Another point, not related to this case:
Money from fundraisers for large charities does not necessarily go to the cause they are collecting it. It often comes too late over weeks and months and you have budged and organize everything ASAP. If the money collected goes to fund the next big catastrophe and not the current one, there is nothing wrong with that. People are just emotional and irrational givers. Money is given as function of lobbying effort, not as function of need.
It sounds great, and the people giving the money really think they're helping. Unfortunately, it's rarely the case.
I also worked in Africa (although in a more limited way than you) and I came to the same conclusion, it really was an eye opening. Actually our company which had absolutely zero humanitarian goals (and the CEO himself was very far from those ideals, he was just in for the money) was doing more locally than the vast majority of NGOs there.
I don't think your experience driving around Africa gave you a enough information to adequately support your conclusion (which I could not leave unchallenged). I mean this in a non-disparaging way: you got breadth, but not depth. I, an African, on the other hand, have depth, but not breadth.
I have some experience with both sides of the NGO coin: I've seen communities and individuals positively. From disease eradication in whole communities to people regaining their vision. People giving money are helping in most of the cases. On the other side of the coin - I agree that NGOs have a lot of fat they could cut in terms of expenditures that do not directly go to their mission, but this depends entirely on which NGO it is and what their culture is, not all of them are the same. This is an industry ripe for disruption by leaner setups, too bad VCs aren't really geared for this.
Donors are helping, but maybe not as much as they think they are (per dollar). It would be great if they would research the org they are donating to to find how many cents per dollar are going to the cause. More transparency in this area is needed.
That's a great point I had not thought enough about, and I think you are correct.
Certainly your examples of health (disease and sight) sound very positive.
Also examples where NGOs or World Vision or whoever bring in massive quantities of food appear very positive on the surface, though the long term consequences are extremely unhealthy, and just create more of a dependence loop than ever before, until locals are utterly unable to help themselves.
> Donors are helping, but maybe not as much as they think they are (per dollar). It would be great if they would research the org they are donating to to find how many cents per dollar are going to the cause. More transparency in this area is needed.
More transparency is absolutely the key, but I also think it's really important to take a step back and really think about if and how any donor is actually "helping" at all. We in the west have this funny idea that money is the answer to everything and more money = a better life. Certainly it's important to have healthcare and clean drinking water, but after that a lot of times I saw money degrading African society, not making anything better at all.
I'm terrified we'll turn many special countries into "little America" or "little Europe" complete with high cancer rates, stress, 9-5 jobs, pollution, lack of care for our community and neighbors, high crime, rampant greed and inequality ,etc. etc.
Of course you do. What you don't want is skyrocketing cancer rates, heart disease, spousal abuse, a severe lack of time, people who are so poor they can't feed themselves, high crime rates and all the other things that come along with the "shiny" stuff like 9-5 jobs, money & iPhones.
The thing is the developed world hasn't figured out how to get one without the other, and if I were you, I would think long and hard if you really, really want what you're asking for.
I lived that life of the developed first world city, and frankly, it's horrible. I recently spent time in one of the world's most livable cities, supposedly a great place to live. After three years in Africa I would rather die than live in that "great western city".
I love Tanzania, but I recognize that it’s because I have the money to live a very good life here.
Unfortunately, I’ve gotten a little addicted to the power of having a cook, housekeeper, and gardener for under $15/day total. I miss NYC, but I also realize how hard it will be to go back to just being an average joe.
Get out into a town or village, or better yet, get to a country that isn't overrun with tourists like Tanzania is. Gabon is simply breathtaking, Congo is wild, Burundi really is the heart of Africa, Djibouti is like a different planet! There is a lot to explore, a huge part of me wishes I could turn around and drive south right now!
I agree that there can be a charity can cause a vicious cycle by damaging local industry. However, it is pointless to talk about charity in isolation without considering other factors such as the harm caused by trade policies of developed nations (to be fair, is in their national interest), "exploitation" of resources by MNC with no meaningful value-addition in host country, as well as a general lack of accountability among African political leaders.
Cutting all aid seems like an easy solution, but it won't spur development of local farms or industries if they are undercut by subsidized goods from abroad. The 'difficult' solution, but more likely to work, would be overhauling leadership culture, and getting a fairer trade system in place (e.g. no farm subsidies) - sadly, I do not see any appetite for either due to self-interest among the actors.
