting stories and testimony, and interviewing staff, ex-staff, and volunteers within the sector, as well as academics, critics, and others associated with this work.  

These are issues being grappled with by many institutions and communities, from academia to government to activist collectives to religious and spiritual communities.  #metoo (started by Tarana Burke in 2007), #aidtoo, #metooSTEM, and related movements have profoundly changed the landscape and have forced some long overdue accountability, while centering and connecting women and other survivors of these abuses and helping us develop long-term strategies.  

Please see this link for more information on the project: http://www.totalsystemfailure.org/about/ 


Phase I (April 2019 - July 2019; completed)


Travel, accommodation

Establish an online anonymous survey

Interviewing and Data Collection

Lit Review

Create Podcast- recording, editing, theme music

Budget: $10,000

Phase II (Aug 1-  late fall ) 

Writing ! 

More podcasting 

Report design and self-publishing

Budget: $10,000 


The main contact for this project is Chelsey Rhodes: http://www.totalsystemfailure.org/our-team/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chelsey_rhodes 

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/totalsystemfailurereport/ 

To get in touch or participate in the project please contact: total.system.failure.org[at]gmail.com 
or chelseyrhodes008[at]gmail.com.

Donations (0)

  • Thomas Tresser 
    • $50 
    • 2 d
  • Tara Lehan 
    • $50 
    • 1 mo
  • Aspen Murray 
    • $20 
    • 4 mos
  • Catie Hickman 
    • $200 
    • 5 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $50 
    • 6 mos
See all


Chelsey Rhodes 
Calgary, AB
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