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Sometimes life follows a story, and this one about a prisoner and his captors in an unequal war has a lot of truth to it about recovering and surviving trauma is very story-like. Perhaps suspiciously so, but I see a lot of verisimilitude, although I should have liked to hear the stories of the Viet men who paraded the downed pilot as well. It's an interesting story, and may tweak your outlook on life.

One piece of grit in the story, though, threw me out of it. This:

"The real issue is that there is no door in any aid organisation or WHO, Unicef or any of these organisations that says 'Child Injury Prevention'," says Peterson. At times, he is frustrated by what he calls the "follow-the-leader mentality" in the aid sector, which he believes is fixated with countering infectious disease.


He's got the problem backwards. It's not follow-the-leader, but it's follow-the-money. And with the capitalist world's forty-year obsession with privatization and the free market, private funding is the main source of funding NGOs outside of Government policy-implementation funding. The same period was marked by increasingly fewer and fewer funders with increasingly large amounts of money. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and fewer payers see fewer problems.

We're reaching the point where Big Money has eclipsed Big Government to the point where it is indistinguishable in both its ill-effects and inefficiency.

Take the old joke, or possibly apocryphal story that in the U.S.S.R. there was an advertising campaign: signs were posted that read simply "Buy Shoes", and one style was available from one factory. Nowadays, in North America, we go to huge box stores (Costco, for example) where there will be two or three different kinds of shoes. One for women, one for men, and one for children. All from the same factory. Sometimes with the same in-store brand.

I'm not arguing that conditions are the same at all. "Our" way of life is immensely more varied in quantity and quality of material goods. I'm not sure we're much happier, for all the wreck we're making of the world in pursuit of buying experiences, but that's not the point either.

My point is that the NGO world is a small one. The same figures dominate it for thirty-year stints or so, and they filter in and out of Governments with the change of party control of said governments, so policy and policy implementation is pretty consistent. But the funding, becoming from fewer and fewer sources, has even more unsophisticated logic to what will be pushed for in the pursuit of these policies.

Perhaps big data can solve this, but all I see coming from the Reactionary Simplemindedness Wisdom of crowds is more big, blunt shifts, and or feelgood-but-ineffective crowdfunding.

The Key Log here is the financial transaction: as long as payments are very large by virtue that the payer is very largely endowed with cash, the payee must be large enough to handle the cash. This is by no means an even fit, and a lot of funding is wasted by the payee scrambling to up- or down- size to fit the payer.

Where is the source of this break? It's between the for-profit and the non-profit tax law. So, let's say that the equivalent in "profit margin" for a NGO is its "General Administration Costs" (artificial, I know, but that's where the so-called fat is), then if corporate tax is set at about 20%, which is where it is for most developed nations, and administrative costs for NGOs is around 15-17% (The ideal is under 12%, but trust me, they all fudge their books to arrive at that figure), we're really only talking about a 3-5% benefit to having a non-profit corporation AT ALL, which is probably eaten up by the additional auditing requirements of running a non-profit corporation.

Maybe the real dinosaur here is our idea of what a non-profit is, and all the "charity", "good works", and "white man's burden" baggage that 150 years of Victorian colonial-progressivism has saddled us with.

I think I'm liking the idea of a B-Corporation a lot more these days. It's pretty much how Cara Sposa and I have run our "business". More of a limited liability pass-through than a for-profit corporation, without all the puritan shenanigans of a 501c3.

Comments

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asakiyume
Mar. 24th, 2013 10:30 am (UTC)
So much to say and so much to ask.

First, this:

as long as payments are very large by virtue that the payer is very largely endowed with cash, the payee must be large enough to handle the cash. This is by no means an even fit, and a lot of funding is wasted by the payee scrambling to up- or down- size to fit the payer.

--was fascinating to me as an obvious truth that I hadn't considered before. Now I must mull over the consequences.

AND THEN THIS:

we're really only talking about a 3-5% benefit to having a non-profit corporation AT ALL ... Maybe the real dinosaur here is our idea of what a non-profit is, and all the "charity", "good works", and "white man's burden" baggage that 150 years of Victorian colonial-progressivism has saddled us with.

YES. I so agree with this in so many ways--and it ties into that administrative cost thing, too. Someone once pointed out how you could have a food pantry with no administrative costs to speak of--all volunteers, in a decrepit building they're allowed to use for free, provisioned entirely with donations--mainly families' year-old dented baked beans tins and an odd jar of gourmet olives that some family never ate. Or, you could have an organization that invested in a property--maybe partnering with some business or other, hired at least one regular staff person, and took the time to find out what local needs were, maybe spoke with local supermarkets, etc., about getting donations, etc. The resulting place would meet people's needs more and would be a more vibrant place, better for the community, etc. ... Which doesn't address the fact that even needing food pantries at all is a sign our society is whacked, but that's another matter.

Can you share more of your thoughts about wanting to hear about Mr. Peterson's former captors? Either here or by email? Also I'm going to have to jump offline for a while, so no hurry as to response...
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