Illusions! They wind me up tighter than a Swiss clock. I don’t like their insidious ways. Any time I sense one coming, my heart beats like a mustang about to bolt off.
They are all around us. Promising everything and delivering below par. They hide behind complex words spun by their big PR departments. The technical side of things isn’t any better. Advisors are everywhere. With their well-orchestrated PowerPoint presentations, they milk dry their hyped-up pilot programs.
At one point, I existed in such eco-systems. I considered myself an intrapreneur, hoping to bring meaningful change from within. However, the higher I climbed up the ranks, the more found an imbalance. What was said didn’t match what was done. Too much sizzle and no steak.
It was stifling, slowly robbing me of creativity and promoting safe bets. I believed in the mission but abhorred the mediocrity. Some smaller organisations with smaller funding and far less clout were having better quality results.
If it were a business, bankruptcy would have naturally killed off these organisations. It could be argued that the goal is social change, not monetary gain. However, accountability doesn’t only mean that funds were spent well. That projects are on track. Accountability call for far more than that.
A deeper and more reliable return on investment in non-profit work happens when those you serve audit you. Not necessarily when a donor approves your report or if the external auditor declares your books clean.
When I started working in the not-for-profit sector, it was with a noble cause mentality. I wanted to do good. Only to realize that the majority were in for the pay check, fame or connection. I knew I had to get out. Yet, I wasn’t cognitively aware that disruption was just a few years away. And it came to life in a news article…
In her Guardian article, Deborah Doane asks: “Do international NGOs still have the right to exist? After 60 years of development it’s time for INGOs [international NGOs] to ask some difficult questions about what power they need to devolve.”
On the whole, I fully resonate with her observations. Of special note is the issue of return on investment I mentioned earlier. Doane makes it a home run with this: “It was remarked that of the $150bn (£105bn) spent in aid globally, still only 1% directly reaches southern civil society organisations.”
The key question any brand, business, organization or individual faces is “Why do I [we] exist?” If it is to solely make money, by all means do. But never hide behind the veil of philanthropy. Stick your neck out and stake your claim.
But if you want to live your legacy, genuinely invest in people. Care for them. Ensure that they get their due. Do social good. In return, your brand will thrive. When disruption happens, they will ride the wave with you. And thrive you will!
Are you the enemy within?
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