I have often read of corporate bodies and philanthropists talking about social responsibility in the press. They give a lot of hand outs to the poor and that is definitely a good thing right? There is usually presence of a media team, taking pictures and great speeches by a great guest of honour. Their banner is posed right next to the podium, so that the audience associates it with their good will.
If these people weren’t poor or encountering these problems would these non-profits exist? Do these non profits benefit from the lack of these individuals? It seems as if crisis creates the problem statement that is to be placed in proposals before any funding is to be released. My article has been stimulated by a post I read on Facebook by Betty Makoni. I totally agreed with her, she is holding a program on August 31, 2013 to encourage donors to focus on donating the fishing rod and skill rather than the fish in a platter.
I think the modern day charity organization should focus on donating the fishing rod. People are dis-empowered by being spoon-fed; they lose a sense of social responsibility and no wonder why in this age people need to be sponsored to do something like picking up litter. Growing up in Bulawayo, picking up litter without being pushed to was the norm. It was drilled into my mind from my pre-school to the time I became a man. I feel that organizations need to play a role in empowering people to be self sufficient and not wait for non-profits to do things for them. Activist and social organization are not the alpha and omega of a solution, they are just a voice. The people need to identify their role in the picture and play their purpose. Any struggle may be overcome when people begin to eliminate the cause rather than the effect.
The poverty we see is an effect of certain things that have happened in our society. Donations and hand-outs that remove the effect are not different from a man who everyday during the rainy season finds a pool of water on the floor of his house and wipes it. The man, if strategic may have to check the roof for a leak and mend it, only then will he wake up peacefully to find his room dry. Betty Makoni talked about empowering villagers with inputs to manage vegetable gardens so we do not have to give them a dollar daily to buy relish, rather they can eat from their own garden and even sell the surplus. Meaning they can actually earn a more than a dollar daily. I also feel as we teach them this responsibility we should teach them to empower others similarly as the get up. In this way the change becomes more rapid and enormous.
Change like empowerment comes in these phases; mindset > individual > Family/ friends > community> society level. Handing out maize-meal to a community does not empower a community. Handing out knowledge and giving out the means to execute this knowledge empowers each individual, who also can spread it to others if taught to, because he is part of a family and the family is part of a community. The Christian faith is a good example of the model I am talking about. A person in Christian faith is encouraged to spread what he has been taught to other people therefore like a seed there is a growth in people of like thought. Network Marketing companies also work with such a model. As soon as non profits embrace the “evangelism” method into their system and enrich their beneficiaries with knowledge and inputs, we will eradicate poverty more rapidly than man-kind has ever thought possible.
One may argue that some of these people may not own the land that they live in. for instance in the case of tenants, the land is in the hands of the wealthy. However if arrangements are made with local authorities to allocate unused land in between city spaces impartially (this has been legalized in some areas) no one should go hungry. It seems non-profits are happy to keep beneficiaries dependent on them; however in this new model they can still stay relevant by providing on-going courses on gardening to the beneficiaries.
Social responsibility should not be confined to corporate and the wealthy, social responsibility is society’s responsibility.