Probability Practise, helping the Poor

Can we help the poor simply by increasing the probability that a skillful independent helper or her organisation finds them?

William Easterly, the development economist and author of “The White Man’s Burden” makes a famous distinction between “Planners” and “Searchers”. The Planners have led most of the development efforts over the past 40 years – and failed on many occasions. We are going to make a similar distinction here in an attempt to explain how we think social media should work to support grass roots initiatives.

Organisations, institutions, associations, formal frameworks, companies, hierarchies, programs – they all have something in common. They want to – and need, for that matter – plan and monitor their activities, use official channels, be bureaucratic. Of course there are good reasons for this because ill-informed, ill-skilled, and even ill-intended individuals are roaming this world. So the only way to make sure we are working with professional, well-informed and trustworthy people is to plan everything carefully and leave nothing to chance.

But this would exclude fledgling initiatives, fragile ideas in the minds of a small group of slum dwellers, or excentric individuals. They dream about improving the lot of their communities, but they don’t have any papers to show. They are the Searches of their world, and what could help them is individuals who meet them in private, get to like and trust them, and start supporting their Cause.

Our platform wants to help these Searchers at the very beginning of their endeavour, when their ideas and resources are still vulnerable and they could benefit most from external help, because they need moral support, experience, exposure, and trust. Using social media techniques, doing a background check is fairly easy and so is documenting trust. De facto, social media can overcome the hurdle that used to seperate the invisible, unofficial initiatives from the connected happy few.

These small (in the language of the West: promising) grass roots initiatives don’t qualify for being at the receiving end of an official fund raising campaign. There won’t be an NGO supporting them with a landrover, a university professor and some field workers to be permanently stationed “on the ground”. There’s no legal structure, no liability, no professional expertise – just chaos and need. The need of a computer to be fixed, a toilet to be built, a website to be translated, a sewing class to be started. But it will never happen: the paperwork would cost more than any NGO could account for.

But what about Chance Encounters? What about people who happen to be there where help is needed, people with skills who wouldn’t mind making the world a bit better? People who like to help their neighbour more when that neighbour lives thousands of miles away and is actually in dire need of that help?

The idea is to increase the probability of an independent change maker encountering a needy cause that needs just what she can offer them. It’s about nurses, plumbers, mechanics, IT-experts, lawyers, translators, economists, doctors, carpenters, organic farmers helping out where it is needed the most, and don’t leave before the project is sustainable. It’s about adventure travelers helping poor communities becoming sustainable and sensitizing their followers back home. It’s about independent volunteers supporting causes less visible where they can really make a change.

This is probability practice: Increasing the chances of the least connected fledgling initiatives to be found by skilled independent people who like to help a distant neighbor and create a little hope for the world’s silenced voices

Advertisements

Probability Practise, helping the Poor

Can we help the poor simply by increasing the probability that a skillful independent helper or her organisation finds them?

William Easterly, the development economist and author of “The White Man’s Burden” makes a famous distinction between “Planners” and “Searchers”. The Planners have led most of the development efforts over the past 40 years – and failed on many occasions. We are going to make a similar distinction here in an attempt to explain how we think social media should work to support grass roots initiatives.

Organisations, institutions, associations, formal frameworks, companies, hierarchies, programs – they all have something in common. They want to – and need, for that matter – plan and monitor their activities, use official channels, be bureaucratic. Of course there are good reasons for this because ill-informed, ill-skilled, and even ill-intended individuals are roaming this world. So the only way to make sure we are working with professional, well-informed and trustworthy people is to plan everything carefully and leave nothing to chance.

But this would exclude fledgling initiatives, fragile ideas in the minds of a small group of slum dwellers, or excentric individuals. They dream about improving the lot of their communities, but they don’t have any papers to show. They are the Searches of their world, and what could help them is individuals who meet them in private, get to like and trust them, and start supporting their Cause.

Our platform wants to help these Searchers at the very beginning of their endeavour, when their ideas and resources are still vulnerable and they could benefit most from external help, because they need moral support, experience, exposure, and trust. Using social media techniques, doing a background check is fairly easy and so is documenting trust. De facto, social media can overcome the hurdle that used to seperate the invisible, unofficial initiatives from the connected happy few.

