"Total System Failure" Report

UPDATE Feb, 2020: 

We are still struggling to raise the funds to complete and publish the report.  The subject matter makes it a hard slog emotionally, and the sheer amount of information and analysis requires full-time attention and effort.  We have mostly self-funded the project so far (but are pretty much maxed out) and would appreciate your help in getting this finished and published! 

*On a personal note, Chelsey took some time out from the project to apply (and get accepted!) to a PhD program which she'll be starting in Sept 2020, as well as to focus on recovering her health after enduring quite a lot of retaliation in response to speaking out.  Apologies for the radio silence. 


"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 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/

Our project team: http://www.totalsystemfailure.org/our-team/ 


Phase I (April 2019 - July 2019)


Travel, accommodation

Establish an online anonymous survey

Interviewing and Data Collection

Create Podcast- recording, editing, theme music

Budget: $10,000

Phase II (Aug 1-  ongoing ) 

Lit Review

Analysis and writing

Report design and self-publishing

Budget: $10,000 


The main contact for this project is Chelsey Rhodes.  To get in touch or participate in the project please contact: [email redacted] or [email redacted].

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chelsey_rhodes 

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

Website: http://www.totalsystemfailure.org/  


Chelsey Rhodes
Calgary, AB

Your easy, powerful, and trusted home for help

  • Easy

    Donate quickly and easily.

  • Powerful

    Send help right to the people and causes you care about.

  • Trusted

    Your donation is protected by the  GoFundMe Giving Guarantee.