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 Post subject: Grace
PostPosted: 29 May 2008, 14:30 
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I’m looking for constructive criticism of this proposal:

Quote:
The proposal suggests ways in which the visibility of existing humanitarian activities can be increased, in the hope that this will help them gain momentum.


I have found the proposal difficult to summarise. Perhaps the best way to get a clear sense of what it’s about is to read the case study (section 3).


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 Post subject: Re: Grace
PostPosted: 29 May 2008, 14:51 
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Hey ...

I'm about to head off to teach, but I'll see if I can't try and take a look at it before we go away for the weekend. Otherwise I'll get back to you on it early next week ...

Pleasant looking site, at the very least ... :D

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 Post subject: Re: Grace
PostPosted: 05 Jun 2008, 17:34 
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Sorry for this response taking so long, it's just that I decided to scrap my previous comments and start over ...

It looks to me, if I boil this down correctly, like what you're proposing in your model is an information/ material clearinghouse between organizations which are already in the 'business' of dealing with social problems. If I'm wrong on this, then let me know so I get the right understanding.


Now, the first problem I see is with the 'primary characteristics':

Quote:
* Decentralisation – it has no centralised point of control, and therefore no position of power
* Sustainability – the model is aimed at gradual long-term transformation; it fosters small social changes, consolidates them and builds on them
* Self-correction – when abuse of the system takes place, the system is able to detect and eliminate it


combined with who does it:

Quote:
* It can be a service provided by one of the organisations that are already dealing with the problem. In this case, a separate organisation must be formed that is dedicated to the task to ensure that there is no conflict of interests.
* All or several of these humanitarian organisations can jointly form and finance a separate organisation dedicated to the task.
* Local government can assume this responsibility.

The organisation that assumes the responsibility must not have any other interests or authority in the problem domain. It must especially not get involved in collecting donations or co-ordinating volunteer work. This restriction is imposed to avoid the centralisation of power and the associated danger of corruption.


The first stumbling block, then, is trying to get the funding. This organization, by necessity, will need funding to do it's work, not only for the personnel, but also for the facilities and advertising publicity. If you're looking to humanitarian groups or local governments to supply this funding, you can be most assured that it will come with 'strings attached'. Any of the humanitarian groups will have 'watchdog' aspects that insure that funds are not being used contrary to the aims/ tenets of the group. The autonomy that you're assigning the model system offers the possibility (or demands it, depending on the situation) of acts in direct opposition of the funding group or groups.

Another issue in here is the hierarchical nature that such a system demands. A local office, then a regional one, then a state one, a continental one, then a planetary one. While I recognize that this is in the hypothetical, think of the ramifications for 'power' to build in one office over another. And, if there's no 'power' to the whole thing, then how does one stop the corruption within the system itself? Will a internal regulatory body be put into place? If this is being run at the local level and local offices are not forced to co-operate with a humanitarian or governmental group, will the desires of the staff of the local office dictate what type of information is passed along, which may direct benefits toward one group and away from others?

Another I'll touch on is the transparency issue. Potentially, some private, sensitive information could be in the reports. If they are not to be altered from the original form, then how to really decide what information is allowed to be passed on? In all honesty, I can see that the candid aspects of the failed efforts especially could be very useful, if an individual or a faction of a community were actually hampering valid efforts to help out other individuals or factions. But, what are the social ramifications of letting that information out, or potentially the choices of humanitarian groups to potentially avoid those sites/ issues because of that information?


Now, with that, I don't want you to think that I think it's a bad idea. Clearinghouses are great resources, as they streamline the searches for information, and in this case material as well. But I think that it needs more structure than you propose, especially for the funding and sustainability aspects. It's likely to take a lot of funding, and without a dedicated, unbiased source and distinct rules on how it operates, I think that it will be unsuccessful. That said, you note how rife with corruption such organizations are, and it's a tough act to balance the two. :dontknow:

I'm interested to know how this sits with you. :wave:

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 Post subject: Re: Grace
PostPosted: 11 Jun 2008, 04:37 
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Hex wrote:
Sorry for this response taking so long, it's just that I decided to scrap my previous comments and start over ...

At least your response was more useful than this. :(

Hex wrote:
It looks to me, if I boil this down correctly, like what you're proposing in your model is an information/ material clearinghouse between organizations which are already in the 'business' of dealing with social problems. If I'm wrong on this, then let me know so I get the right understanding.

Strictly an information clearinghouse.


I will have to work out more of the details to address your concerns adequately. Below is what I can offer at the moment:

Hex wrote:
The first stumbling block, then, is trying to get the funding. This organization, by necessity, will need funding to do it's work, not only for the personnel, but also for the facilities and advertising publicity. If you're looking to humanitarian groups or local governments to supply this funding, you can be most assured that it will come with 'strings attached'. Any of the humanitarian groups will have 'watchdog' aspects that insure that funds are not being used contrary to the aims/ tenets of the group. The autonomy that you're assigning the model system offers the possibility (or demands it, depending on the situation) of acts in direct opposition of the funding group or groups.

