I am so appreciative of everyone that subscribes to my blog. Unfortunately, due the ole Google and Feedburner merger, my subscribers are lost in cyber space. After months of trying to recover them, we’re still no further along than before. The record is gone.
So I need to create a new blog feed. I’ll be shutting this feed down directly after posting this, so you won’t receive any more posts unless you visit my site again and re-subscribe. So sorry for that!
If you would like to keep receiving my blog posts, please click HERE and visit my site for the new feed. (Or, If your on my site now, just look to the right side of the page.) I’m more inspired than ever and would be honored to share more thoughts and inspiration with you.
All you have to do is enter your email address in the box to the right that says RSS Blog Feed, just like before. You already know I don’t use it for anything other than to push my blogs out to you. That’ll never change.
Again, thank you for caring to read my thoughts. It means so much to me.
Much love, Jared
Giving to a charity feels good. If you were raised in America or the UK, you’re likely very comfortable and familiar with giving to various causes. It’s part of the fabric of modern developed society.
We know there is a need for charity work, especially in developing regions like Africa. We need emergency food, access to clean water, health care and better education, for sure. There is a time and a place for aid work, and I’m glad society gives so freely to support that work.
However, over the past few decades, aid organizations have gotten a little too comfortable. When I walk down the street in any East African capital, I see rows and rows of aid organizations, many of which have been there running the same programs for as many as 15 -20 years.
Donors are comfortable donating to them and the agencies are comfortable doing what they do. But is this really in line with what Africa wants and needs? Is this sustainable? If you ask any African on the street if they want more business or more charity, they will all tell you business. If you don’t believe that, I would challenge you to ask around, and truly listen.
People don’t feel comfortable fostering and supporting business development. It’s too involved. There’s a lot more evaluation and commitment needed, and most people just aren’t up for that level of involvement.
Could you imagine if America had more money coming in through aid than through business? Then why is it so easy to think that’s the way it should be for Africa? Why don’t we just focus on creating great products and great businesses in Africa?
Donors and aid agencies typically spend more time trying to keep their organizations running than they do fostering long term solutions (that are a lot more difficult to raise funds for).
Would you support an African entrepreneur that wants to start a micro enterprise like sewing or jewelry making? How about an African businesswoman that wants to start a restaurant? How about a fashion label that is creating jobs and a better image for Africa? How about a new cinema or coffee shop?
At what point in the above questioning did you completely lose interest? Why?
It’s easy to justify giving money to an organization that will help with a micro business, but it’s a lot more difficult to compel people to invest in real businesses that will ultimately serve Africa much more robustly for the long haul.
At some point, the developed world is going to have to let go of its financial dependence on the industry of aid and start fostering real businesses so Africa can rise up on her own.
Why are these celebrities using their star power to generate millions of dollars for charity and garner backing from influential political leaders when they could just keep buying Ferraris and houses in the Hamptons? It’s madness!
When was the last time you dedicated even a fraction of your time, money or influence towards a philanthropic endeavor, much less countless hours and millions of dollars?
What are you doing right now to make the world a better, more peaceful and loving place?
When was the last time you honed your musical talent, created a successful rock band and dropped $32 Billion in debt from 18 African countries or raised more money and awareness for eradicating HIV (in Africa) than any other human on the planet? Bono does that in his spare time. Literally.
Clooney just launched the Satellite Sentinel Project, designed to deter mass atrocities and crimes against humanity in Sudan/South Sudan. I’ve been volunteering and lobbying for this kind of effort in that region for almost 10 years. Clooney put this together in less than a year and it’s one of the most effective philanthropic initiatives I’ve ever witnessed. Phenomenal.
Pitt and Jolie have given Millions of dollars to philanthropy. Jolie has spent serious amounts of time in over 22 poverty stricken countries, purchased fleets of airplanes, acted as a UNHCR ambassador, flown into into extreme threat zones when others wouldn’t and on and on. Pitt and Jolie donated $8 Million in 2006 alone.
In December 2001, Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addition vocalist and creator of Lollapalooza) flew into politically-troubled Sudan with other members of Christian Solidarity International to negotiate the release of Sudanese slaves. Jane’s Addiction donated their earnings from one concert for the redemption of over 2,300 people. This is a rock star that most parents wouldn’t let their kids listen to.
I could go on and on. The list is endless. I’ve only touched on a few, largely because they are the ones most criticized.
Is there anyone that can look at this list, along with thousands of other instances, and say that this work shouldn’t have been done? Is their work irrelevant because they are famous?
Do these celebrities gain more power and money because of their good deeds? They sure do. Why shouldn’t they? It just gives them more power and money to do more good.
There are plenty of celebs out there just using their power for personal gain. If you want to gripe about celebrities, how about putting the negative focus on them?
How hypocritical and dichotomous is it for people to criticize celebs for doing good around the world? Who cares what they gain from it? All I care about is the fact that so much good is being done in such a public manner that it’s creating a new standard and trend. Can you think of a better trend to foster?
Seriously. Why would you fight a trend of famous, influential rich people donating their time and money to philanthropy? Really?
