How Much Does That Cost?

How much do you spend on administration?

You know the question, you have possibly asked it before. How much of a donation to a charity gets spent on the programs and how much gets spent on staff and other back end costs. It’s a question I hear frequently about the organisation I work for and for every other not for profit in existence. It’s an important question because we need to be open about this, but it can’t be the only question we ask.

A colleague of mine, many years ago would ask people if they were needing life saving surgery would the most important question to the surgeon be about how much they charged or would it be about their success rate? Of course the response was that the success rate was the main thing people are interested in.

There are many organisations that people donate to that are quite literally saving lives around the world and how often do we ask about the success rate they have?

There needs to be a balance between the two, naturally, but the success rate should be just as, if not more important, than the administration rate.

Effectiveness in the work a not for profit does is not just about keeping costs low, it’s about having the greatest positive impact on our world.

Courage

If it was easy anyone could do it. If it was easy, it would already be done wouldn’t it?

Certain things in life are difficult, usually because the problems that we face day to day are not easily fixed and are multifaceted. Be they relational, financial, spiritual, emotional, life is a complex combination of joys and difficulties. Stuff is tough. That’s okay.

This is just as true when it comes to poverty. It is a complicated, multifaceted issue, which is also man made. We have created this construct which puts many people into a place where they don’t have enough to survive.

Whilst we have made significant headway in the fight against poverty over the last 40 years, there is still a way to go until we have overcome it. And I have to admit, there are times when I get so frustrated at the sight of many people, mothers, fathers, children, still trying to survive. But just because it is difficult to overcome, doesn’t mean that we should avoid it. And it certainly doesn’t mean we should stop fighting. Because the people that we are fighting for are worth it. So we continue to take one step at a time.

Like the American author Mary Anne Radmacher says:

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.

New

Once you stop learning, you start dying, according to Albert Einstein. Others would suggest that if you stop learning, you stop growing, or leading or teaching, or any number of things. Suffice to say, many people would consider that learning something new daily is as important as breathing. It is a natural part of life, to be curious and ask questions.

One thing that I have discovered is that the more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know. Every time I finished a level of study, be it a University degree or a short course in something I always ended up with more questions than answers. The process would open up my eyes to more of what I didn’t know about. It’s one of life’s great contradictions, the more you learn the more you learn about how much you don’t know – but it doesn’t mean we stop.

For me, learning creates understanding and it is one of the best tools we have in the fight against poverty.

Once a mother in India, for example, learns that she has options, the ability to choose for herself what kind of business she can run or how many children to have, that she has the right to have an opinion or to learn a new skill, this initiates a social change and creates opportunity for her and her family to flourish. It changes her mindset and creates a whole new realm of what is possible.

It’s the ability to understand something today that you didn’t know existed yesterday which creates a place where people can begin to imagine what was previously unimaginable. That is the power of learning something new.

 

Myth: $2 a day

Extreme Poverty is defined as anyone living on less than about $2 a day. We still have hundreds of millions of people in that situation which is horrific and no one should ever have to go through it.

I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I would try to calculate what I could with $2 per day to see if there is a way that I could survive. Surely you can make anything work, if you budget well enough, were frugal with spending, survival would be possible. Extreme poverty can’t be that difficult. Can it?

Not only is that a harsh way to look at it, but my thinking also had a fundamental flaw. One of the most difficult aspects of life for those living in extreme poverty is the unpredictable manner in which they earn an income. Whilst in Australia, most of us know what our next pay check is going to be, when it will arrive in our bank account and how we can access it. In places like India for example, many work in unregulated areas and do so irregularly. They may earn $20 on day ten which averages out to $2 a day. Meaning that they don’t literally receive $2 every single day. It’s not neat and tidy and it makes budgeting and increasing financial security impossible.

There are many organisations, including Opportunity International, who are fighting against this and creating a way for people to earn a regular income to increase their financial security, making life just that little bit easier.

Buzzwords – Transformation

When you work in an industry for a while there are usually a number of words or phrases that become the flavour of the month or year or decade. Almost cliché like.

In an office environment I would hear ‘going forward’ regularly, or ‘synergy’ or ‘touch base’, ‘circle back’, ‘think outside the square’, ‘reinvent the wheel’…I could go on. Don’t get me started on the acronyms. Oh yes, the acronyms, mostly the TLA’s (three letter acronyms, there is COB (Close of Business), ROI (Return on Investment) FTE (Full Time Employee), ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival – should that not be ETOA?) or my favourite BAU (Business As Usual).

One word that gets overused and under appreciated is transformation. It sounds great but doesn’t necessarily carry with it specific meaning, thus it has become a fancy word that people use when are talking about change. But it’s much more than that.

From an International Development perspective, we talk about transformation in the lives of those living in poverty and it is helpful to define what that actually is. It is more than just change or transition, it is taking something and creating into something completely different.

Like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, the goal of development is to transform the lives of those living in poverty, which can bring sickness, hopelessness, and disempowerment, into lives that are highlighted by nutrition and health, a sense of hope and a future, and an empowerment to make decisions of their own behalf.

