Panel debates the role of nonprofit organizations
Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 21:02
A discussion session consisting of four panelists at Baruch College on Thursday, Feb. 23, featured a debate on whether nonprofit organizations, (NGO's), do more harm than good. The panelists included two members from the Department of Consumer Affairs and two members of external nonprofit organizations.
David Birdsell, dean of the Baruch College School of Public Affairs, began the evening by announcing the thesis of the event, "Do international NGO's do more harm than good?" Sponsored by UNICEF, a graduate club at Baruch, the event included a detailed analysis of the work that the panelists were involved in.
On Baruch's Collegiatelink, UNICEF notes the following description, "The UNICEF Campus Initiative is a growing grassroots movement rooted in a belief that college students have a vital role to play in helping the world's children survive. Members of UNICEF Campus Initiative Clubs conduct campus-wide education, advocacy and fundraising activities to benefit UNICEF."
The first speaker, John Casey, a professor for the School of Public Affairs, began his portion of the discussion by stating, "No, they do not do more harm than good." Then he demonstrated a slideshow of various topics, both the good and the bad of nonprofit organizations. One of these was the percentage of GNI, or gross national income, of countries that is necessary to drastically alleviate poverty in certain regions.
"Countries should be spending 0.7 percent of their GNI on development assistance but only four countries are doing so," Casey added. He then showed a project that was undertaken to install a water pump in an African village. But due to miscalculation, the project induced millions of wasted dollars as well as wasted labor.
His last few slides showed the Quality of Aid Diamond, a model representing the distribution of funds towards impoverished countries. As of late, a majority of funds have been going to aiding education and transparency in low-income nations. Casey then contrasted a $222 million nonprofit organization, Mercy Corps, and an organization founded by just one person, R.I.S.E. Worldwide, stating that nonprofit organizations can be very effective given a certain level of management behind them. He ended his presentation by listing the issues facing NGO's: Aid to cooperation, partnerships-collaboration, coordination amongst other nonprofits and transparency.
The next panelist, Marie Claudine Mukamabano, told her story of how she survived the Genocide and War in Rwanda. Just under 15 at the time, Mukamabano lost her parents, sister, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, loved ones, friends, classmates, and fellow countrymen during the conflict.
"Forgiveness is one tool we use to move ahead in life," she says, "NGO's should be involved in conflict resolution and relationship building." Her struggles inspired her to start the Kuki Ndiho Foundation, which translated to "Why do I exist?"
Mukamabano kept a broad stance on NGO's, stating that although they are in fact non-profit organization, realistically no organization neglects the importance of sufficient financing. "Financing is a big issue and a main concern even for non-profit organizations," she added.
Leslie Hawke, a panelist working in Romania, had a different view of NGO's. She states that "NGO's don't make much of a difference," and according to her experiences, she feels they are unorganized and lack the tools to implement a long lasting impact.
Having joined the Peace Corps in 2000 at the age of 48, she was shocked to see that child begging was common in Bacau, a Romanian city she was staying in. Not only was it common, but also parents made their children beg for extra income. She began to tell the story of a boy named Alex, who was a beggar that she decided to help. Alex had told her that his parents had died and that he lived in the sewers. After many days of following her, she finally decided to give him some Oreos and milk, buy him a new pair of sneakers, and even managed to enroll him in the first grade. However, she soon discovered that he was simply begging to attain funds for his parents, and that Hawke was "interfering with the family's financial situation" because he could no longer beg for money.