Fundamental Needs - getting to the underpinning needs of society

It can be a tough question to answer - what are the needs of people? Yet it is important that it is answered well, as simplifying or generalising about need can lead to interventions too simplistic, too impersonal, to be effective. People are complicated and no matter where you are in the world this doesn't change.

Traditionally, when people look for a framework or reference on need, they refer to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. This gives an idea and structure to what motivates people in terms of need and some insight into what happens when those needs are not met. Although useful to consider, I have not found it adequate for showing the range of needs that are addressed by charities and social enterprises, especially innovative ones that address multiple needs through their work. Instead, I now use a framework that Manfred Max-Neef and his colleagues developed, called Fundamental Human Needs i.e. a summary of the basic needs of all humans, anywhere, at any time. It does not use a hierarchy, apart from recognising the most basic being subsistence, and instead formulates needs that are interrelated and interactive.

We use this framework for the Roccha Guide to underpin and help people understand that there isn't a simple straight forward solution to many of the problems in society, rather there are usually a multitude of needs that are needing to be addressed at any point in time. Needs are not discriminatory - all humans have basic needs, and anyone at anytime can need help. It also helps to explain the incredible range of support that our small Guide organisations provide - often with very few resources and fueled by the love and care of the people that work in them.

I encourage all charities and social enterprises to embrace this framework, to help articulate their impact and to counter pushes to monetarise or quantify their value. The best work I have seen carried out by people is felt and seen by the people that have been supported - it is there that we can see the true benefit of an organisation. It is there that the lives have been changed and communities improved for the long term.

Fundamental Human Needs Framework - Roccha Summary

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