The underside of the charity world

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

Bad stuff is everywhere. Call it evil if you wish. Or simply sin.

The underside of the charity world needs to be addressed and dealt with. Here are two articles, one secular and one spiritual, on how to deal with bad stuff.

Also a general article on complexity. I have been holding all three articles for a few months. Time to post them.

On dealing with bad stuff

7/21 – New York Times – Denver Church’s Security Efforts Highlight New Reality – Check out the five-minute video. It is superb.


Before you get too far in planning that short term mission trip….

….read Once more, from the top at AidSpeak. The author, “J”, wrote the article It’s a Crappy World, that I mentioned here.

The article discusses, then demolishes, a number of the arguments for volunteers going overseas to help.

Here’s just a few thoughts for your consideration:

Aid and development are professions, not hobbies. It takes specific knowledge, skill and experience to get this right.


Trying to make the world less miserable is complicated and messy

One of the big reasons I blog is to help me sort out this big, complicated, messy world.

“J”, an anonymous blogger and novelist at AidSpeak, helps in general and especially with his recent post It’s a Crappy World.

He points out 5 of the tensions and paradoxes of the aid and development world. Lots to ponder.


Why aid and development are difficult

Life is complicated.

My reading over the last two years has opened my eyes to why successful aid and development is so difficult. Unintended consequences and complexity in general are a few reasons why it is hard to make things better in poor countries and why improvements are so slow.

Many of my readers processed through the ideas I’ll mention in this post a long time ago. This is old news for many.

For me, and for some readers of this blog, this is new territory. One of many reasons I blog is to work through what is new for me.

Here are two more articles that illustrate the complexities of facilitating change:

Systemic lack of justice

Why We’re Losing the War on Poverty is an interview in Christianity Today with Gary Haugen discussing his book, The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty requires the End of Violence.

The lack of functioning law enforcement allows violence to prey on the poor and plunder them. The corrosive effect of violence undermines everything else in a society. The one sentence summary: (more…)

It’s complicated, Africa version

Our perceptions of what’s taking place in Africa fluctuate between wild optimism and hopeless despair, cycling back and forth depending on this year’s headlines. Things are actually far more complicated, showing lots of reasons for some optimism simultaneous with indications of hard days now and in the future.

That’s what I learned from Walter Russell Mead’s post, Agony in The Congo.

(Why this post on that essay?  We need to understand the complexities of the world around us if we want to actually change the world.)


A short explanation of why feel good aid might make things worse

In The Broken “Buy-One, Give-One” Model: 3 Ways to Save Toms Shoes author Cheryl Davenport provides a concise description of the underlying problem with the TOMS model.

There’s a huge number of articles out there describing the conceptual issues.  Ms. Davenport has a great recap:

First, the Toms buy-one-give-one model does not actually solve a social problem. Rather, the charitable act of donating a free pair of shoes serves as little more than a short-term fix in a system in need of long-term, multi-faceted economic development, health, sanitation, and education solutions.


Lots of things in life are really, really complicated. Sort of like a rain forest.

Some things are exquisitely complicated.  Making changes, fixing problems, or making improvements to such things is really difficult.

Unintended consequences result when you do something simple in a complex system.

Came across a superb illustration of the challenge of dealing with complexity. In his post The Health Care Disaster and the Miseries of Blue, Walter Russell Mead compares the US healthcare system to a jungle ecosystem.


Aircraft carrier as illustration of “overhead” needed to get something done

4,100 people work so 200 can fly.

In August, my wife and I toured the USS Midway aircraft carrier museum in San Diego. Quite a treat if you enjoy either airplanes or naval ships.

One narrative plaque really caught my attention. It quoted someone as saying that 4,100 people are hard at work onboard so 200 can fly airplanes. Since the purpose of the carrier is to put planes in the air, everyone else on board is in a ‘supporting’ function.

Seems to me that this is a good illustration of the concept of overhead or functional allocation that we work with in the nonprofit world.