1. scare-quotes because raw resources are extracted and paid for, but the value addition is done abroad. Ghana produces a huge chunk of the world's cocoa, but most of the profits are captured by European chocolateers.
Charity Navigator can help: https://www.charitynavigator.org/
I used to think the Grameen Bank way was the best way, but even that has come under criticism .
I honestly think that anyone that doesn't actually live there on the ground doesn't have the faintest clue how to help, or what is even actually needed.
Also, the very idea that "help" is even required becomes quite strange after you've lived there a while. Certainly giving money helps nothing, very likely makes it worse.
Maybe training. Maybe education (but that will be very church or western oriented, so it's dangerous).
Maybe the best approach is to let people figure things out for themselves, and come up with their own solutions to problems. Maybe we could just offer some advice or pointers from time to time, if asked.
I'm interested: how do things actually work on the ground?
Aid money buys foreign rice, floods the African market with it so the locals don't grow any next year, then the problem is worse and the dependence just grows every year.
I'll write at least a chapter on all these and more in the book I'm writing about my time around Africa.
I too heard that African farmers have been going bankrupt due to free rice from foreign aid after Live Aid and similar projects. Better to give locals money to buy rice from local farmers for a better price, and important food if that's not enough. Or use your foreign aid money to buy food from local farmers first, supplemented with foreign food if it's not enough, and distribute that. But keeping it as part of the local economy, rather than completely replacing the local economy, seems like a much better idea.
If you want to build houses in Haiti, hire locals to build those houses.
Absolutely, that's step number 1.
But of course, it has a ton of negative consequences too. Firstly, lots of these people are not used to having "jobs" or even any real money. So now some of them go to work all day, which means they are away from their families. They also get a lot of money relative to everyone else, so pretty soon they're buying motorbikes, beer and touch-screen cell phones.
So now you have this segment of the community that's "Living like Americans" while everyone else is still in a mud hut. The rich people's quality of life goes down - they don't get much time with their families, they drink too much, they eat badly, they're forced to buy food because they don't have time to grow and cook it, etc. - but paradoxically everyone else wants to be like them.
Basically you start to get all the problems of "Western Society" in a society that has never really had the concept of working for someone else or money.
Then later the work dries up (project finished or more likely runs out of money before complete) and now all these people are as screwed as Americans with no jobs. They're not growing their own food, they can't support their lifestyle (motorbikes, food, toys) and suddenly become very dependent.
In essence, we just turn them into the worst of Western Society, which, from what I saw, is horrible.
The thing is, this problem is extremely, extremely hard, and basically any suggestion solution has very, very real negative consequences. That's why I suggest spending some time and thinking really, really hard about if there is anything to "fix" in the first place. It's also why I think training and possibly some education is about the only things we should be "giving". It means the transition will be much slower than if we just built it for them (or paid them to build it) but in the long run the society will be stronger and better.
Or so it seems to me, at least. Maybe you know something I don't.
However, it's your money, so you can just throw them (donate) at refuges or somebody who need a housing, if you want that, but it's doesn't work well for local economy.
Microcredits are great in the long run because lots of small improvements really add up. The problem with big disasters is that you need more than small improvements to fix the problem, and to expect all of that to be paid back saddles poor people (or a poor country) with a lot of debt.
At least, that's what it seems like to me, but I'm no expert on this. They seem like two very different cases that require different solutions.
It's like a re-enactment of the Soviet Union. Big plans, big scopes ...
Probably they should have identified groups actually doing work, and let them skim off 0%. I.e., let them submit bills to reimburse expenses for shipping, materials and local labor. Well-run organizations can achieve more when they don't need to scrounge for material expenses. Then, you can apportion according to tangible results.
But what do I know?
I worked for a UN aid organisation a few years ago that worked like this. They have teams in the country that work with local suppliers to procure whatever goods or services they need to complete projects. The local supplier submits estimates that will be paid upon completion (the local supplier usually receives a bank loan for the funding, rather than being paid in advance).
