Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Scaling Dignity: An Antidote to Poverty?


Cite this article:

2020 EPIC Proceedings p 86, ISSN 1559-8918,

PechaKucha Presentation—A wise woman once shared with me that the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth. It’s dignity. In a world where scale is about optimising for something bigger, faster, easier, broader and more profitable, we risk decision-making that is at odds with preserving, enabling and enhancing human dignity. What if we changed our focus to instead work out how we scale human dignity?

This PechaKucha draws on my career across consulting, social enterprise and academia in geographies from Sydney CBD to rural Uganda and highlights three moments where I experienced dignity that I believe can scale.

Through the telling of stories it shows glimmers of how we can choose a definition of scale that preferences dignity. It can look like making space for a chicken gift, enshrining dignity in our organisational values and structures and building question-asking muscles.

If we believe that the opposite of poverty is dignity, then scaling dignity is an antidote to poverty. And it is within our hands to make choices that consciously value dignity when designing research processes, organisations, products and services of our collective future.

Keywords: Dignity, Poverty, Storytelling, Scale

Lorenn Ruster ( is a social justice-driven strategy consultant, intrapreneur & applied cybernetics student at Australian National University’s 3A Institute, interested in the intersection of technology, cross-sector collaboration, impact, systems change & human compassion.