The making of Jaded Aid a card game for disillusioned humanitarians on Shin Fujiyama Podcast with Jessica Heinzelman and Teddy Ruge


In today’s episode, we have Jessica Heinzelman (“a white woman who doesn’t discriminate against lovers based on race”) and Teddy Ruge (“an educated, angry African–a rare species in the development sector”). They are the founders of Jaded Aid: A card game to save humanitarians (Wayan Vota, the third co-founder, couldn’t make it for the call). As friends, they loved to drink and laugh together. And all three worked in the international development aid sector.

One day at a bar in Washington, DC, the three founders realized that existing power structures and humanitarians’ propensity to take themselves too seriously were inhibiting honest dialogue about the industry that could catalyze transformative change for improved results.

They decided to create a card game similar to Cards Against Humanity, except that this one would be for development workers, created by development workers.

They used Kickstarter to fund the idea. Within 48 hours they surpassed their goal, eventually raising $50,000+ on the platform. They were featured on several news outlets and sales began to climb.

As a humanitarian who has worked in Honduras since 2007, one card in the deck made me laugh out loud: “giving up any hope of a stable relationship.”

Learn how these founders created Jaded Aid to help the development industry… all the while making beer money and having fun.

Show Links

Show Notes & Summary

  • They crowdsourced the card idea to the online community of aid workers
  • They received more than 2,500 admissions for card ideas
  • They held design parties to get feedback
  • User-centered design
  • Jaded Aid is fashioned very similar to Cards Against Humanity
  • There is a donor card (a statement with a blank or question) that is read out and recipients submit their proposals to answer or fill in the blank using the recipient cards
  • Jessica talks about the process they went through to come up with their cool logo, a play on the USAID logo and the donor-industrialization of the industry. Also the black, bleeding heart inherent cynicism of the industry
  • How the three co-founders divide up their roles despite their busy lives
  • “It helps that we’re friends first and co-founders second.”
  • Why friendship makes the working environment vibrant
  • If you love it enough, you’ll make the time
  • When overachievers find something that is fun and worthwhile, they’ll figure out a way to do it
  • The co-founders see Jaded Aid as a side hobby. They all have other full-time jobs
  • “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” LOLOL So true!
  • It’s harder get the stuff done that’s not fun, like how to move product around
  • Jessica explains what a design party looks like for Jaded Aid, where there are lots of people and alcohol. They ask for feedback and watch for reactions and get people to weigh in what they like/dislike
  • The expansion pack coming out soon has the theme: Peace Corps
  • Themes on violence and sexual assault were deemed “too much” and were tossed out
  • Their $50,000+ Kickstarter strategy was simple: Wayan
  • Within 48 hours they had reached their funding goal
  • Jaded Aid was featured on many major news outlets despite not having tried that hard to get their attention
  • The founders had tapped into a particular sentiment of frustration in the industry that nobody else was willing to talk about. They were addressing a taboo and doing it in a funny, real, and approachable way.
  • Once you get one major media captures your story, the other media sources jump on the bandwagon to not to miss out
  • The cards can take you to some crazy places and the combinations are nearly endless. They can be benign, uncomfortable, outrageous, squirm-worthy
  • The Diva Cup is a menstrual cup that can be re-used
  • Shipping through Diplomatic Pouch Services
  • Jaded Aid ships internationally, although it can be expensive
  • It’s a very dedicated and loyal market but not huge enough to make Jaded Aid profitable enough for the founders to work full-time on it. It’s enough for beer money.
  • The founders want to be a part of the effort to change the industry. They love their work and the humanitarian in themselves and want to help the industry pivot for the better
  • They want to act as the trigger for conversation, innovation, and improved impact in the industry
  • “Here are the problems. Let’s discuss them out in the open.”
  • They can’t ever stop working in the development industry though, since they have to keep generate new ideas for cards lol