Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] Blurring Corporate and NGO Lines

2004-11-05 Thread Cornelio Hopmann
Dear Al,

On one side you are perfectly right: large corporations do have
resources like technical expertise, logistics and capital, that could
and should be leveraged to fight poverty (yet be aware of Halliburton's
performance in Iraq or the Water-companies in Bolivia).

Yet I'm afraid that your definition of NGOs only comprises that type of
organization you yourself are involved with: Northern, mostly
philanthropic associations, that make their living from donor money and
sponsoring/executing smaller or larger, but never large-scale-projects.
The term NGO within developing countries extends far beyond this limited
vision, as here NGOs are all types of social organizations of the
beneficiaries themselves, when they are not established as commercial
or public entities. This means a teachers-organization is an NGO -and
most of their programs go way beyond classical trade-unions- as they are
student-associations, small farmers associations, women's-associations,
health-associations and so on.

Many of them are confined to a single location, others have found ways
of coordination and collaboration on a larger scale, up to whole
countries or even beyond.

This framework -almost a natural one and not something crafted- joins
more expertise on Development-issues, success and failures and the
reasons why, then the whole bunch of experts of large multilateral
organizations like Worldbank, UNESCO, UNDP, FAO and (!) the big
corporations jointly. For a strikingly simple reason: it's their life
that's at stake not only success-reports or quarterly earnings.

To get again into numbers: let's assume that you need one person-day to
train 25 persons in how to use the Internet (or more generally, some
ICT-application) for their benefit. This converts into 160,000
person-days to train 4 million farmers or the equivalent of 667
man-years. (Already almost out of scope to be done by highly-skilled and
highly-paid professionals of the corporate world: it wouldn't make sense
economically with respect to ROI). If we scale it up to let's say 200
Million farmer-families, we would need about 34 thousand person-years to
do the job - completely beyond capacity of even the largest corporate
entity. And we didn't even take into account that there at least about
50 or 60 local idioms to be considered, hundreds of different cultural
traditions and thousands and thousands of different local social
settings, in which each needs a sometimes larger sometimes smaller
adjustment of training-materials, strategies and settings. So without
close-support of local NGOs the task cannot and hence will not be done.

Corollary: the true challenge is not getting the corporate-world
involved but to get thousands of local NGOs involved as counterparts.
The former is almost simple -convince the CEO and the Board of
Directors, maybe some important shareholders. The second is the truly
hard task, but unavoidable if you would like to succeed on scale.


Yours,
Cornelio

P.S. For some reason MIT-media-lab left India, ATT  Bellsouth sold
out completely their ICT-business in Latin-American (i.e., even the best
of the corporate-world sometimes doesn't match with local conditions and
traditions).




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Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] Blurring Corporate and NGO Lines

2004-11-03 Thread Lee Thorn
Dear Colleagues,

I find the discussion fascinating. I am learning. Thank you all that
have shared and that have written me privately.

I, for one, am overcome by the question of the alleviation of poverty in
all its facets and am especially overwhelmed by questions about urban
poverty. I know in the U.S. where I consulted for many years with urban
anti-poverty programs, the programs that in my experience worked best in
the U.S. were small in scale and often took either: 1) an old-fashioned,
19th century social work model, that is, the facilitator worked with
each person on her/his own particular case, meeting the person whole
person to whole person and taking on problems one-by-one; or 2) used
Saul Alinsky-style organizing practices and confronted en masse the
local powers that be, which were sometimes multi-nationals themselves.
The most remembered Alinsky-style organizing was done in Rochester, New
York. The church-coalition-led mass organization confronted Kodak, the
biggest company in the community at the time. I know similar organizing
has been going on for years in the riverside slums of Bangkok led by my
friend, Fr. Joe Maier and others. The work we did in Vietnam Veterans
Against the War was very influenced by Saul Alinsky. There are some
interesting and ambitious pieces of work going on in urban areas using
IT, but there are other people on this list that can speak to these in a
much more informed way than I can. Suffice it to say that in
Alinsky-style organizing a) the poor own their organizations; b) things
are done nonviolently; and c) no non-violent tactic - or useful tool -
is ignored.

I am currently more interested in rural poverty and I spoke to one part
of Jhai's efforts, the Jhai PC and communication system, in an earlier
email. I am particularly interested in last centimeter solutions.

In the Jhai PC and communication system case, farmers and their families
have come up with three ways to make money (a key thing for them - a
good friend once told me each day he must catch a fish - he takes as
long as it takes - if he cannot catch a fish, his family is hungry):

1. by beating the closest middle man by finding out the price for their
commodities (rice, woven goods) in the local market town by using the
VoIP phone to a family member in that town. (There is data on this from
InfoDev developed by a project in Senegal using WAP-enhanced cell
phones).

2. by developing a local, sit-on-the-ground-and-sell-your-goods market
in one village for use by five villages (thus, increasing the multiplier
effect in the area), developing it through use of VoIP phones among
women in the slower rainy season).

3. by trading with their relatives overseas in such a way that both
their relatives and they make money, rather than their relatives sending
them remittances. For example, they send a piece of woven goods to
America where their cousin sells it in the diaspora for $80. Rather
than sending $20 remittance that month, the cousin keeps $20 ($40 up)
and sends $60 to the goods owner (who normally would have gotten $10
from the merchant coming through the village).

