Monday, January 25, 2010


If you click on this link you can read my entries for this odd award with three stories, one from Pakistan about a boatload of donated left shoes, the second when pallets of Milk of Magnesia plagued us in Afghanistan, and finally the donation of iron tablets for our clinic in the Afghan refugee camp to prevent and treat iron deficiency.  Sadly it was mis-labeled and wasn't iron but something else altogether.   The website is called "good intentions".  It is written by aid workers and international development specialists and covers all aspects of disaster, relief and development work.

Worth a look!  Whether you work in international development or want to figure out ways to be of use in situations such as Haiti or, just to check out what we hear from the media.

3 comments:

Sharon said...

A bad idea can never die. From Google reader I see a nice summary and link to the most recent edition of "Foreign Policy". The author describes the problems of giving in-kind aid to to countries post-disaster. He credits the on-line aid community that has enthusiastically provided examples of twisted intentions by citing some of the examples. In addition I want to share this quote:
"However, cost-effectiveness and the marginalization of local markets are not the only worries. When Clowns Without Borders, an NGO that provides free clown-based services to the poor, lands in Port-au-Prince, the main concern is not the harm they might cause to the Haitian miming industry, but whether flying in imported clowns is an efficient use of resources".

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/02/19/how_not_to_help_haiti

Clowns without Borders? It seems almost unbelievable and Monty Python-esque. Humor is so culturally bound and when in the disaster cycle would a clown be the "right" thing and funny.

Wow. Thanks to Matt for his efforts more stories on this.

Saundra Schimmelpfennig said...

Saundra Schimmelpfennig

"Dr. McDonnell,

I really appreciate your thorough comments on drug donations. Would you mind if I included some of it in my post on drug donations?

http://informationincontext.typepad.com/good_intentions_are_not_e/2010/01/donating-medicine-to-haiti.html

I think it would be a great addition to the post.

Saundra Schimmelpfennig

Ms. Schimmelpfennig (maintains blog and ongoing advocacy to improve humanitarian response in disasters). She also provides tool to help individuals and donors choose how to help in disaster settings.

http://informationincontext.typepad.com/about.html

Jane Flink said...

My dear Sharon -- John Brothers' screed on non-profits had me nodding my head, yes yes, yes.  Because I also like going to meetings, I've been associated with several non-profit boards over the last 20 years.  In my experience, each board begins with "pod-forming," a group of people who come together to create an outcome (fewer hungry people, the preservation of the history of an area, etc.) The board that emerges from the pod is formed with cancers intact. The first is that few of those who wish to serve others are also skilled in building financial structures and even understanding profit and loss statements. The second is that the pod will over time dissolve through by-law limitations on length of service or simply the aging of the early members, who are likely to be replaced by individuals who haven't the zeal of the initial pod either alone or together.
The organization I am sadly watching disintigrate is suffering from these cancers. As finances sink and the current board flounders, there are repeated attempts to find the magic fund-raising event that will produce a rush of people with wide-open wallets. John's point about "dressing up" is well taken -- no matter how famous the artist, the opening of an art show is not going to attract masses of givers anywhere outside small groups of extremely wealthy people in large cities.  Monied interests that have giving policies often want more bang for their buck than many non-profits can offer. It doesn't appear to matter a great deal what sort of fund-raiser is devised -- most people  don't want to go from work to an affair, and certainly not to an affair that is going to cost them. And unless there is a space where plaques can be placed on the walls thanking givers, and press coverage is extensive, corporate and other giving is only a dream. 
Of all these difficulties three are key.  (1) Making sure from pod to forever that there is strong financial understanding among board members. (2) Accepting that the efficiency of the board will come in waves, as different individuals affect its makeup. (3) Maintaining awareness of the increasing unwillingness of the average American to give up an evening or a weekend afternoon for good works or culture, when the kids soccer games are already taking up most of their spare time.

Thanks to John for an insightful piece of work; thanks to you for sending it my way. Blessings -- Jane