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.