Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Doing good

Doing good or, at least, doing something good, is very much within the spirit of these days (Christmas, New Year's Eve, Epiphany). People are willing to be more open, to give to those in need, to contribute to good causes and to feel that they are doing their (little) bit to make world (or, even, a tiny part of it) a better place.
'Donation box' (cropped
and size-reduced), originally
by Yukiko Matsuoka
under a CC licesne

I won't say that doing good is in our very nature, while - to some extent - it most probably is. Altruism is a characteristic that has been examined by many different viewpoints (scientific, evolutionary, philosophical, religious, etc.) and, while not unique to humans, it has contributed to what humanity is today.

Instead, I'll stick to the simplistic view that, given the right chance and the right environment, most people would choose to do good, regardless of the exact reason behind their choice.

Indeed, our social ecosystem includes numerous local, trans-regional and international organisations devoted to good causes. Charities, as non-governmental organisations, have a recognised status in many countries, giving them privileges, such as tax exemptions or administrative simplifications, so as to facilitate their work. Some doing-good-oriented organisations go after a higher profile (and have catchy names, e.g., the Do Something Great Today Foundation, Doing Something Good, DoGoodVolunteer, etc.). Some are lucky enough to have lots of resources, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and can, thus, work on diverse projects and places. Others, like the Medecins sans frontieres are much more "thematically" focused.

There are also non-governmental charity organisations that are contributing to society in a very different way. Think of the Mozilla Foundation (that is behind the Firefox browser), the Wikimedia Foundation (which is behind Wikipedia), the Electronic Frontier Foundation, etc. These are organisations with a mission that is relevant and has an impact to the public' s normal, everyday life.

There also non-profits that provide funding mechanisms to help those in need. Kiva, for instance, facilitates people to provide microloans to people all around the world. While those are not donations but loans (i.e., people will have to return the capital + interest) they are thought to help local development since they address "investments" that are not within the core business of typical banks. They may provide, for instance, the money a farmer needs to get fertiliser for this year's crop, i.e., they normally provide small amounts of money.

Microcredit organisations are not the only type of crowdfunding. The crowdfunding category is very diverse and, altogether, as an alternative way to get funding is becoming increasingly available and popular. Although not a clear charity mechanism, crowdfunding platforms allow people with a vision to address the wide public and ask for support. The rules of the game vary greatly amongst the different platforms. Indiegogo and Kickstarter are popular examples for individuals (you can also have a look at the 7 most supported Indiegogo campaigns and at the most funded Kickstarter projects) but there numerous other services with very different operation styles, some of which are best suited for businesses.

In other cases, there are business entities that include charity support in their business model (e.g., Humble Bundle Inc.). And, of course, there is the - thankfully increasing - trend of corporate social responsibility, where enterprises - of any size or business sector - give back to the society.

Then there is volunteering (e.g., Global Volunteer Network, International Volunteer Programs Association, etc.. As a means, it has been used extensively both at times/ places of need and as an additional assistance to the normal mechanisms in place.

So, are we having enough charity to make sure that our world is enjoying a life that meets - at least - the minimum "acceptable" standards?

No. Really, we are far from that.

The resources made available through our current charity ecosystem, together with the resources allocated by governments, international organisations, etc., cannot meet the actual demand, which is substantial, even in middle- and high-income countries (albeit for different things than low-income countries).

Yes, there are also concerns regarding efficiency in the mechanisms used to channel resources from those who provide them to those who need them. Fraud is another concern that occasionally arises.

But that doesn't make giving, donating, volunteering and supporting good causes pointless. Despite current shortcomings, doing good always counts!

Even if it helps a single individual for a finite amount of time...

Full disclosure and disclaimer: As of writing this post, I have not been affiliated to or have been supported by any of the organisations mentioned in this post. Also, I have not specifically enquired for or used their services. Thus, I am in no position to endorse them (or not) and my mentioning them herein is not meant to constitute an endorsement. Any organisation or organisation type mentioned in this post is for information purposes only. Most likely, there many similarly-minded organisations out there. If you want to donate or contribute to a cause or if you want to receive assistance, do take the time needed to find and compare the alternatives suitable for you.

No comments: