This week I stumbled upon this article and have been contemplating its message since. The title, “7 worst international aid ideas”, caught my attention and I just couldn’t pass over it when a picture 50 Cent (the rapper…just to be clear) surrounded by Somalian children popped up on my screen. Color me intrigued.
I was incredibly conflicted as I read the article. The author discusses a number of ideas that were clearly well-intended and some that seemed incredibly promising. I was especially torn when I realized that TOMS had made the list, feeling a pang of guilt and judgment, knowing I had done more than my fair share to support their company. Although I do recall feeling a bit uneasy after I purchased my first pair and the saleswoman exclaimed “…And you helped a kid in Africa!”. Did I really though? Definitely not as much as I could have through a number of other means. But a little something is better than nothing, right?
The author suggests that is not true. Most of these individuals or companies truly intend to help the people that they set out to aid. However, their ideas lack the ability to truly make an impact on the issue of poverty. Moreover, they take away any opportunity for economic stimulus if the product were to be produced in the countries that they are attempting to help. Fair Trade company, Sole Rebels, is a footwear company that works to do just that.
Did this article stop me from purchasing TOMS? I’ll be honest, probably not. But I do think there are lessons to learn here as change leaders. It’s pretty obvious that if we want to be influential leaders, the ideas that we support should be effective and efficient in helping to reach our goals. I can’t help but think that these concepts lack the balance of innovation and adaption. It is important to bear in mind the benefits of a team that includes persons from both ends of the spectrum and anywhere in between.
Perhaps even those of us working in policy could work to ensure that counterproductive red-tape policies such as donor fund restrictions like the one mentioned in the article do not become the norm in domestic and international aid.