Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mercy Corps vs. Marcie Carr

Let's say that we're a nonprofit, say Mercy Corps, based in Portland, OR. Part of our mission is "sustainable economic development", so in post-earthquake Haiti, we launch a mobile banking project in partnership with Voila and Unibank.

And you say, boooorrring, who cares, right?

But then along comes Marcie Carr, a well educated, bright, energetic, and very well meaning person from the U.S. She starts an NGO in Topiland, a desperately poor country. Her little NGO does some pretty neat things, but nowhere near the scale of Mercy Corps. Marcie gets some awards for being a "Social Entrepreneur" but then goes to law school. However, before going to law school, she was thoughtful enough to make sure the Topis had assumed control of and responsibility for the NGO. Good for her.

What's the moral of these contrasting scenarios? It seems that Marcie is encouraged and rewarded for starting something new but is wise and kind enough to make sure it has a chance to survive (unfortunately, not all "social entrepreneurs" are as forward thinking), but not encouraged to join Mercy Corps and help them with their efforts.

Why is that? Are nonprofits and NGOs inaccessible to young people who want to do something more than answer the phone? Do we set up young people with visions of quick hit grandeur vs. helping them think through the long, arduous process of facilitating social change?

I don't know. I like Marcie. I like Mercy Corps. I wish the two would meet.

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