Thursday, March 05, 2009

So for the cost of a coffee a day...

Usually that's how they start to suck you in. If you make little sacrifices in your life - or maybe even big ones, you can save a child or even a village. But does it? And how many people even bother to ask? From a book review by William Easterly in the WSJ (read the whole thing):

Two entrepreneurs who founded a nonprofit called GiveWell examined private charities and, Mr. Singer notes, "were astonished by how unprepared charities were" for answering questions about their efficacy -- that is, for measuring what their efforts were achieving. When it came to providing basic efficacy information, "the charities themselves didn't have it."
Surprised? Few people I know would bother asking for specific proof of the good a charity does so why should charities bother to have it on hand? For those who don't bother asking or don't want to know, I wonder if it speaks to their naivete, or whether giving is more about assuaging guilt than about making a difference.

Of course, my preferred solution, at least in countries that are open to trade, is seeding companies that address and profit from the needs of the poor - because aren't the poor the best arbiters for what services and products meet their needs? The alternative is believing that we know better than they do and should therefore dictate the services and products that they deserve and get. Blindly giving, it's unfortunate not more of us care to even ask.

No comments: