We aren't here to demonise for-profit or non-profit organisations. We are here to demonise waste.
We don't believe that good will is more important than good skill for people in need.
We believe that we can change the way that people help people, but we need your help, if you or your organisation are looking to have a more significant and relevant impact in the world, get in touch.
We've come a long way with encouraging men to speak up about their poor mental health and to let people know when they are struggling.
But what are we doing after that?
The Just Be Nice Project is committed to not only improving the conversation around mental health, but also improving the access to the material support required to create environments where people can flourish.
You can support our work by subscribing and becoming a JBN Legend Here, we can't do it without the support of our amazing partners and subscribers.
Helping people feel good about doing good is an important element of engagement, but it cannot be the end-game to getting people involved in positive impact.
Is it easy to feel good about things that don't do that much good? Absolutely. Is that the best we can do? Absolutely not.
The end game, and point of help, should always be about what happens for the person in need. Teaching people what effective looks like for people in need, rather than finding ways to make people feel good about attempts at help, is the real future of helping people, help people.
Our work at the Just Be Nice Project is about harnessing the potential of every organisation and individual into effective impacts for those in need, while remaining engaging, relevant and worthwhile to those providing the help. There is a better way.
Creating extraordinary positive change in the world, by helping people make ordinary positive change.
People in need with cancer.
People in need facing extreme prejudice.
People in need of mixed abilities.
People in need without employment or a chance of employment.
People in need growing up in disadvantage.
People in need who are suffering economic distress.
People in need with mental health issues.
People in need without a place to live.
People in need who live overseas.
People in need who have inadequate education.
People in need who are sick.
People in need who fear for their lives.
People in need who look after people in need.
People in need with empty bellies.
People in need who have had a life of privilege and find themselves facing tough times.
People in need who have never had the privilege of a resource rich environment.
We see people in need.
Rather than fight about what cause is the most important, and argue among causes, we believe in creating an eco-system that works to help people in need.
It starts with an acknowledgement that people find themselves in need in many different ways, at many different times, for many different reasons. Rather than take the needs of any one community as more important than another, we consider the knowledge of one community about the most effective ways to help that particular community as important.
Fighting for causes too often means causes fighting against causes. We are here to fight inefficiency. We are here to fight inequality. We are here to fight for people in need.
We are not here to fight inequality with only a spreadsheet and a calculator, but we are also not here to fight inequality with only misguided good intentions and a short-lived peak in emotive interest. We are not here to do things the way that they have been done in the past, because we know that we can do better. We are here to fight alongside people who believe that we can do better. We are here to fight alongside people who are tired of seeing wasted money, time and good intentions.
We are here to fight for those in need.
We would love you to join that fight.
The notion of the feckless poor is a common narrative among conservatives the world over. The persistent insinuation is that people are poor or 'under-performing' because of a lack of morals. Poor because they don’t work hard. ‘There is opportunity everywhere’ the conservatives say, you simply have to take ownership of your life and pursue it, if you don't, there is no one to blame but yourself.
This week, after a series of circumstances and events that one could not describe as anything but farcical, dishonest and lacking character, Scott Morrison was installed as leader of the Liberal party and Prime Minister of Australia.
Among the values espoused in his first press conference, the common call to arms for conservatives of, ‘if you have a go, you’ll get a go’ featured.
If you have a go.
The reality is, in action, there are plenty of people who ‘have a go’ and don’t ‘get a go’ in this country. The asylum seekers imprisoned on Manus Island, having a go, seeking asylum, as is their right. Is undertaking a treacherous journey to protect your life and that of your family not really having a go?
People on the NDIS, leaving about half of the people with disabilities worse off than they were under previous schemes, despite the government spending twice as much. Are these people not having enough of a go?
The 2.9 million Australians that live below the poverty line, including the 36% of them who rely on wages as their main source of income, are they not having a go? Should they simply, as Malcolm Turnbull put it “…seek to earn more”?
Is the renewable energy sector, with it’s huge strides towards creating cheaper power than fossil fuel sources by 2020 not really having a go?
Are students in under-performing schools not having a go? Hamstrung by funding cuts and a teaching profession that treats teachers so poorly that 50% of teachers leave the vocation within a few years of starting, are we sure that these students not having a go?
