Introducing The Max-Neef Model


You might have wondered, why T|H. Aren’t there enough shelters in London. Isn’t it enough, if people generously gave more money towards people in need and doesn’t it help, if I buy a homeless fellow some food for the day?

Why would someone start a whole brand and even more weird, a modelagency to support people affected by homelessness? Where does that idea come from and what will it actually help and support. Why is T|H the answer to a bigger scale problem. In the Uk and London, but also international.

In this post I want to introduce you to the Max-Neef Model and how T|H combines it with their own brand and worksystem. Luckily we have smart people like Manfred Max-Neef, on whos studies we now can rely and build on.

It is incredible to see, what kind of people walked before us and how much results are already there and ready fo us to take and learn from and yet we don’t take the time and keep doing the same mistakes over and over again.

Manfred Max-Neef is a Chilean economist who has worked for many years with the problem of development in the Third World, articulating the inappropriateness of conventional models of development, that have lead to increasing poverty, massive debt and ecological disaster for many Third World communities. He works for the Centre for Development Alternatives in Chile, an organisation dedicated to the reorientation of development which stimulates local needs. It researches new tools, strategies and evaluative techniques to support such development, and Max-Neef’s publication Human Scale Development: an Option for the Future (1987) outlines the results of the Centre’s researches and experiences

Max-Neef and his colleagues have developed a taxonomy of human needs and a process by which communities can identify their “wealths” and “poverties” according to how these needs are satisfied.


Human Scale Development is defined as “focused and based on the satisfaction of fundamental human needs, on the generation of growing levels of self-reliance, and on the construction of organic articulations of people with nature and technology, of global processes with local activity, of the personal with the social, of planning with autonomy, and of civil society with the state.” 

The main contribution that Max-Neef makes to the understanding of needs is the distinction made between needs and satisfiers. Human needs are seen as few, finite and classifiable (as distinct from the conventional notion that “wants” are infinite and insatiable). Not only this, they are constant through all human cultures and across historical time periods. What changes over time and between cultures is the way these needs are satisfied. It is important that human needs are understood as a system – i.e. they are interrelated and interactive. There is no hierarchy of needs (apart from the basic need for subsistence or survival) as postulated by Western psychologists such as Maslow, rather, simultaneity, complementarity and trade-offs are features of the process of needs satisfaction.

Max-Neef classifies the fundamental human needs as: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, recreation(in the sense of leisure, time to reflect, or idleness), creation, identity and freedom. Needs are also defined according to the existential categories of being, having, doing and interacting, and from these dimensions, a 36 cell matrix is developed which can be filled with examples of satisfiers for those needs. 

T|H Models aligns with the Model of Max-Neef, as we believe, that people that are stuggeling with homelessness and poverty need more than just shelter and food. A lot of people face a total break down. A healthy human as we see it has a whole range of needs to be satisfied to be able to feel a deep satisfaction and happiness. The goal we are settign ourselfes is not the easiest and fastest to archieve but the most sufficient and productive one. As a society we want depend on each other and need to be willing to face the issues we carry in the time we live in. 

This model forms the basis of an explanation of many of the problems arising from a dependence on mechanistic economics, and contributes to understandings that are necessary for a paradigrn shift that incorporates systemic principles. Max-Neef and his colleagues have found that this methodology “allows for the achievement of in-depth insight into the key problems that impede the actualisation of fundamental human needs in the society, community or institution being studied” 

This model provides a useful approach that meets the requirements of small group, community-based processes that have the effect of allowing deep reflection about one’s individual and community situation, leading to critical awareness and, possibly, action on the local economic level.

Source: Human Scale Development: Conception, Application and Further Reflections – Manfred Max-Neef [1989]