Thursday, July 23, 2009

Anyone - That's Who.

Mari and I have been talking about the GlobalGiving vision -- what we believe, the hypotheses we are operating on, and what we believe the future will look like as GlobalGiving succeeds. Much of this vision appears in various documents (funding requests, strategy documents, media reports, and blog posts). But we realize it's time to prepare a fresh vision statement that brings these elements together and adds new pieces we've not yet fleshed out.

Thinking about vision led me to recall a presentation, titled "5 Questions", that I made in 2002 at the Center for Global Development.

In that presentation, I said there were five questions to ask about the development aid business model, and that the answers to those questions would provide the superstructure for a modernized aid system. The five questions were:

1. Who should be able to propose ideas for projects or initiatives?
2. Who should be able to help select which get funded?
3. Who should be able to fund the selected projects?
4. Who should be able to to compete to implement them?
5. Who should be able to evaluate them?

The point of my presentation at CGD was that the current aid system concentrated the answer to all five questions in a very small number of aid agencies, experts, and consulting firms. This may have been appropriate when the current aid industry was created fifty years ago.

But the world has changed dramatically since then.

The starting answer to each of those questions should now be: "ANYONE!"

There will, of course, be reasons to restrict that answer to some degree for each question and each context. But the important thing is to start at the "anyone" end of the spectrum rather than at "the expert agencies and experts only" end of the spectrum. In other words, we start from the presumption that the answer to all five questions should be ''anyone," and we force ourselves to justify any decision to give special access or powers to experts.

The vision statement Mari and I write will be long and nuanced. But if I had to sum up a key part of the vision in one word, it would be "ANYONE."
(PS: What's wrong with experts, you might ask? Stay tuned for my next two blog posts...)