We need to beware of claims of equality that aren’t matched by the relevant social and legislative supports -
…in societies which claim to recognize individuals only as equals in right, the educational system and it’s modern nobility only contribute to disguise and legitimise in a more subtle way the arbitrariness of the distribution of power and privileges which perpetuates itself through the socially uneven allocation of school titles and degrees. – Pierre Bourdieu & Jean-Claude Passeron.
If we are really serious about giving everyone a go, then we must be serious about improving equality of opportunity for everyone. Not demanding contributions upfront from the most vulnerable, but making it our job to help them get to a place where they are able to contribute.
Regardless of our ability or circumstances, we are here to make a contribution, rather than take one; that in order to you to do better, you don't think someone else has to do worse – Scott Morrison
The real test of the government will be to see how serious they are about building an environment that does, in fact, foster growth and opportunity for all, and not simply a chosen few. We will be watching closely.
Organisational dissonance occurs when an organisations stated beliefs, purpose, culture and actions do not all align.
There are plenty of examples of organisational dissonance, and currently, in Australia, we can see it playing out in the highest levels of government as well.
Some of our bug bears, and most glaring contradictory misalignments include;
Organisations that claim that businesses should be a force for good but are themselves, non-profit entities. Taking the benefits of non-profit status, while having the stated aim that it is, in fact, businesses that should be the driving force for change.
Political parties that are staunchly anti-union, anti-strike action and generally have an attitude of ‘grin and bear it’ when prescribing action to their constituents, shutting up shop and closing down parliament to sort out their own internal problems, rather than simply do their jobs.
Non-profit organisations that claim to want to have long-term impact, but only focus on selling and promoting short-term, instant gratification projects and activities without working to have programs and frameworks for the long-term. At the same time failing to help their supporters understand and see the value in long-term engagement to solve problems.
Organisations with stated aims to assist members of a community through a single area of intervention, wanting to help a group of people, but only providing one element of the help. Ostensibly because they care about the welfare and opportunities of this particular community in need. At the same time they are refusing to work alongside or collaborate with other organisations, who provide different kinds of necessary support, to the same community. This kind of in-fighting among organisations is rife and causes misery inside and outside of the organisations.
Schools that claim to value education and delivering quality education to children, that simultaneously cut the lowest performing and most in-need students in order to keep their performance results high.
Organisational dissonance is one of the biggest blocks to actual equality of opportunity, as we descend further into a culture of ignoring the gaps between stated aims and beliefs and actions. No-one is perfect, no organisation is perfect, but systemic hypocrisy and dissonance should be identified and changed. Quickly.
When the Just Be Nice Project works with out partner organisations, one of the first things we look for is signs of organisational dissonance, staff dissatisfaction, cultural difficulties, uncertain future goals and a lack of trust. It is possible to align what you say you want to do, and what you do and how you do it.
It might not be easy, but it is possible. That is what makes character-led organisations so valuable.
The influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those that follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. I believe that the reasons for ending all further Muslim immigration are both compelling and self-evident. -Anning
This week senator, Fraser Anning of the Katter Australia Party (Full Transcript here) addressed the Australian Senate..
Excerpts of the speech, party leader Bob Katter's response and Annings non-apology are all available to watch below.
We cannot stress enough, this xenophobic, inaccurate, wildly inflammatory speech does nothing to advance the cause of improving equality of opportunity for any Australians.
For a representative of 'Australian' Ideals, Anning seems to forget that the second verse of our national anthem begins with;
"For those who come across the seas, we've boundless plains to share."
Without even going into the abject abuse, disenfranchisement and continuing negative impact of colonialism on the Indigenous Australians, the current anthem for Australia includes room for those from across the seas. Not Europeans from across the seas.
This divisive, hurtful and false rhetoric from our parliamentarians must be called out, but even further, their divisive and damaging actions must be called out too.
This is not ok. Australia can absolutely do better. We see the very best in the opportunities for positive impact that can be had, through effective corporate and community engagement and management. Keeping people doing what they are really good at, on the road to effective impact, and making sure that people who need help, get the help that they need, when they need it, for as long as they need it.
Keep looking out for each other, keep supporting the most vulnerable in our communities, and as always, Just Be Nice.
