The narrative goes like this. It starts with a story about someone who has just returned from a trip to [pick one: Africa | Nepal | India | Middle East] and discovered people there who could benefit from some aid.
They then announce that existing aid organizations don't seem to be working, for whatever reason, and so they are starting a new one.
This story is followed by a letter to the editor of the [pick one: newspaper | magazine] decrying the launch of yet another charity by a celebrity or otherwise noteable individual, who should instead be working with existing charities. Said letter is often from a director of an existing charity.
Here's what I think is going on.
- Existing charities want your money, not your ideas
- People want to contribute more than money
- They particularly want to feel connected in a personal way, to make a personal impact
- When faced with personal knowledge of problems and a compelling need to help, their efforts to become directly involved through existing channels lead nowhere
- So they launch their own organization
Net result is a fragmentation of aid efforts that is likely to continue. The number of new private foundations is skyrocketing.
Here's a good example: socks for Japan. A more serious effort is Room to Read New ones are popping up constantly.Selena Gomez wants to start her own charity. Christina Applegate launched one. We could probably come up with about 50 similar organizations without too much effort, right?
There are now programs to teach you how to do this, such as this one offered by Global Volunteer Network. You too can "be the change" and "become a social entrepreneur".
A few organizations seem to have found ways to engage people more directly without losing effectiveness. Habitat for Humanity is one -- they actively engage donors in real activities beyond the chequebook.
Political parties, by the way, appear to be having the same problem -- no one wants to just give money. People want to be heard, have influence, be part of creating the ideas. But few organizations are set up for that, and probably most don't really want to be that collaborative.
Co-creation. It's not going away, it's spreading.
Image: The image above is Colin Glassco, who started his own charity.