Who needs celebrity philanthropy? The world does. In fact, we could use a little philanthropy from anyone willing to do it well, don’t you think?
I just read an excerpt from a book called “The Last Lecture”. Mr. Pausch said, “When you use money to fight poverty, it can be of great value, but too often, you’re working at the margins. When you’re putting people on the moon, you’re inspiring all of us to achieve the maximum of human potential, which is how our greatest problems will be solved”.
I think there’s something worth noting there. We need both, but people need to be inspired, to do more, be more and experience more. Not to collect more “things”, and not to be discontent, but to get more life, out of life. To truly live.
And let’s face it; a great inspirational story like Rocky, Braveheart or The Pursuit of Happiness gets us all pumped up. We find ourselves seriously compelled to go work out, free the people or pursue our dream career because we see that there is more out there and that it’s possible to achieve. We are reminded once again that even ordinary people are capable of extraordinary things. We need that.
Why have organizations like Charity:Water and Invisible Children done so well? Because they have inspired us. They’ve taken what were previously insurmountable epidemics and provided us clear, tangible methods for addressing them. And then they show us the fruits of our efforts. That’s a game changer.
Scott Harrison realized that just mastering and sharing the facts about the lack of clean water for the poor is not enough. He needed a better story. So he found a way to inspire us. When you watch a video like this one, you don’t feel sad, you feel inspired. You feel empowered to make a difference.
Invisible Children is tackling the issues of child soldiers in Uganda and Congo, among other worthy issues. This is a horrific epidemic throughout certain areas of Africa. The details are gruesome. But, they chose to inspire us by putting the power of to stop this epidemic in the hands of high schoolers and university students across the US. Their impact is nothing short of profound.
Too often we get so caught up in the immediate needs of people that we forget about the big picture. We’ve spent so much time guilting people into action that we forgot the power of inspiration. Inspired people get things done regardless of circumstances or lack of resources. Guilt fades, especially in the West.
Hollywood has inspired millions of people (myself included) to be more and do more because of the inspirational stories they’ve brought to the silver screen.
When I want someone to do something, I spend about 20% of my time teaching them the methodology and 80% of my time inspiring them. There are few forces greater than a truly inspired individual.
What if we approached development work this way? What if we focused our efforts on inspiring the middle and upper class to take care of their own people? This isn’t a short term solution, nor a substitute for emergency aid. I am merely suggesting an additional and simultaneous methodology.
What is more powerful? Westerners providing aid to Africa, or inspired African’s elevating their own society to the point where they no longer need aid?
* This is the second installment in a series on THE INDUSTRY OF AID.
Africa is the second largest continent, bursting with more natural resources than any other, yet still behind much of the rest of the world in terms of economic development, peace and health.
Why? There is no simple answer, but there are some consistently predominant contributors.
Pre-colonization Africa was peaceful and self-reliant. Colonials moved in and did their usual raping and pillaging of the people and land, and continue to today. They created systems for oppression, demoralization and divisionism, exemplified in catastrophes like the Rwandan Genocide.
Then came the missionaries and humanitarians, determined to save the helpless Africans and make them “civilized”. Decades later, much of this process has evolved into yet another oppressive and controlling system, quite contrary to the original mission, yet certainly endemic of their behavior.
There is a pervasive belief that Africa is inferior, unable to develop and prosper on her own. She is overflowing with Aid Agencies/NGOs that rely on her ongoing struggle. Her maladies provide them with a job and income. These agencies depend on Africa’s plight. This is a broken system.
The colonialists see Africa as a playground of free resources and endless slave labor. Aid Agencies treat her as a charity case, creating systems that ensure their services are always needed.
Aid is an industry, generating billions of dollars per year for these institutions. Continents like Africa have become their cash cow. And Aid is now a major cog in our world economy.
So why can’t we treat Africa as our greatest asset, a destination for business? Why aren’t those billions of dollars in aid money used to create businesses instead of institutions that foster dependency on donors (for aid workers and recipients alike)?
Why is Africa recognized as the world’s largest charity case?
*It is important to note during my five years living in East Africa, I have experienced countless NGOs/Aid Agencies that are saving lives and positively impacting society. This blog post reflects the scores of others I’ve witnessed that are regularly contributing to her demise, many of them knowingly.
Developing Nations are not often recognized for excellence. However, this has little to do with the level of talent and determination found in these areas. There are thousands of extraordinary artisans and competent entrepreneurs yet to have the opportunity to present their design and product to the international market.
Decades of focus on the negative aspects of these nations has created a pervasive image of inferiority. But we know firsthand of the tremendous wealth of talent found there. As long as we treat these nations as charity cases, we will continue to limit their capabilities and (negatively) influence their level of output.
If we showcase their excellence, we could change the image of the developing world as well as the expectations of their potential market. It’s time for a paradigm shift in what we expect from these nations.
“It is the nature of man to rise to greatness if greatness is expected of him.” – John Steinbeck
In 2007, The Washington Post did an experiment on context, perception and priorities in which Joshua Bell, an internationally acclaimed musical virtuoso, stationed himself in the Metro, playing his violin (valued at $4 Million) for passersby. He was perceived as any other bum trying to make a buck in the subway station. You can read the story here.