Even so there is still a large amount of overhead. As with any government-esque organisation there is plenty of red tape and beuracracy at every level. The employees at this organisation are paid a very good salary, tax free, and get a whole host of other benefits and great pension. A lot of people don't seem that great at their job, but once they are in, they stay for life as it's rather cushy. The teams in charge of projects will fly a few times a year to the country, first class. Worst of all I heard rumors of projects being carried out that weren't needed, but were just done for whoever was in charge to get their promotion.
 - https://www.givewell.org/
- Has the most effect on QALY (quality-adjusted life year) per dollar. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality-adjusted_life_year
- Whether the organization can effectively handle money given to it (i.e. it actually can quickly scale use of it - UBI-esque things like GiveDirectly seemingly fall on the higher end of scalability but effectiveness may still be up for debate)
- Givewell (when one donates to them for the discretionary grantmaking option) tries to allocate money for grants over time for what they see as the most effective grant based on their research / current needs of the organizations seeking funding. See https://www.givewell.org/about/FAQ/discretionary-grantmaking for more info. Also intriguing is their 2018 giving spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1EM0CCg9tvCCtEoY-QVAi...
This is my personal (and verry rough) take, honestly recommend reading the book - your local library probably has a copy in digital/audiobook formats. The book generally recommends against donating to disaster relief comparing the 2011 Japan earthquake to Haiti, though the point in that advice was largely that disasters in developed countries tend to attract more noise/news coverage than ones in other areas of the world.
If you're really lazy and just want to listen to some music in this vein, try https://lostboyevsky.bandcamp.com/album/existential-risk
Extremely worth researching.
Send in the troops and have the Core of Engineers actually build out infrastructure and cities to bring them up to modern code in a maintainable way. Also pull in some locals for education in how that stuff is done in the process and try to do knowledge transfer of "This is how you build civilization that does not get flattened by a hurricane."
Given the political history, I doubt that would go well. Is there a foreign military power with a similar skill set that could do this task?
US could send in fact send non military; engineers, etc, but it will viewed with local suspicion and may make things worst (assaults, sabotage by either side or third party). Even US is suspicious of foreigners building US infrastructure (ie Huawei).
When there's so much distrust of US by Haitians and US likewise doesn't trust Haitian government with funds, there are quasi government organisations such as UN: https://www.un.org/un70/en/content/70ways/index.html
Even they have had issues in Haiti.
If you task most civilian forces with going somewhere that has disaster level problems there will be blockers. Oh, we can't go there until they have: power, clean water, working telecoms, physical security, etc.
In contrast your military forces can, if necessary, bring everything. A US army deployment can make its own electrical power, make water safe, deploy radio communications, and of course it can provide its own physical security. It is not cheap, but it works.
The only thing they don't do is the physical security.
They did a pretty shit job managing Hurricane Katrina though. Bush's political appointee to run FEMA had no relevant experience, and Trump now also has a variety of incompetents running various agencies.
The military is bigger, better funded, and most importantly, more competent. A lot of people in a disaster in the US, upon hearing that FEMA is coming, would rather wish it were the military (just based on track record).
665 infrastructure projects
683 homes repaired
2139 jobs created
It is just too hard to verify that my money isn't going to pad some dictator's pocket.
You can always pay taxes.
The article's second half spends most of it's time describing the unreported management overhead that probably has to do with trying to navigate the infeasibly complex and ill-defined land ownership and transfer system of Hati's government.
Nah not worth it, it's just half a billion.
They would have been better off setting up a "no/low" interest loan system and building a supply line that caters to it.
As far as I can see, not even more honorable NGOs like the Gates Foundation do this. I see their annual report, and I see their financial statements, but neither really gets at what I'm looking for.
As generic examples, "Haiti earthquake recovery" and "malaria program" are not valid project scopes. They're vague umbrella categories that could have tons of unnecessary overhead with many levels of "contractors".
Charity X: 95% of money donated goes to the cause.
Charity Y: 100% of money donated goes to the cause ( but we get an extra 20% from some where else).
Charity X, incentives are aligned to minimise administration spend. Charity Y obscures that link.
I imaging the admin is covered by corporate donors/payment processors waiving fees and claiming it all back on tax
And you start getting all kinds of perverse situations. What happens if they have funding to take $1 million in donations, but they get $2 million? Do they return donations?
