16 January, 2011

Micronutrients FTW!

Subtitled "Nobel laureates have figured out the eight investments that will help the planet most. No. 1: micronutrients."

Their impact on a growing, human body is anything but micro. But the point of the article is much bigger, and one close to my heart: how to make the money people give to charities actually help other people as effectively as possible.

"But there is a larger point here: Billions of dollars are given and spent on aid and development by individuals and companies each year. Despite this generosity, we simply do not allocate enough resources to solve all of the world's biggest problems. In a world fraught with competing claims on human solidarity, we have a moral obligation to direct additional resources to where they can achieve the most good. And that is as true of our own small-scale charitable donations as it is of governments' or philanthropists' aid budgets."

I've been helping a friend edit his dissertation and the other documents he's been writing up whilst living in Nairobi and studying the sociological problems in Korogochu; and though not the point of his studies, it is clear that there is a lot of money wasting going on in NGOs.

So, consider that NGOs are like regular, product-selling corporations (what they sell is the good feeling that you get about yourself when you've done something "altruistic"), how can we get some sort of a product guarantee? We can't always; but we can do our homework and find out who is best addressing our cause of choice.

I hope that the NGO market continues to develop along these lines -- i.e. effective spending -- more in the future, and that consumers learn that it isn't really realistic to expect problems to go away by throwing money at them. It's not enough to write a cheque, pat yourself on the back, and walk away.

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