if we want to make a difference in our world.
- · 1) First we need to think long about what we're doing, and look at everything in the world as a system. We need to make sure we understand the key issues which cause health issues, and how to work our way around governments, corporations and conflicts, and how to best nudge them to support good policy/business/peace stratergies, or else figure a way to work around them in order to attack an issue from its most vulnerable side.
- · 2) Next study the area and understand the causes behind the key issues and plan for how to combat or deal with them most effectively before intervening. Often in third world nations, decent infrastructural, economic and healthcare systems are simply not in place, so thorough surveys and logistical planning needs to occur to make sure every part of the supply chain works.
- · 3) Finally, when you do intervene, make sure you set goals, and evaluate your impact as you go. And be prepared to make the tough decision to shelve your efforts if they're not as effective as others; in a good number of cases, there'll already be someone doing something better than you. Either help them, or learn off them.
1) Deep, Systematic thinking:
Youngest ever person to address the UN Security Council
Peace and Security envoy for the UN Secretary-General
Dr Allesandro Demaio
Fellow in Global Health and Non-Communicable Diseases at Harvard
Founder of NCD-FREE
Teaching The Teachers; The most effective way of Giving Aid
The way we give much of our aid right now is by sending over resources and
2) Analysing The Challenges and Planning Around Them:
But it's not only this that causes ineffectiveness of charitable effectiveness. We can often have "too many cooks in the pot"; too many people trying to help out. Our efforts, the resources we divert to curb health challenges are often diluted by having too many people on the ground trying to help the same cause.
A good - confronting point he made, was that we need to check our ego at the door when we want to help others. As medical students particularly, a lot of us want to volunteer and help out in real third world climates (most medical schools in Australia encourage students to take electives overseas). But we really have to think... are we actually going to make a difference there? Or are we just going to get in people's way in our efforts to try and feel good about ourselves?
Similar ideals and issues may happen in the field of charity as well. And this was a question a lot of us found ourselves asking as the days progressed and we began to think deeper about Global Health.
Do We Have Too Many Charities?
Stylist, Designer, Photographer, Designer and Publisher
Analysing What's Happening and Getting Data.
Wall Street Journal 2009 Innovative Technology Award Winner
Lemelson MIT Award for Sustainability
Well - this (conveniently, also my TED talk of the week for this week) may hold the answer.
The task is behemoth in countries all over the world, but the strain is even more pronounced in developing nations with more than 100,000,000 people, many of whom live in remote areas.
UNICEF'S SMS Solution:Another new, exciting approach to making this data collection very easy, and most importantly, live is just around the corner. Very recently launched is this: UNICEF's RapidPro system.
It may surprise you to know that most people in the developing world, even those living in extreme poverty, have a cell phone. Unlike ever before, they can interact with the world around them! Essentially, RapidPro allows you to create your own, simple surveys; asking any questions and collects and reads the data for you (and allows you to read individual responses too as required) in REAL TIME. So you don't have to wait 10 years for a census (plus however long it takes to actually conduct the survey), and you don't have to rely on outdated, inaccurate data to start understanding issues on the ground.
It's simple. It's effective. It's live. And it can be integrated into large databases. And it will probably revolutionise how we go about collecting data and send our aid and charity to a whole new level of effectiveness. And the best thing is - it's free for any one person or organisation to use for whatever they need it for. From finding out whether a remote community has access to healthcare, to seeing women have to travel for water, to helping people in immediate need in disaster zones... the possibilities and potential uses for this is innumerable.
All of this means that we can help more people. Find our more about this here: http://www.rapidpro.io/
3) Evaluating Our Efforts As We Go:
Hero Condoms, a cool social enterprise which gives a free condom to someone in Africa for every condom sold here in the Australia, did the same thing and they found out so much from simply talking to people on the ground who were getting their condoms. Not only did they realise that the whole concept of a "free condom" sometimes turned people away from using them; it implied that the condoms were from a "reject" pile, so they were either broken or given in pity, they also realised many small things which made a huge impact on condom usage in Botswana, a country where HIV/AIDS affects 1/4 people! Some of these small things that could be fixed easily included making sure condoms were clear, instead of white (as you can imagine... a white condom wouldn't look... natural... on an African male) and making sure the packets were easy to handle, and giving them options, and flavours. And after making those small changes, and incorporating a local researcher in their planning and scientific process, they've increased condom usage in certain regions significantly!
How Can YOU Help?
And as many of you regular readers know, I believe effectiveness is paramount to how much of an impact we can make in other peoples' lives. If every life is equal, then we should try to save as many people as possible by saving the lives which can be saved easiest. It turns out - they're the ones who need it the most.
Brenton Mayer and Daneil Charles
Former Giving What We Can Interns
Pretty cool guys
These 2 gentlemen gave an awesome presentation convincing people not only why they should give but how to do so as well. And their talk was centred around the idea of Effective Altruism, indeed, it was very similar to this TED TALK, given by Peter Singer.
Their talk was based on the topic of effective altruism - the idea that when we give to charities and causes (and we definitely should), we should give to the ones that make the biggest impact; the ones that save the most lives.
The idea is based on the concept that every life has equal value. If we assume that's correct (which most of you reading this will agree with) then it makes perfect, logical sense that we give mostly to charities which combat easily preventable diseases that many in the third world face; as when it comes to saving lives, dollar for dollar, they're the most effective ones.