What happens if they can't get enough admin donations? Do they stop work? Regardless of how much money they have in the bank, waiting to go to good causes?
Then there's the issue of splitting your fund raising efforts. Instead of telling everyone 5% of their donation is going to admin. You have to have a distinct team of admin fund raisers.
So to answer your question I would care if their admin spend was high. And the current set up obscures what that spend is.
What proceeds did you earn from ads on this article? Did you donate those? Where did you donate those proceeds?
Did this article minimize overhead of relief efforts anywhere?
Are you suggesting that ARC should not have collected donations at all? Because they do not have an established presence in the relief territory and are thus unqualified to determine how best to allocate donations, they shouldn't have collected and donated hundreds of millions of dollars to help?
Here would be a better way to use this time:
+ Develop a list of actionable suggestions for improving efficiency and allocation of relief aid
+ Develop solutions for problems in resource-constrained areas
+ Establish rapport with the people who you think are actually helping
+ Develop a transparent and accountable international transaction network that operates with minimal resources (on devices powered by hand crank and solar power)
+ Develop clean energy production capacity, storage, and a resilient power grid in order to produce 3D-printed homes (with plumbing and electrical to code) where there is little timber, clean water, and plenty of sand
+ Connect people in need of basic necessities with an efficient supply chain that doesn't leave pallets of things undistributed
+ Go hand out water and MREs and try not to get sick
+ What is a reasonable MLR (Medical Loss Ratio)
They provide cheap, affordable glasses that can be manufactured/repaired/adjusted locally. They train people in the villages and provide the material needed.
I have no affiliation with them.
Ps: recently us mercenaries were captured in Haiti deliberately inciting violence and instability. They have since been released to the US.
Yes these things are not reported.
I'm a disaster response volunteer, although inactive since Katrina.
I don't understand what is wrong with this situation.
The priority was to stop people dying not necessarily to solve a future inequality problem.
Providing homes as in places to stays during disasters does not neccessary means "permanent" homes.
I can understand “we genuinely wanted to help but we’re too incompetent to action on our promises”. That’s morally much better than “we intended to deceive from the outset and other people’s suffering is just the cover we need to line our own pockets”.
Work for an NPO -> https://www.averagesalarysurvey.com/haiti
You'll likely earn 3x what a Doctor would earn.
But then again, I remember how the Protezione Civile made a mess in L’Aquila, Italy and I wonder if Haiti would have fared better
Red Cross should shunned by all, no TV time during emergencies.
The idea is micro loans directly to people who want to do something like buy a cow.
"Kiva loans have a historical repayment rate of about 97% (this number fluctuates slightly so check Kiva's homepage for the current rate)"
When you receive the money back you can then make another micro loan to help someone else out.
and Kiva's response at
I understand that fraud, nepotism etc etc all get in the way.
So, the U.S. has its own student loan bubble, that many economists believe is related to the increased availability of student loans AND/OR charitable donations to scholarship funds;
Is there evidence that covering 3rd world tuition doesn't create further class divide, and/or increase the cost of tuition in general? And that perceivably "bright" students are already often the best off.
Also realize that in many places in the world with $480/year tuition are receiving education from sources that get at least some of their funding or staff from NGOs; and that in many cases, "education" is in many cases separating children from their families -- and potentially (though the result dithers morally) decreasing the entire family's ability to be self sufficient by removing productive workers (in a culture where minimum, age of laborers in lower than the U.S. 16)
This was a thing at least two generations ago if not more. Have people utterly forgotten? Maybe it would be good to research why its popularity waned.
GiveDirectly does something very much like that. It's not quite a one-to-one link (there is a bit of planning involved so that they can do research on the effectiveness of their programs), but still, a very high percentage of what folks donate to them is paid directly to people living in extreme poverty, with little overhead. They have researched what the money is used for, and almost all of that is for either education or acquiring durable capital like you describe.
And I'm sorry but I cannot believe that one would actually need more than 300 million dollars to get an arbitrary amount of money to 10 million people.
Isn't your math way off?
50% of 400MIllion = 200MIllion
200Million/10Milion = 20
So each person gets 20$, not 20 million dollars.
You mean 20 dollars...