While all Muslims are not terrorists, certainly all terrorists these days are Muslims. So why would anyone want to bring more of them here? - Anning
We tell people “It’s ok to not be ok” and that is true, it absolutely is.
We don’t tell people “It’s ok to be poor”
Because we know it’s not.
Not simply that it’s not ok for them. But that it’s not ok for us to know and do nothing.
It’s not ok if we acknowledge that we aren’t doing everything we can to create an environment where everyone has an equal chance of providing for themselves and the people they care about.
It’s not ok when we know that it is not simply a matter of ‘laziness’, or ‘not being engaged’, or ‘not caring’. The myth of the feckless poor is only an excuse for people to ignore the issues that disadvantaged communities and individuals face. We would do well to remind one another that poverty is not a lack of character, it’s a lack of cash.
Trickle-down economic policies that ignore the responsibility of those with to contribute to improving the lives of those without.
In a time of unprecedented economic success and growth, we have a responsibility to say that it’s not ok to be poor. We should be compelled to action to take responsibility for people that are doing it tough, dealing with the inequality of opportunity that affects the 2.9 million Australians that live below the poverty line. Over 1 in 10 Australians. Right now.
If we are going to be concerned with mental health outcomes, as we should be, we need to acknowledge the fact that economic distress is a huge factor in emotional and relationship stress and other mental health issues. Feelings of hopelessness, an inability to take control of your life and get after the things you want to achieve, deep and constant feelings of uncertainty, feeling inadequate because you are struggling to provide for the people you care about. These are all very real mental health issues that stem from economic distress.
It’s ok to not be ok. It’s not ok for us to not do anything about the factors that lead people to struggle in the first place.
Just Be Nice. Be Good. Do Good.
Often we are asked about how it is possible to deal with particular issues.
For many, the journey into the world of positive impact is sparked by a feeling of needing to do something about a particular issue. Often people search for things to do based on these particular issues, rather than searching for the most appropriate way to help people in need of help. They are not guided towards the most appropriate way to help based on what they do the best and what is most needed by those seeking help.
This misdirection, taking the focus from effective help to particular issues, is exacerbated by the language that we use around these individual causes. The sector is constantly battling to promote issues as more important or more emotive than others, rather than focusing on the most important fundamental process;
Ensuring people in need, get the help that they need, when they need it, for as long as they need it.
Disadvantage doesn’t have one look. It isn’t limited to one particular issue, it is a complex web of many different factors and manifestations, often overlapping and interlinked, nuanced and time dependent. In the same way treating a scratch early prevents it becoming septicaemia, dealing with issues of inequality early can prevent them becoming life-threatening and community destroying.
Working to fight disadvantage means working to level the playing field. At the Just Be Nice Project we believe that working towards an equality of opportunity for everyone is the only real way to build a system that helps anyone.
So if it’s not about any particular issue, what is it about?
Well, lets look at what disadvantage is. Among many things;
Disadvantage is having the collective noun for you and your friends go from group to pack in the media.
Disadvantage is having to share a white bread sandwich with vegemite three ways for lunch.
Disadvantage is time on the phone negotiating bill paying extensions with every, single, service provider.
Disadvantage is being kicked out of your rental property because you were late on the rent because someone ran into your car and you couldn’t afford to fix the car you need for work, and the whole rent this month.
Disadvantage is failing school because you are busy looking after your sick mum.
Disadvantage is having a disability and being unable to access the help you need. It is having the same disability and being unable to access the leisure and social activities we all need too.
Disadvantage is getting a bill from DHS for the damage that was done to your rental property when your husband put your head through the plasterboard wall.
Disadvantage is having Centrelink make an administrative error and not pay you for a fortnight, so that for two weeks you and your family are unable to eat.
Disadvantage is getting too sick to work and not having any sick leave because you are a casual employee, and disadvantage is the scramble over the next few years to pay back those credit cards and money you borrowed.
Disadvantage is having a mental illness, and nowhere to go.
Disadvantage is coming out of rehab and having nowhere to go. It’s the only place offered to you being a harm-minimisation facility where people still take drugs. It’s avoiding that place because you want to stay clean, so you sleep on the street, and get told “Surely anywhere is better than sleeping on the street.”, “Ungrateful”, “Sort your life out”.
