Links I liked

1. Chris Blattman on using Obama as an ice-breaker in Liberia

2. Fast Company Magazine covering Pulse, Acumen Fund’s new initiative to improve measurement in the social sector

3. Post on Harumafuji (sumo wrestler) — just because I like to be reminded that there are things out there I know absolutely nothing about

4. Owen on six ways NGO’s can do more harm than good.

5. Seth Godin on Thanksgiving

4 thoughts on “Links I liked

  1. In response to link No. 4 – Owen on six ways NGO’s can do more harm than good.

    We ( partner with civil society groups that have income generating ideas. We partner with existing structures and established entities. We are a “newbie” in the sense that we were founded in 2003.

    As you pointed out, income generation and businesses fail. We are not proclaiming that income generation is a panacea. But even when a venture or enterprise fails, it still provides lessons to be learned and perseverance.

    However, we do have examples of vocational training (tailoring) and broiler chicken projects working. They are profitable; and the profits are then reinvested into the CSO (or CBO) and ultimately the community.

    How is this a waste? What are your suggestions/solutions for people working together?

  2. On Adam’s comment, the item #4 Owen refers to says

    4) You can construct a building and then not provide funds for maintenance or staffing. A school needs a teacher. A clinic needs a doctor or nurse. All buildings need upkeep – painting and repairs at the very least. A building with not funds for maintenance is a drain on community resources in perpetuity, or an eyesore.

    Not wanting to speak for Alanna, I do read it differently than you’re saying — I don’t understand this to suggest that income generation is bad at all. To the contrary, I read it to say that one should not make capital investments (buildings, etc.) without figuring out the funding needs for the staff to make that capital asset into something productive that serves the community. So if anything I read it as an argument FOR income-generating projects.

    (The original post is from Alanna Shaikh’s blog at

  3. Sasha, you’re right – I was basically arguing that to run a good program you have to lay the groundwork for a good program. We know income-generation can succeed, because we see businesses do it.

    I am not convinced, I admit, that lessons learned or perseverance are sufficient recompense to a community that has wasted precious time and effort on a failed project.

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