While reflecting on this experience, I was struck with the complementary nature of the needs and provisions of our class and those of the presenters. In each case, the two parties were able to provide mutual benefit by merely exercising their needs! To wit, as members of a class concerned with web-based educational technology, we are in constant need of inspirational, innovative exemplars and opportunities to practice the generation of ideas. This need meshed perfectly with that of our presenters who desired interaction with inspired individuals in order to develop the vision for their projects. Via organization by an outside party (in this case, Dr. Kim), our groups were united to our mutual benefit. Interestingly, this is the very model that I am try to implement in my course project, a description of which is to follow. However, a more detailed description of the concept of complementary needs is merited:
This diagram demonstrates the role of complementary needs in two traditional relationships, as well as a third that I have developed for my project. The top figure demonstrates the traditional relationship between producer and consumer in terms of the complementary needs of income (on the part of the producer), and goods/services (on the part of the consumer). In the marketplace, the consumer and producer exchange respective needs to their mutual benefit. Notably, this traditional relationship tends to exclude vulnerable populations, as it requires that the consumer possess disposable income.
The central figure in the diagram demonstrates the traditional relationship between vulnerable populations and charity organizations. In many cases, the volunteer entity is in need of moral edification, which may be provided by meeting the needs of a vulnerable population. Although this arrangement is accessible to marginalized populations, it hinges upon the continued devotion and resource generation on the part of the volunteer group. Furthermore, such a model does not guarantee the long-term growth of the vulnerable population, as the provisions may only alleviate conditions rather than promote underlying change.
The final figure in the diagram demonstrates the purest form of complementary needs. In this relationship, an outside entity recognizes and joins two vulnerable populations whose needs satisfy each other. Although this relationship is not restricted to vulnerable populations (see the opening anecdote), it offers a unique solution that is both sustainable (the resources, in the form of needs, are endemic to each population) and viable (the strength of the relationship is a function of the continued needs of the populations).
This concept of complementary needs arose while I considered ways to address the educational needs of children with insufficient familial or community support. Both Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Ecological Systems Theory suggest that scholastic success is dependent on a nurturing and supportive microsystem (i.e. the setting in which an individual lives). My insight, and the guiding principle behind my project, is that this need may be met by the needs of another substantial, marginalized population, senior citizens, many of whom are in need of ways to connect to the community at large. These two populations require only a forum in which to exchange the gifts they can freely offer (inspiration, stories, support on the part of seniors; purpose and connection to the community on the part of marginalized children) to satisfy their complementary needs of care, support, and a meaningful connection to the community.