I awakened at about 3 a.m. today, eager to write and get some work done. An email in my ever-growing inbox (I emptied 200 emails just 24 hours ago in an attempt to clean house) arrived telling me about some very nice work that their organization was doing for disabled children in Vietnam. I smiled and wondered who this email was from and answered, "Do I know you?" The person had a sense of humor and reminded me how I knew them and told me that I had responded to her a year ago exactly in the same way. And then I wrote a very long response which I didn't send because I decided that this is indeed a bigger discussion and wanted to share it with a larger audience.
I attended a warm and welcoming dinner with some new friends, on Saturday night after seeing the play, "Billy Elliot" with my kids in New York. That dinner was held by a young organization run by actors who teach theatre to poor children in the townships of Johannesburg. I accepted the invitation to the dinner through a recent acquaintance with one goal in mind.
If I keep my heart and mind open and meet a lot of people interested in doing good for children in the world, I could potentially meet everyone and we can all know one another, learn from one another, collaborate, partner, and fold together neatly, to do the endless work that must be done to help the millions of children in need around the world.
This is what I wanted to say to the emailer....
What you are doing is great, but you know I am finding that everyone is doing their own thing; is there something that we could be doing together? Talking to the government? Meeting and sharing ideas? Sharing tasks? Dividing up tasks? Sharing costs? Training people?
I keep running into people doing a lot of good, but I wonder what we all could be doing together. I apologize for my idealism in a world where there is after all an abundance of conflict and war. Recently, I was informed that one billion children (and there are only 2.2 billion children in the world) are currently affected by conflict and war. And we just experienced a very, very bad moment in our own country where partisan politics... mean-spirited politics... has led to decisiveness and stock market instability, rather than compromise and effective solutions to improve the economic challenges of our nation.
Worldwide Orphans Foundation is one of the many organizations doing good work for kids all over the world; and we partner with a number of wonderful organizations. But how can we scale up and reach more children when economic strength is being threatened in countries that were formerly stable and resource rich, including our own? Are we intersecting, collaborating, partnering, sharing resources, reinforcing one another, acting as pieces of a bigger pie?
When money is hard to raise, it is smarter to be connected to scale the work in a strategic way for program success and sound business practice. I look around in my 'not for profit world" and hear a lot of fighting and very little cooperation. I hear organizations blaming one another. Desperation and insecurity are at work to undermine our good common sense. Trust is eroding and this will only lead to less success for everyone. Discovering underlying fraud and corruption in organizations is not what I am talking about. Fraud and corruption must never be tolerated especially when working with children. Not a penny be wasted when children are in need.
I am meeting with an organization today to talk about a merger of fundraising and programs. I am eager to discuss this with anyone I meet. I must say that I will likely become unpopular soon -- seen as a power hungry corporate type with my own agenda like Richard Gere as Edward, in the movie, "Pretty Woman" with Julia Robert. In the movie, she is a prostitute and he is a mogul who carves up failing companies for his own profit. He is, of course, not who he appears to be... and neither is she. It's lovely that we get to see such a fantasy play out... happily ever after. He discovers that saving a company and a human being is more meaningful. She sees her worth and well.. .some of this is hokey, I guess.
Rarely does anyone talk to me about how we can work together, have a vision together, plan and scheme together... sharing costs together.
And as you can see, stocks are tumbling (it will all come back because of reasons none of us can really understand) and Congress just showed our children how vindictive and self-serving behavior can be destructive. There has not been a moment in the last three years where anyone has looked at the issues and figured out ways to compromise and tackle big problems for us as a nation. It has been all about competition and power. This appears to be the way of the world.
At the end of the day, being alone and isolated is not a viable way to live. Humans are not constructed to be successful without interdependence and independence... not just one or the other.
I am an idealist and I wish that we were all working together. This is what I said in my response to the emailer.....
I am so grateful for your good work in Vietnam and at the same time, I wish that you and everyone else who writes to me would ask me to think about how we could work together. This rarely happens, but when it does I cry, am touched, and then I begin the dance of friendship which is the very key to eventual partnerships.
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