Future SEDEs

Future SEDEs were created by Larina Warnock, using behavioral theory, to explain the actions that were most helpful to her in her journey out of poverty.

When we want something to happen, we don't blow words. We blow seeds.
When we want something to happen, we don’t blow words. We blow seeds.

When people think about how to help people in poverty, they often think about acts of charity. Acts of charity meet a “right-now” need. These acts are important for general maintenance of a person or family in poverty, but do not typically move a person or family out of poverty. Future SEDEs are:

Deliberate actions that show an
Expectation for future


Future SEDEs are no-strings-attached actions. The person planting a future SEDE may never know the outcome of the action–and they have to be okay with that. People in poverty are making hard choices every day that others may never have to make and may never understand: choices like whether to pursue an education or stay connected to the friends and family they grew up with, whether to pay rent or buy groceries, whether they can afford to take a job that pays only a few dollars more than their current job if they are going to lose several hundred dollars in food-buying ability.


Future SEDEs show the recipient that they are equal to everyone else in our society. They demonstrate the same level of expectation as they would for a person who was not in poverty, but do so by acknowledging and responding to the person’s circumstances. Often, the equalization is shown by doing something with the person instead of for them.

Deliberate (action)

Future SEDEs are carefully considered and planned actions. They have considered things like:

  • Where is this person right now?
  • What will help this person in the long term?
  • What is the immediate barrier?
  • What barriers are likely to come up in the future?

In this stage, it is important to remember that you’re doing with, not for. Remember that old saying, “Give a man a fish and you can feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you can feed him forever.” Also, remember that future SEDEs are actions. Telling somewhere where to get help is not the same thing as helping someone get help.

Expectation for Success

The foundation of future SEDEs is that they show the person that someone expects them to succeed. Acts of charity become enabling in part because they show people they are needy and aren’t expected to stop needing. This is where Vroom’s expectancy theory comes into play. According to expectancy theory, if a person believes that the outcome of their effort will be positive, they put more effort into their work. If they believe the outcome of their effort will be negative (losing food stamps because they got a job) or neutral (having rent one month with no way to pay it the next month), they aren’t motivated to do their best. While the theory was meant to explain workplace behavior, it can also help us understand why our current approach to poverty isn’t working.

Want to know more? Hear how future SEDEs helped Larina in her journey through poverty by listening to her speak at TEDxRoseburg on Saturday, July 29th.