The Government Can’t Help You Anymore

One of the toughest speaking gigs I have ever had was at a facility working with kids who had dropped out of a government high school in a lower socio-economic area of Adelaide. I was talking about global poverty and some of the difficulties that we face in this world and these students were convinced that whatever was happening was the Australian government’s fault. It didn’t seem to matter what I said or how many times I suggested there was something that we, as individuals, could do, their opinion didn’t change.

It’s safe to say that they were using the government as a scapegoat, as a cop out so that they didn’t have to contemplate the reality that they could take some responsibility for our world. This is not uncommon with disengaged students, but they are not the only people who have ever done that, I have discovered. To be honest, it is probably something that we have all done from time to time – asked the question, ‘Why doesn’t the government do something about it?’

But perhaps the time for us to ask that question is over. We have lived in a world where governments have held most of the power – some elected, some not, and this power seemed so far from our own reach that it can make us feel like we have no control over what happens. That may have never been totally true, but it certainly is not true anymore.

Out of the top 100 richest entities in our world, 69 of them are corporations, not governments. Not elected, but also not answerable to a nationality. Corporations who have the ability to impact our world simply by the way that they work and how they provide their products or services. Corporations filled with people, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons. People we know and people we have met. People like you and me. Individuals who have direct influence over the culture of their organisation and can steer things in such a way that if they wanted to fund some development work in a developing country, they could do it. If they wanted to provide free services to empower people living in poverty, they could do that. If they wanted to come up with a solution for homelessness, they could do that. If they wanted to hire newly arrived refugees, or the disabled, or the elderly, they could do that. People could insist on making a positive change in our world and by the sheer size of these corporations, these actions would echo throughout the entire world.

So, the government can’t help you anymore. But corporations can, and they might be a bit easier to influence to help create a better world, because they are filled with people who don’t need to seek re-election.

Where the Help is Most Needed

Often people will have a particular area in the developing world that they are passionate about. So when they give money they will allocate it to that country or region.

Others may not have that connection and they will request that their funds be assigned to where the greatest need is.

With so much need in the world, how can anyone possibly suggest that one area is a priority over another?

It’s a difficult call.

Low income is one factor when it comes to poverty, but so is a lack of access to basic services, like clean drinking water, toilets, health and education, and vulnerability shocks, like illness, death or even festivals.

Opportunity International targets rural or under-served areas where poverty is high but the overall economic and political environment are stable. We also look for signs of development such as roads or markets in those areas of need. There is a tension between recognising the great need and also being able to genuinely create a positive impact and measure success over time. It’s vital to track and feedback on the projects that are being funded.

The greatest need is constantly shifting in our world as new events take place that cause poverty related issues, but also as more and more families work their way out of poverty. That’s the good news – today’s areas of greatest need will not be the same in the future because of the work that is being done.