As Gillheany rightly says, “reputations are hard to win and easily lost” and it would unfortunately seen that Oxfam has learned this lesson the hard way.
In a week of scandals and controversy, Oxfam have fell further and further down the hole of little redemption and, to be frank, are struggling to pull themselves back up.
It started with a sex scandal that went viral and has since embodied all of the crisis’ an organisation could ever want to avoid: “public and media outcry, criticism from corporate partners, and serious questions from parliament and regulators.” But now the question is: will Oxfam ever recover from this?
After the initial publication from The Times that revealed that several Oxfam workers were regularly paying local prostitutes in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes in Haiti the scandal that has received all of the backlash it ever could have expected – including a condemning from the Prime Minister.
Going from bad to worse, the Cheif Executive of Oxfam came out shortly thereafter and said the unimaginable and compared the outcry of the allegations to ‘murdering babies’ and trying to soften the controversy by saying ‘at least we haven’t done that’. Words fail me as to which member of their crisis management team ever thought it was a good idea to fight fire with fire, or perhaps this was the sole comment of a CEO who really ought to hold his tongue and whom, to put it frankly should perhaps not be in that position at all. Either way – it’s certainly done Oxfam no favors and has led many to question the legitimacy of the charity.
But what can Oxfam expect from all of this?
It is unlikely the Oxfam brand will ever be perceived the same again, I’m a big fan of talking about mishaps and mistakes, but most I talk about are recoverable and are clear one-off’s. But an array of discriminatory comments and unearthed scandals, following one and other in a domino style of despair? I shouldn’t think an organisation – whom, by the way were universally acknowledged for helping people – will ever wholly recover from this and it could even be the dissolution of Oxfam as we know it.
We can certainly expect to see sponsors pulling out in the near future, as well as the shortage of donations and the pulling of government funding – and ultimately, no charity can survive without these three crucial things.
It’s going to take a miracle for Oxfam to pull themselves back from this, it can be done but it would take a lot of hard work and a work of PR mastery – lets wait and see what happens…