This is family capitalism in its purest form.

I would also like to contribute to this discussion by responding to some
things that Sam Lanfranco brought up:

 The core problem for most NGOs is access to resources. The solution, in
 most cases, is to seek resources from the haves to help/work with the
 have not's. There are only three ways for NGOs to get resources: 1)
 seek them as donations; 2) seek them as contracted program/project
 funds; or 3) act like a business and grow them from revenues.

We at Jhai Foundation have some experience with all of these, but
perhaps most useful is our experience with business and the 'growing' of
revenues. Before I start, I would like to point out that we have never
'cherry-picked' our projects. We work with very poor people, usually
people who have no electricity, landlines, nor cell phone connectivity.

I can only give you examples from my own experience. I will showcase
our coffee project. As a matter of fact, we just spun off our coffee
business to a cooperate we helped develop. This makes me very happy. We
have developed many relationships over the course of this experiment. We
have a relationships with:

a) IFC (World Bank) which is helping pay, I think, for organic and fair
   trade certification work
b) a local wet processor, who is becoming a leader of the new
   cooperative
c) a local dry processor who will now have a direct relationship with
   the new cooperative
d) a local exporter who will now have a direct relationship with the
   new cooperative
e) with an importer who both our friend, the roaster, Thanksgiving
   Coffee, also has a relationship with and who is helping us develop
   relationships on behalf of the cooperative with other roasters, and who
   pays the cooperative four times what they were previously getting
f) with a roaster who gives us a donation for every pound he sells
   

Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] Blurring Corporate and NGO Lines

2004-11-01 Thread Sam Lanfranco
Al Hammond [EMAIL PROTECTED] is correct when he observes:

 Vickram Crishna offers interesting insights--and I accept that the world
 is more complicated and that boundaries are often blurred in practice.
 ...[text deleted].. Nonetheless, until recently, few socially-minded
 entrepreneurs were starting for-profit businesses aimed at serving the
 poor, and few large companies consciously adopted strategies aimed at
 low-income markets, and now it is distinctly more than a few--we are
 looking, potentially, at a paradigm shift here.

We are on a slippery slope here. In one direction we slide into
generalities about what could be. In the other direction we slide into
danger. At the core of this discussion is the helping relationship, or
more bluntly, the gifting relationship. At the core we are talking about
how the haves help the have nots to reduce the quality of life gap
that divides them.

The world has a long history of gifting relationships, most built within
communities and ranging -in practice- from simple giving to more
sensitive joint efforts with all those desirable partnership properties
we are so keen to identify as essential. The world has a long history of
good (and bad) corporate participation in such efforts, some carried on
as charitable gifting and some carried on as social entrepreneur
efforts. It comes as no surprise that within an era where
entrepreneurship is touted, that we have the emergence of NGOs looking
to carry out socially progressive business and focus on social capital
schemes.

The driver at the heart of this is no different than that which has been
at the heart of utopian community efforts across time. Can we work
together and can we do better?

There is nothing wrong with the motive, the WHY. The challenges come
with the WHAT and HOW. The corporate sector may just want to Do good,
it may be looking to More markets, or it may be trying to blend both.
That is obvious and efforts can be judged as they unfold.

What is less obvious but more slippery is the roles for NGOs here. For
most NGOs the WHY motive is laudable. The problems arrise with the WHAT
and HOW. The core problem for most NGOs is access to resources. The
solution, in most cases, is to seek resources from the haves to
help/work with the have not's. There are only three ways for NGOs to
get resources: 1) seek them as donations; 2) seek them as contracted
program/project funds; or 3) act like a business and grow them from
revenues.

The risk here is that the HOW drives the WHAT. This is the problem of
what I call The NGO dance. Simply put, the problem for the NGO is
either Who do you dance with? or Who do you dance for? Dancing WITH
and dancing FOR are long recognized as two very different kinds of dance
activity.

It is worth looking at recent history here. When the United States,
addressing the United Nations, identified NGOs as partners in the US
effort in Iraq, a noticable shutter went through the NGO community.
This, as well as the use of contracted companies for reconstruction
work in IRAQ, blurred the line between NGOs and others in that tragic
situation. There are other factors at work of course, but the safe space
for NGO work has been diminished. Blurring the lines is not always
useful. Likewise, those NGOs who decide to dance to their own music, by
growing revenues from a business model, run the risk of the HOW
perverting both the WHAT and the WHY?

Sometimes the appropriate reponse to an offer of a helping hand, or a
novel internal business strategy, is to say Thanks but no Thanks. This
is frequently the appropriate response for the have nots of the world,
and may be the response that NGOs should consider if they wish to remain
true to their vision and their mission. Better to be small and part of
the solution than to be large and part of the problem. Enter the dance
with caution.


Sam Lanfranco
Distributed Knowledge Project
York University




This DOT-COM Discussion is funded by USAID's dot-ORG Cooperative
Agreement with AED, in partnership with World Resources Institute's
Digital Dividend Project, and hosted by GKD.
http://www.dot-com-alliance.org and http://www.digitaldividend.org
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