Buzz Schmidt, Founder & Chair, GuideStar International
By Buzz Schmidt, Founder & Chair, GuideStar International
European Foundation Week Session: Help for Haiti’s next Generation from Global Society- Organised by SOS Children’s Villages, 1st June 2010
This workshop was led by SOS Children’s Villages, a global NGO (30,000 associates) that supports kids in 109 countries through safe living and meeting spaces (villages). SOS states that it is the best established NGO operating in Haiti. Half of the 26 people in the room were representatives of SOS offices in European countries. The other attendees were primarily European representatives of other NGOs – Accion, Concern Worldwide, betterplace.org (German online giving platform for 2000 causes) Boy Scouts, Glocalist (advocacy newspaper in Berlin) and TSG. A representative of the InterAmerican Development Bank (focused on funding infrastructure) also attended.
Brief input papers on the Haiti’s status were presented by SOS staff. There was overall an sense that major issues still confront the recovery. Many people and NGOs are already leaving. The media left two months ago. People are still suffering terribly. This input was followed by a roundtable discussion about coordination, progress, long-term vision, global input versus local initiative, etc. The major questions are – how can we keep Haiti top of mind; how can one establish the kind of vision and deliverables that will keep donors engaged when legitimacy requires national Haitian control of its own future; how do you rebuild capacity of public sector to lead the rebuilding effort; how do you coordinate various recovery and building efforts?
Implications for TechSoup Global: The notion of constructing a more conducive environment and infrastructure to support indigenous CSOs did not arise and the flow of the conversation prevented me from explicitly raising and exploring it. But this infrastructure would certainly be a central feature in the development of a sustainable, self-promoting society in Haiti and countries like it. But Haiti, itself, continues to be a country that will be disproportionately visible, and a successful TSG/GSI intervention could be very useful for our reputation and organization CV. For many excellent reasons, we lack a sense of urgency about this opportunity/need. We are not alone as other organizations have difficulty being properly responsive in these types of situations. But it does underscore the need to get our various offerings synchronized and proposition better-defined so that a TSG intervention for this type of situation is possible.
By Keisha Taylor
Did you know that Haiti has the highest number of local NGOs per capita in the world? It has been coined ‘A Republic of NGOs’ because of it. Before this year’s earthquake, 3000 local NGOs in a population of 10 million people were operating in Haiti, which is one of the poorest countries in the world due to its colonial past, coups, crippling debt, and susceptibility to natural disasters. It follows that the proliferation of local NGOs is understandable. NGOs help to provide services that the government won’t or don’t have the capacity to provide. However, the article Why Haiti Should Beware Professional Do-Gooders examines how the increase of foreign donors and NGOs in Haiti, though providing much need assistance, is also capable of limiting sovereignty and government capacity, which can thwarts overall development efforts. Giving resources that aren’t needed can cripple the local economy (as was the case where donated clothes in Zambia crippled the local textile industry). The simple concept of matching needs with resources must be applied to collaborative efforts of donors, NGOs and very importantly the Haitian government. Only through working together, in a transparent and accountable manner, will long term development goals be achieved and NGOs must ensure that regardless of good intentions, their actions help and not hinder this process.
Tents set up after the Earthquake in Haiti's capital (Source: United Nations)
The earthquake that brought devastation to Haiti this week has left thousands of people needing water, food, clothing, shelter and medical supplies, all vital for those that have survived. NGOs have been working hard to provide support and supplies to those affected and a lot of people throughout the world want to help. The American Red Cross is one NGO that has already received $3 million, through text message donations by appealing for $10 donations from the public and Ushahidi, which was created in Africa by Africans has utilised a crowdsourcing platform to gather information and report about the disaster in real time.
On the Ushahidi website, visitors can submit reports about their knowledge or experience of the disaster and updates are also available via Twitter, You Tube and Flickr. Live updates are also provided via their Google map. Ushahidi also highlights whether a source of information has been validated or not, which poignantly reminds us that despite the benefits of access to information, the need for information that is valid and reliable is still of high importance. For instance, today Twitter debunked a rumour, which falsely claimed that Jet Blue and American Airlines were flying doctors and nurses to Haiti for free to help those affected by the Earthquake. Some authorities have also warned the public about donating to false nonprofits that have been set up to swindle those who give to them.
We hope that all the victims and their families get the help that they so urgently require and that technology can help them to get that help faster. GuideStar (US) is helping people to find information online about US nonprofits working in Haiti that they would like to give too. They have also provided some tips for giving wisely to nonprofits as donations roll in.