Transformation is a complete change into something new. Not just a better version of what was, but a brand new thing that didn’t exist before.

Now that’s a lofty goal, and one worth striving for.

Impact

Some things can be measured easily. When there are numerical values involved it is simple to compare. Like the size of your bank balance today compared to last week, you can tell the difference just by looking at it.

But measuring someone’s personal growth for example, when the indicators are not as tangible, and it requires some sort of gut feel, can be a little difficult.

It’s the same situation when we measure people’s journey out of poverty. Opportunity International provides small loans to mothers living in poverty and we measure the impact that has on the women and their family over time. The amount of money they earn is one indicator that can show they are leaving poverty behind, but there are so many other elements, like nutrition, sanitation, education, access to information and how hopeful they feel.

Some of this can be measured numerically, and some can’t. Not all elements improve at the same rate or at the same time, so how do you measure the impact?

Often it comes down to the individual. When they recognise they have the ability to make decisions on their own behalf, decisions that can change the lives of them and their families, this shows a level of empowerment which usually means that other elements are improving as well.

People are complex and cannot be measured by numerical values alone to discover what growth is happening.

How are you empowering those around you?

World’s Greatest Resource

What do you consider to be the worlds greatest resource. There is much debate about the value of certain items – would it be oil, gold, iron ore, lithium perhaps, what about water, air and sunshine? Ice cream? All seem to be pretty important, some more than others but which is the greatest resource available to us?

I don’t think it’s any of these. For me, it has to be people. We are told that there are now nearly 8 billion people on the planet. That is almost 8 billion resources, but more than that, individuals that carry with them such great value and incredible capacity. With 10% of the global population still living in extreme poverty then that is at least 10% that are not being able to reach their full, God given potential. When that happens, not only do the individuals miss out, but the rest of the world misses out on their creativity, ideas and ingenuity.

There is a question that haunts me.

“What if the cure to cancer was trapped in the mind of a child who hasn’t received an education yet?”

To me that talks about potential, of what is possible yet not accessible because not everyone is able to make their contribution. The sad thing is that there is so much that we can do to facilitate that and it starts with small actions. Little things that will go a long way to empowering those living in poverty.

We have some difficult issues as a world, but if we could get the most out of every person, I have no doubt we could overcome all of them.

Rights for all, except…

Written by Kelsie De Haan, Political Intern, Opportunity International Australia

Language is one of the most powerful tools that we can employ. Words have the power to build people up or to tear them down. They can be liberating, oppressive or bring about much needed change. That is why the discourse surrounding refugees and asylum seekers here in Australia is such a powerful one. This conversation upholds systems which abuse human rights and oppresses a vulnerable group of people and it needs to be recognised as such.

“Illegal immigrants”, “queue jumpers”, “boat people” and “potential terrorists” are just a few of the terms that have been used to describe asylum seekers and refugees. These terms have become interchangeable without anyone stopping to think about what they actually mean. They are used to portray this group of people as an enemy, an inconvenience and a threat. They are loaded with negative connotations, which can be used to manipulate the Australian public to hold particular prejudices. If we think of asylum seekers and refugees as law-breakers it dehumanises them and can shut off any compassion we would otherwise feel. It also allows those in power to deny the responsibility they have to uphold the rights of those seeking asylum in Australia. Instead, asylum seekers and refugees are positioned as a threat to Australian sovereignty and framed as a political issue not a humanitarian one.

The most blatant lie we are fed is that seeking asylum is illegal – it isn’t. Rather it is a basic human right outlined in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” The international community has time after time condemned Australian asylum seeker policy, deeming it an abuse of this basic human right, specifically the practices of indefinite mandatory detention, children in detention and the separation of families in detention. In fact, in 2012 Australia was found guilty of 143 violations of international law regarding their treatment of refugees. Further, Australia’s current approach costs $400,000 per-refugee, per-year and costs for running the offshore detention program between 2013 and 2016 cost $9.6 billion. We spend horrendous amounts on an oppressive and unjust system that violates human rights rather than using these funds wisely to ensure the protection of this vulnerable group.

But, rather than empathising and caring for refugees and asylum seekers who have had to flee their homes, we call them illegal and imprison them indefinitely. We treat them as criminals rather than victims and instead of protecting them, we physically and mentally abuse them.

How did we let it come to this? We underestimated the power of words. Dehumanising and threatening language is used to place these people outside of our scope of justice.  Asylum seekers and refugees have been placed outside of our moral boundaries, meaning we have been influenced to believe that fairness and justice don’t apply to them. We have been taught not to care.

With over 22.5 million refugees in the world, fleeing from war, persecution and violence, we need to expand our scope of justice again to include them. We need to care. Every day, 28,300 people are forced to flee their homes, running from war and persecution into systems of oppression and injustice. The refugee and asylum seeker threat is not to our national sovereignty, but the threat is to their wellbeing. Change is needed to ensure the safety and protection of these people; we need to ensure our government policy upholds the rights of this vulnerable group.