I don’t quite follow this. Are you talking about ‘watchdog’ aspects regarding the funding of information-gathering activities? Something along the lines of “we are paying you to gather information, so you will gather the information that we want you to gather, and we feel strongly about this”?

Some attempts at information-gathering have already been made. There has been a spate of xenophobic violence in South Africa in recent weeks. In response, various churches and other humanitarian organisations have implemented emergency measures to collect and distribute food and other necessities to the victims of violence. This included basic quantification of the problem to guide the relief efforts. Apart from this, some attempts have been made at quantifying the humanitarian activities by the organisations themselves, especially if they are receiving funding from the government and need to report on its spending. This is not something that we have to introduce, but only expand so that it is both widespread and recurrent. Also, we might be able to get away with not having an optimal solution (with all the checks in place) from the start, but only as the initiative gains acceptance.

There is a lot that we can do regarding publicity that does not require additional funding. I think that the key lies in creating a brand for the initiative. Then any attempt at promoting any of the humanitarian activities on behalf of organisations that are a part of the initiative would serve to promote the initiative as a whole. For example, if priests/ministers/pastors were to keep their church congregations informed about the initiative, this would reach a large number of people without having to make use of television/radio/newspaper. We could also make use of the media without needing additional funding by simply mentioning the initiative whenever the subject comes up (in news reports, interviews, etc).

Hex wrote:
Another issue in here is the hierarchical nature that such a system demands. A local office, then a regional one, then a state one, a continental one, then a planetary one. While I recognize that this is in the hypothetical, think of the ramifications for 'power' to build in one office over another. And, if there's no 'power' to the whole thing, then how does one stop the corruption within the system itself? Will a internal regulatory body be put into place? If this is being run at the local level and local offices are not forced to co-operate with a humanitarian or governmental group, will the desires of the staff of the local office dictate what type of information is passed along, which may direct benefits toward one group and away from others?

The idea that I had was that each data item (apart from estimates) that appears in higher levels of the hierarchy can be traced back to lower levels of the hierarchy, and each data item that appears in lower levels of the hierarchy can be found in higher levels of the hierarchy. Because all of this data resides in the public domain, I don’t see what kind of power offices higher up in the hierarchy can have over offices lower down in the hierarchy.

Misreporting of data by a data-gathering organisation can be detected by the humanitarian organisation that has supplied the data. Misuse of donations by a humanitarian organisation can be detected by donors who supplied them, provided that the organisation’s transaction model is transparent. I haven’t been able to find a way of detecting corruption in the general case. I don’t think it exists. If everyone involved in the process is in collusion, there is nothing we can do to uncover it. More sophisticated processes can make this more difficult, but cannot prevent it.

Once corruption is uncovered, I see only two possibilities:
- The corrupt organisations willingly, actively and transparently work to eliminate it
- The portion of the overall structure that involves them collapses, with possible wider ramifications

If donors discover that their donations to a particular humanitarian organisation have been misappropriated, they will simply stop donating until adequate assurance can be given that the problem has been eliminated. If a humanitarian organisation discovers that their data has been misreported by a data-gathering organisation, it will stop providing further data until the problem is rectified. I’m relying on independent investigative organisations, as well as judiciary and the press, to assist in this regard.

Hex wrote:
Another I'll touch on is the transparency issue. Potentially, some private, sensitive information could be in the reports. If they are not to be altered from the original form, then how to really decide what information is allowed to be passed on? In all honesty, I can see that the candid aspects of the failed efforts especially could be very useful, if an individual or a faction of a community were actually hampering valid efforts to help out other individuals or factions. But, what are the social ramifications of letting that information out, or potentially the choices of humanitarian groups to potentially avoid those sites/ issues because of that information?

I’m not sure which part of the proposal you are referring to. If it’s section 7 (contributions), transactional transparency can be achieved by assigning a unique number to each donation and giving this number to the donor when the donation is made and the recipient when it is received. It is not necessary to collect any personal information about the donor. Note that this resides in the domain of humanitarian organisations and not information-gathering organisations.

Hex wrote:
Now, with that, I don't want you to think that I think it's a bad idea. Clearinghouses are great resources, as they streamline the searches for information, and in this case material as well. But I think that it needs more structure than you propose, especially for the funding and sustainability aspects. It's likely to take a lot of funding, and without a dedicated, unbiased source and distinct rules on how it operates, I think that it will be unsuccessful. That said, you note how rife with corruption such organizations are, and it's a tough act to balance the two. :dontknow:

I may be too much of an idealist in this regard (if you’ve read chapter 19 of my book, you’ll probably agree). I just think that we are better off hammering away at the problem until we work it out than not trying. I’m busy contacting various humanitarian organisations that operate where I live in an effort to flesh out more of the details and work towards an initial implementation. Hopefully something comes of it.

Hex wrote:
I'm interested to know how this sits with you. :wave:

I don't hate you... yet! :wink:


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