One of my last readings was Dambisa Moyo’s provocative essay Dead Aid. While I don’t feel qualified and knowledgeable enough to take a definitive position concerning the debate between international aid proponents and its detractors, I do feel that something has gone wrong in the relationship between developed and third-world countries.
The situation of dependence of third-world countries on foreign aid has been going on for far too long to remain healthy, and it has been leading to abuse in many cases (the example of the mosquito net, used several times by Moyo, is a good one. Mosquito nets manufactured by rich countries are then sent to poor ones out of good will, even though poor countries would gain more from manufacturing the nets themselves thanks to foreign investment.)
Reading Moyo’s essay has brought me to think about altruism and the act of giving. One thing I’ve learned from my trips to developing countries is that I had much more to learn and receive from the local population than the opposite. The reasons that motivated my trips had to do with a feeling of collective guilt that we try to address through aid. I do not wish to be in that position ever again, since I’ve come to think that it does more harm than good. What I’d now like to concentrate on, as far as international cooperation is concerned, is to foster mutual understanding and learning.
As for giving, I believe that many issues still need to be taken care of around me, even if I live in one of the richest parts of the world. I’ve thereby come up with a list of innovative ways to make good use of your money. Rule n°1: know where your money is going.
- Don’t focus on the material stuff only Journalism might be going through what might be its biggest crisis ever, but there will always be a need for reporting. Spot.Us gets readers directly involved in the editing process by allowing them to choose and fund the stories that they think are worth writing about. The website started out in the Bay Area and is now providing the same services for Los Angeles. If it works, this model could be brought to many other communities.
- Be picky With the growing success of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, we’re going to start seeing more and more online platforms that will facilitate the making of ideas and projects. Kickstarter acts as a fundraising platform for creatives who have a specific project in mind. For example, artists, photographers, filmmakers or writers can get help for their next book, film, or endeavour. Projects only receive fuding when the target amount has been reached, although this amount can go beyond expectations. In return, donors get involved in the creative process by staying updated and receiving little perks. A relationship can therefore be initiated between donors and receivers. Firstgiving is based on the same principles, but concentrates on charitable initiatives. Individuals can create a personal profile and raise money for the nonprofit of their choice. These platforms allow for donors to choose which project, among hundreds, suits them best.
- Be original If you have a lot (and I mean, a lot) of spare change you’re willing to give away for a good cause, the Globe and Mail can show you how . Their weekly column Giving Back, published each Saturday, features original ways of donating or raising cash. A soccer camp for kids with cancer, a community association, a specific research area, a student in need of a scholarship are example of recipients. Donations can amount to several thousand dollars.
- Invest in entrepreneurship I don’t want to rule out financial aid to developing countries entirely, as there are several kinds of initiatives I believe in. Microcredit is one of them, even though its efficiency is still subject to debate. Kiva acts as an intermediary between lenders and entrepreneurs in need of a boost for their business. Because you’re lending the money and expect to receive interests in return, receivers can keep a sense of pride that is lost in the traditional aid process.