 

 

 

 

I Know My Rights

Written by Kelsie De Haan, Opportunity International Australia Political Intern

Everyone should have access to the most basic of rights. That much we can all agree upon and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights backs me up on that on. It outlines what people are entitled to simply by being born human. It also outlines the responsibility the state has to uphold the rights of their citizens and provides a guideline to moral and ethical behaviour.

In 2005, a report was released outlining the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) which demonstrates how rights and responsibility play out at a global level. One of the key components of this is the state’s right to sovereignty which is forfeited if they do not uphold their responsibilities to their citizens. For example, to protect them from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It doesn’t stop there. Those who uphold the first responsibility are then given the added responsibility to help other states uphold it. Again, if they fail to prevent these atrocities or even perpetuate them, the international community assumes the responsibility to protect through intervention.

The right to sovereignty carries enormous responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of the citizens and we rightly expect this from our leaders. We readily criticise leaders who perpetrate human rights abuses and citizens pressure their own governments to take up the responsibility to intervene. For states to have the right to self-determination and self-government, first they must demonstrate their fulfilment of responsibility to promoting peace, protecting citizens and caring for the environment.

Somehow, things seem a little different at an individual level. The concept of responsibility tied to rights is often overlooked. We tend to be so quick to declare our rights and then dismiss our responsibilities. We expect the right to welfare as a citizen but we don’t like the responsibility of paying taxes – some even avoid paying tax and therefore impede on another’s right to receive adequate welfare. We love that we have the right to free speech, but are quick to shoot down other opinions that are different from ours – even attempting to silence through intimidation and violence. We revel in the right we have to live in freedom and safety but bemoan a speeding fine we receive when we put the safety of others at risk.

When we claim our individual rights without considering our responsibilities to those around us, it becomes very dangerous. It can lead to a place where the responsibility to respect another’s rights and protect their freedoms is overshadowed by the idea of ‘my rights over your rights’. Or in other words, ‘me first, you are not as important’. When this rhetoric is used, conflicting rights become the norm and solutions become less clear. It’s complicated. We see this daily in Australia where an individual’s right to seek asylum is in direct conflict with a state’s right to sovereign borders, or the right to free speech versus the right to live free of fear and hate speech, and even the pro-choice versus pro-life debate as it reflects the conflicting rights of a mother and her unborn child.

How do we justify privileging one person’s rights over another? It sounds awful when it gets stated like that, but we do it every day. I’m sure we would like to think that the ‘good guy’ always wins, but unfortunately it is more often the person with the most power who has their rights recognised and prioritised. When the responsibility to consider the needs of others is removed from the equation, conflicting rights are resolved through oppression of the disadvantaged by those in power. History shows us that oppression of a minority and the suppression of their rights appears to be the default setting, changing only when someone in a position of power draws attention to the injustice and allows an oppressed voice to be heard.

If being powerful is the prerequisite to exercising rights, this leaves women and children in a very vulnerable position. Fortunately, there are organisations like Opportunity International Australia and others whose sole purpose is to uphold their rights and empower them to a life free from injustice and poverty.  Yet for many other minorities, oppression and silencing of rights is a reality they face every day as a result of our reluctance to accept responsibility – responsibility to care for others, to make sacrifices for those in need, to listen to others and to simply be a responsible global citizen.

So, know your rights. Ensure that you have access to them. Make a stand for them. But don’t stop there. Know the responsibilities that you have because of your rights. Ensure others have access to their rights (no matter who they are or if you agree with all of their opinions), and make a stand for them. Use your rights to uphold those of others, not to oppress them.

Numbers Are Important.

I love a good story. If I can lose myself in and engage with someone’s journey, that speaks powerfully to me. But, in saying that, often we can underestimate the numbers behind each individual story.

For example, our recent history of the fight against poverty.

In 1970, we are told that there were 60,000 children under the age of 5, around the world, who died every single day, due to basic illness, malnutrition and other easily curable diseases. 60,000. It is unimaginable and heartbreaking; how could such a reality exist? I’m so grateful that at the time, people were motivated to act, and join those who were already taking action.

Fast forward 20 years to 1990, the figure was closer to 33,000 a day.

Another 20 years on, in 2010, it was down to 22,000.

Today that number is around 16,000 per day. Still unimaginable and heartbreaking, but it is a phenomenal improvement. Especially when you take into consideration the population explosion.

Globally, the population was at 3.6 billion people in 1970, which grew to 5.3 billion in 1990 and then 7.3 billion in 2015. The growth over the last 45 years has skyrocketed but the number of children under the age of 5 who are dying every single day has plummeted.

In other terms, it looks like this, 10% of the global population currently live in extreme poverty. 45 years ago it was over 60%, 12 years ago, it was 21% of the global population in extreme poverty. Generosity is winning.

We are making a difference. We are getting somewhere. I didn’t wake up this morning and discover poverty, as a world we have been fighting it for decades, centuries. We still have a way to go but we are in a much better place than we were – we just need to keep going.

As we get closer to the end of financial year, there has never been a better time to fight the injustice of poverty than right now. Opportunity International Australia provides mothers in India, Indonesia and the Philippines with small loans to build  businesses, put food on the table, send their kids to school, and work their way out of poverty. Be part of a hand up. A gift as small as $70 can be life-changing.