It's hard to research all the charities in the world and evaluate which ones are the most effective. But luckily, there's an organisation which does that all for you; Giving What We Can.
That organisation also purports that we give up a certain proportion of our income towards these effective charities. As future doctors who stand to earn so much money over our careers, they showed us that we could give a good chunk of our income (up to a third) to charity and still remain in the top 10% of Australia when it comes to wealth. And he told us why too.
Most doctors come into the profession wanting to help people and save lives. But when you think about it, for every one of us who made it into the course, there are 10 waiting to get in. And they too are the "cream of the crop" when it comes to brainpower. If they were to take your place, they'd be just as good as you when it comes to medicine. If you think about it, doctors practice according to protocols, making judgements as to which is the best one for each person, and they always work in teams. Only very exceptional doctors regularly catch diagnoses and treat people on a regular basis. So though we may believe we're doing our bit already, in truth, we'd probably only save one or two extra lives a year that someone else who would've taken our role could have done (and that's if we're REALLY GOOD).
Compare that to giving $50,000, a tiny portion of our average income (that wouldn't, by any means, bleed us dry) to a very effective organisation such as the Against Malaria Foundation - you'd be able to purchase 2,000 mosquito nets and save hundreds of lives a year, not to mention allow thousands who'd otherwise have been unable to work and provide for the families the opportunity to keep doing so.
It's a great idea and you should definitely get onto it!
My suggestion to them:
I loved their presentation - every part of it! I'd already heard of this concept myself and I believe in it 100% as well. But I asked them this question, based on an essay which I posted on this blog earlier. We had a great discussion afterwards on this topic and these chats were the best thing about GHC2014!
"Effectiveness is great and we should try and make our dollars go furthest when we give to charity, I agree. But the second part of it - altruism - I don't necessarily agree is the only way to go about helping the poor. Charity, aid, giving etc. all comes with a connotation of sacrifice. And the fact that the GFC in 2007 resulted in our worldwide giving (both government and private) dropping from $1.2trillion to $0.7billion, not to mention our tiny proportions given as nations as a percentage of GNI is evidence enough that people and governments routinely deem that sacrifice too much.
Not everyone, not every profession can afford to give as much as you guys suggest to charity. Especially us, as non/meagerly earning medical students."
The problem, I believe, lies in the fact that when we urge others to give to charity, we only target their compassion... we effectively guilt trip them into giving.
Eg - for us students, microfinance organisations like www.kiva.org allow you not only to give out loans to the poorest, which they pay back to the NGO on the ground once they're on their feet, but also give you the option to withdraw money if you need the money on a rainy day. It's a great motivator - to get you saving - that allows you to improve lives. I chuck in $25 a week into a kiva loan and now have reached a point where $50 gets repaid to me every fortnight or so - which I reloan over and over growing my impact further and further.
Buying Red products when you're shopping (things like Coca cola - or Starbucks/Apple products which are red in colour) doesn't cost you anything, but 10-50% of profits from their sales goes directly to the global fund - a highly effective charity fighting and researching HIV/AIDS.
Govts/Corporations also benefit form giving to charity. When we develop countries up, their demand for our services/technology/resources increases too. China's huge demand for our ore is a major reason why we stayed afloat during the GFC. India's buying our uranium now because they need more energy (as Jose Ramos-Horta pointed out) and Indonesia wants to buy more and more of our beef... it's gotten to a point where we're now exporting so much that the media is reporting on how they're treated!
Similarly, corporations like Microsoft/Samsung/Cisco stand to benefit heaps by directly investing into third world development not only because they get more people into those middle classes, buying their products and services, but because they get great positive brand image (80something percent of people agree they'd buy products of similar quality/price from a company that gave more to charity) and also a more motivated productive workforce.
You could say these are indirect benefits, that are theory in a way, but that doesn't meant they don't exist. Indeed, they should be studied more I argue. But imagine if businesses/govts could put the effects of charity in the "credit" column rather than the "debit" one... Especially if we could pin a number on it per dollar invested. We'd certainly see more of it happening that's for sure. There are heaps of direct benefits too for governments and businesses alike. Businesses, as I mentioned above, get a more motivated, productive workforce and improved brand image/free press/more customers more likely to be loyal for their good deads which leads to increased sales while governments of countries often use the aid as a mechanism to boost their own nations' economic activity; not to mention a more skilled, diverse workforce.
I've already written this up, with heaps of evidence to back up what I'm saying as well, over here:
http://nikhilthegrizzlybear.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/giving-to-charity-is-win-win-businesses.html - so make sure you check it out.
Social Enterprises - A Preview of Part 3:I saw many other amazing talks and gained many more insights at this Global Health Conference on this topic - other ways that we can help out without that sacrifice. Social enterprises are a twist on traditional charities - in that they make profits and sell products in order to keep themselves helping the people they wanna help. Some of those, I've mentioned in the post above, such as Hero-Condoms - an organisation which sells quality condoms, at competative prices but who donate everything to deliver contraception to HIV/AIDS stricken Bosnia. Similar enterprises, such as ThankYou Water (you buy a bottle of water and all the profits go to giving water to those in the third world) - and they allow US as regular people to help others in need going about our Day-To-Day Business!
I'll talk about these, and about why we need to always deliver aid and charity with proper consultation and consideration of the people we're delivering to, and cultural perceptions that leave people even more vulnerable to diseases in the third world in later posts so watch out for them!