These small (in the language of the West: promising) grass roots initiatives don’t qualify for being at the receiving end of an official fund raising campaign. There won’t be an NGO supporting them with a landrover, a university professor and some field workers to be permanently stationed “on the ground”. There’s no legal structure, no liability, no professional expertise – just chaos and need. The need of a computer to be fixed, a toilet to be built, a website to be translated, a sewing class to be started. But it will never happen: the paperwork would cost more than any NGO could account for.

But what about Chance Encounters? What about people who happen to be there where help is needed, people with skills who wouldn’t mind making the world a bit better? People who like to help their neighbour more when that neighbour lives thousands of miles away and is actually in dire need of that help?

The idea is to increase the probability of an independent change maker encountering a needy cause that needs just what she can offer them. It’s about nurses, plumbers, mechanics, IT-experts, lawyers, translators, economists, doctors, carpenters, organic farmers helping out where it is needed the most, and don’t leave before the project is sustainable. It’s about adventure travelers helping poor communities becoming sustainable and sensitizing their followers back home. It’s about independent volunteers supporting causes less visible where they can really make a change.

This is probability practice: Increasing the chances of the least connected fledgling initiatives to be found by skilled independent people who like to help a distant neighbor and create a little hope for the world’s silenced voices

June 12. SSF my love.

We get up, move towards the river, order breakfast, buy bus tickets to Kampong Speu, where the foundation we are working with is located, and wait for our pickup service. The jolly, chubby man selling me these tickets has acquired a comfortable space with a view in the citadelle of my memory. Kampong Speu is just about 50 kilometers down the road, but speeding is not an option here even the tarmac is tempting the traffic is tough.
We jump off the bus where instructed and call Shannon, a volunteer working for SSF picks us up on a bicycle. The Sao Sary Foundation (SSF) is located behind the market, about ten minutes walk from the bus stop. SSF’s mission is to prevent child trafficking by alleviating poverty in five rural villages. Their concept works really well, and many children can go to school thanks to the support of the foundation. We meet Vichetr Uon, the director, who will become a friend of mine, and have good conversations about SSF and what we could do here.

And we can do something straight away! Overcoming my remaining shyness I suggest we could do our workshop (or simply: playing hour) with the kids and yes it is possible. We have just arrived here but the kids are enthousiastic  and there is no better way to introduce ourselves. We start off with some stretching and yoga exercises, then we jump and do some freestyle aerobics. Hopping on one leg, laying the other leg on your knee, then getting as low and possible followed by a full turn is hilarious and I am proud to have invented it. After the jumping, we do some children games,
After the warming up, we introduce some pantomime to them. The virtual balloon, along with the virtual needle, are great assets . The children at SSF are very creative and when we ask them to imitate certain jobs or animals, they do so with great inventiveness.
It is a beautiful day, and we discuss current issues with Vichetr and the volunteers as they use to do. This is a good place.

June 12. SSF my love.

We get up, move towards the river, order breakfast, buy bus tickets to Kampong Speu, where the foundation we are working with is located, and wait for our pickup service. The jolly, chubby man selling me these tickets has acquired a comfortable space with a view in the citadelle of my memory. Kampong Speu is just about 50 kilometers down the road, but speeding is not an option here even the tarmac is tempting the traffic is tough.
We jump off the bus where instructed and call Shannon, a volunteer working for SSF picks us up on a bicycle. The Sao Sary Foundation (SSF) is located behind the market, about ten minutes walk from the bus stop. SSF’s mission is to prevent child trafficking by alleviating poverty in five rural villages. Their concept works really well, and many children can go to school thanks to the support of the foundation. We meet Vichetr Uon, the director, who will become a friend of mine, and have good conversations about SSF and what we could do here.

And we can do something straight away! Overcoming my remaining shyness I suggest we could do our workshop (or simply: playing hour) with the kids and yes it is possible. We have just arrived here but the kids are enthousiastic  and there is no better way to introduce ourselves. We start off with some stretching and yoga exercises, then we jump and do some freestyle aerobics. Hopping on one leg, laying the other leg on your knee, then getting as low and possible followed by a full turn is hilarious and I am proud to have invented it. After the jumping, we do some children games,
After the warming up, we introduce some pantomime to them. The virtual balloon, along with the virtual needle, are great assets . The children at SSF are very creative and when we ask them to imitate certain jobs or animals, they do so with great inventiveness.
It is a beautiful day, and we discuss current issues with Vichetr and the volunteers as they use to do. This is a good place.