What if every aid worker – local and international – at every level was given a micro investment fund, over which they have total personal discretion? How would aid delivery change?
The rise of and access to technology in the developing world is already significantly changing the way aid agencies work. It has also made alternative support mechanisms to seemingly “invisible” local leaders and initiatives more possible than ever before. In fact, there is a growing number of small NGOs and foundation that specialize in offering direct funding to grassroots leadership and small, often “informal” movements.
Why not expand that idea to give every aid worker ‘in the field’ a social change investment fund of $1,000 (£655), over which they have total personal discretion? Each person could be tasked to find an under-the-radar grassroots organization, local leader, or community initiative worthy of support. The only stipulation would be that the group has been in existence for at least three years and has never received international assistance. Allow only one-page proposals and reports to cut down on transaction costs.
People must find a person, an organization, or an idea that inspires them. The primary mandate will be to tap into the enthusiasm that drew them into aid work in the first place and see for themselves how a diversity of approaches and actors are all a part of unleashing social change.
At the end of the experiment, the fund managers could get together and share what they’ve learned through well-facilitated and documented reflection exercises to distil good practices and actionable insights.
The estimated 595,000 aid workers around the world are rarely called to examine the bureaucratic rigidities that govern their day-to-day work. With just $5,950,000, one in 10 of these aid workers could try the investment fund and find ways to change a corporate culture that no longer meets the demands of a rapidly-changing world.