Disadvantage is the kid in class who can’t concentrate, for years, because from the ages of 3-10 she doesn’t get sufficient breakfast or lunch and gets told she is dumb because she is ‘falling behind.’ By the teachers and ‘dumb’ by her peers.
Disadvantage is waking up in the middle of the night as a 10 year old and checking to make sure that your Dad isn’t beating up your Mum in the living room.
Disadvantage is all of these things, and many, many others. Disadvantage can strike people at any moment and some people are born into disadvantage. We believe that all people should have access to the help they need, when they need it, for as long as they need. We believe that it is possible to create extraordinary positive change in the world, by helping people make ordinary positive change, and we would love your support.
Often charities and charitable endeavours are started with the best intentions. Intentions to do something.
Perhaps you have engaged because you feel inspired by a particular person or cause, maybe you were moved to action because something happened close to home. When moved to action, how do you determine what the best course of action is?
You can start with a simple, and important question to ask;
But then what?
You are inspired to move to action because you saw a homeless person on the street doing it rough? You want to give them a sandwich?... But then what?
What happens next? Do they get the long-term support to deal with mental health issues, economic difficulty and other socio-economic pressures to take them from homeless to engaged, employed, housed and happy? Does that sound like too much?
You are inspired to action after seeing how hard it can be for people leaving domestic violence situations. You donate sanitary goods to an organisation you see in your Facebook news feed… But then what?
What happens next? Do they get support in housing for as long as they need it to re-establish themselves? Are they provided with moving services, economic assistance? Are the children moved to new schools or supported where they are? Are necessary training arrangements made to ensure that the parent leaving is going to be able to find gainful, relevant and adequate employment? Is the person they are leaving being given assistance, counselling and being managed in a way that reduces risk to the family and the community? Does that sound like too much work?
We should be aiming to focus our efforts not on ‘Whether we did something’, but ‘Whether a complete outcome was achieved for the person/s we are trying to help.’. By focusing on the effort of the doer rather than the outcome for the person in need we have skewed the kinds of interventions available to the short-term, donor focused activities that might be nice to do, but aren’t necessarily doing the good that is required.
If you were in hospital for a broken leg and someone gave you a beanie and some soup, then told you to be on your way, it is unlikely you would be happy with that. Sure, it’s nice, and thank you for the sentiment and effort, but it would be great if you could fix my broken leg please. That is the most pressing problem for me right now.
If the broken leg was fixed (requiring the time, effort and resources of multiple professionals, a multi-billion dollar healthcare infrastructure and the means to pay for it all), and the person remained hungry and cold, that would be the perfect time to step in and give them soup and a beanie. The ‘But then what?’ question would be satisfied.
The leg is fixed, hunger resolved, they’re no longer cold and can go home now. (Assuming this person has a home to go to).
If we don’t emphasise solving problems for people in need before looking for short-term participation opportunities for people looking to do something, then we will continue to waste time and resources that could be used to great effect, simply through mismanagement.
Being nice is important, and it revolves around what you do and how you act.
Doing good is about the people you are helping. Doing good revolves around what happens for the person/s who need help.
At the Just Be Nice Project we identify opportunities for impact and manage those resources into long term outcomes for people and communities who are experiencing disadvantage. Believing that people are capable of more than simply popping in for a moment to do some token activity under the guise of ‘doing good’, we believe in integrating solutions that allow people and organisations to benefit in a variety of ways from continued engagement with systems of assistance that are focused on outcomes for people in need.
Your beanie and soup might be a wonderful help, at the right moment, for the right people. In another context it might be a shameful waste and an inefficient, donor-centric intervention. It’s simply a matter of timing and management, of both at-risk communities and donor resources. If you are a professional with skills in any industry, a talented hobbyist or an interested, intelligent and engaged individual, it is likely that the most good you can do will be utilising those skills. Not simply spooning soup into a cup or planting a tree. Those jobs are important, but skilled, effective help also requires skilled effective humans, doing what they are best at.
Keep on asking, keep on improving and as always, Just Be Nice.
Just Be Nice
A collection of articles relevant to pursuing the effective execution of altruism in the search for equality of opportunity.