The Aid Industry needs a kick in the butt!
By Steve Cran
The whole aid industry, as insiders call it, is about to change dramatically. With the advent of new technology like the internet, cell phones, digital cameras, satellite technology, aid organizations, the UN, and governments are scrutinized more than ever before as donors want to see what is happening on the ground with their money. Charities and organizations raising money to eradicate poverty are under pressure to provide the evidence proving they are spending the money wisely and getting real results.
I get asked all the time which organizations or projects are best to donate money to. People want to know how their money is spent. The reality is that out of the thousands of billions of dollars spent on aid each year, most of it goes to the administration of administration.
In the future as the public becomes more aid-savvy, aid projects will be conducted by smaller more efficient organizations or professional aid providers that can prove they get the job done in the field. These organizations will hire professional field specialists to create real changes that are sustainable in the long run. Using web cams, before and after photos, films, satellite photos, and blogs, as well as live interviews with client communities, the field specialists will make aid more personal like never before. Donors will know almost daily how their dollars are being spent.
A wealthy community in a Western country can directly help a sister community in a poor country. A school in the West can fund a poor school in Africa or India for example. A farmers group in Australia can fund a farmers group in East Timor. An engineer in Hong Kong can draw the plans up for a community-built bridge in Bangladesh. A women’s group in Canada can fund a women’s co-operative in Tibet…Once communication is set up between the two communities, a donor will be able to call up specific people in the projects they support. The two parties on opposite sides of the world will truly get to know each other.
Projects will be put up on the net for “crowd funding” and the crowd will decide if the funds continue or it’s a lame duck project. A crowd can be a group of individuals interested in funding sustainability projects. The crowd could be a high school charity group or a church group. The crowd can even be a corporation looking to pay back something to the earth. Instead of carbon credits they may pay sustainability-credits. With carbon credits its smoke and mirrors where the money goes and if there are any real benefits as opposed to a system where the results are visible.
The money normally used to pay office-bound bureaucrats will be rerouted to professional field specialists, those people that take the risks living life in the field and getting the best results on the ground. These specialists will no longer have to suffer being told what to do by people that never have slept a night in the field, or rarely venture out of their air conditioned offices. The field specialists will give their reports verbally directly to the donors via the net. These specialists will no longer have to use a thousand acronyms in their reports. They will speak plain English and use film and photos to augment their words. If the situation changes on the ground they can move instantly to meet the new challenges without endless meetings and paperwork.
It’s all-possible right now. The missing ingredient is the professional sustainability field specialists. There are so few of them we are going to have to come up with a way to train an army of them to meet the rising demand for this new wave of aid. In the meantime people wanting to donate their money to helping the poor should choose their projects wisely. Crowd funding can support people to people aid without the costly large organizations involvement.
I ‘m a community sustainability and stabilization specialist. I work in impoverished or disaster stricken communities giving people the skills to grow their way out of poverty using their own resources as much as possible. I use strategies that are proven in the field. It’s no big deal, just common sense. It doesn’t cost much money in relative terms to eradicate poverty. What it takes is strategy, field skills and determination.
The world’s youth are going stale sitting in schools learning information that has little to do with the real world. The “education factories” waste the best years of our youth preparing them for non-existent jobs while the planet is screaming out for help. Could we not come up with a better way to educate our young people and repair the planet at the same time? Crowd funding could support youth to conduct environment repair projects.
Across the planet we have millions of ex-military personal with the skills to train and operate in harsh conditions. These people are an underused resource. Some of them are engineers, medics, tradesmen and solid leaders. With the right training they can be employed by the citizens of our planet to rebuild communities and ecosystems. These people can also train the world’s youth to be peaceful warriors as an alternative to working as a warrior-slave for the global military industrial complex. Crowd funding and permaculture training could help these people redeploy as eco-warriors.
Imagine if the 5000 billion dollars spent in 2009 on aid worldwide had been focused on simple village systems to provide self-sufficiency for communities in water, food and fuel. Imagine if we employed armies of trained people replanting forests and creating resources for the future earth inhabitants. Imagine if we sent our youth for sustainability training instead of military training? Could the unemployed employ themselves? Ask the youth of the world the question, ”Do you want to die for your country, or do you want to live for your planet?” The crowds can make it happen!