Immanuel Kant (18th Century German Philosopher) argued that “to properly appreciate beauty, the viewing conditions must be optimal”. In the banal setting of the metro station, while preoccupied with work and life, the brilliance of Bell’s performance was all but lost.
This experiment testifies to the importance of branding. If I took a Jackson Pollock painting, put it on a wall in a high school cafeteria and said my nephew did it, people would think it’s cute. If I show that same painting at the Museum Of Modern Art, where most of them reside, it would have a price tag of around $140 Million (the price David Geffen paid for his). So by this rationale, the environment in which art or talent is displayed has much to do with its perceived value.
The majority of African art, fashion and talent are relegated to flea markets, craft fairs, missions conferences and poorly designed websites and promo materials. This is certainly not an environment to promote beauty and excellence. Consequently, the perceived value of African products is that of inferiority.
If these very same products are showcased in beautiful websites, promotional products, high end magazines like Vogue and Vanity Fair and on celebrities walking the red carpet, it’s a game changer. Instantly the perceived value skyrockets.
Branding is essentially the creation of the environment in which our products or services will be judged.
Building a solid brand that fuels a better image for Africa can create an even bigger impact than the direct jobs you are creating with your business.
For instance, with KEZA, we stand to generate 200-500 lucrative careers for African artists and entrepreneurs over the next 2 years. This is powerful and easily quantified. In order for these businesses to thrive, KEZA must sell the goods they create. The proliferation of these products builds the perceived value of the brand and ultimately results in more product sales.
All of this represents a solid social venture and certainly serves Africa well. However, the image it creates may be even more profound. When an investor is being courted to invest in a country like Rwanda, they do their research. They sit down to read the New York Times or Fast Company and look for indicators that would lead them to invest, or run from it.
When an investor sees articles about African fashion showing up on celebrities at red carpet events, or showcased for excellence, it makes an impression. The image makes Africa much more palatable and attractive for investment and visiting.
The proliferation of KEZA products fuels the brand value. That value fuels an image of the beauty and excellence of Africa. That image fuels investment and tourism, contributing significantly to a solid economical foundation for Africa.
KEZA’s focus is just as much on enhancing the image of Africa as it is on directly creating lucrative careers. Why? Because that image creates many more careers than we could ever create from the sale of our fashion goods.
Remember the old Andre Agassi (Canon) campaign, “Image Is Everything”? Like it or not, there’s a lot of truth to that.
If I’m a photographer working in Africa, I’m going look for the most mind blowing and disturbing images I can capture. That’s my purpose. I gather pictures of starvation, disease, filthy hospitals, rebels with guns, dictators with gold plated vehicles and children with distended bellies and flies on their faces.
I will use these photos to expose the plight of Africa and advocate my cause. More tragedy results in more donor funds. Let’s face it; the race for donor funds is quite competitive in the midst of a recession in the US. If I want my pictures to do any good, they better capture the worst and most compelling images I can find.
We’re living in a time where the media is constantly pushing the envelope with new levels of violence and tragedy. It’s become a competition of sorts. Whoever is more shocking wins, and it takes a lot to shock society these days. We see a similar dynamic affecting the humanitarian world.
But what if the most beautiful images won? What if the media depicted Africa the way they do Australia or the United States; as a destination for beauty, adventure and rich culture? How would that change the world’s view of Africa? How might this effect the number of tourists and investors coming to Africa?
This is obviously a bit idealistic, but why not? At some point, the beauty of Africa has to be more attractive and compelling than its demise. It’s time for a paradigm shift in how we represent the Mother Land.
For many years, KEZA has focused on what the aid world refers to as the “poorest of the poor”. It’s become another buzz term like “sustainability” or “capacity building”. These terms help attract volunteers, donors and public awareness.
However, we’ve recently taken a step back to reanalyze our methodology. There are thousands of entrepreneurs all over Africa that have been working diligently to develop their businesses to the point of sustainability. They have thrashed, suffered and pushed through the hardships and their business is plugging along, but they still can’t quite get over the hump to profitability.
These entrepreneurs have proven their dedication and certainly deserve our respect and attention. If their businesses grow beyond mere sustainability and really start to thrive, they have the opportunity to really make an impact in their community, beyond just serving their personal needs.
A thriving entrepreneurial business means a larger capacity to produce, which means more employees needed and more products being exported. If these products are superior in quality and style, that leads to positive press in the media and a lot of public attention. All of these things help to fuel a brand of excellence and beauty, resulting in a heightened image for their country.
In short, we’ve realized that if we empower the entrepreneurial sector to grow their businesses, they will employ the poorest of the poor, export more goods, do it with excellence and help fuel an image of excellence for their country. That image compels investors, business people and tourists to visit and invest in their country.
There are many ways to serve the developing world. We (KEZA) believe empowering the entrepreneurial sector plays a vital role in creating a solid foundation, built on indigenous businesses.