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Its necessary to eliminate the middle man. March 20, 2007

Posted by Abby in Government, Public Interest, social entrepreneur.

In many cooperations these days, to save money, they choose to outsource. I found an example where outsourcing, in fact, harms the goal.

The US Embassy in an African country had a project. Every year, the US Ambassador is given a certain amount of money to put forward to a cause of his choice. I’m not sure of the specifics, but let’s say the amount was $15,000. At a meeting, the people who usually handles this says that they would like to contact some people they’d worked with before who specialize in ‘grading’ a charity and calculating its needs. To have this meeting with these people, they would have to fly them to the country, have them stay in a hotel, and hold the discussion over a day or twowith lunch and dinner. This could come to maybe $8,000 if not more.

One officer, however, decided that it wasn’t necessary to use this company at such a cost. Why not instead, look himself. So there was a school in great need in the area. This officer researched, and found that several schools in the United States were upgrading their computers, and throwing away perfectly good ones. He asked for them – practically free! Then he talked to the US Postal Service about how they might transport them to Africa – for a charity. If the school waited for a month, they said, it could be transported for free out of good will, as there was another shipment that would be travelling at the same time and had room for the computers. The schools needed internet, with little negotiation, the local phone company was willing to give the school a low monthly rate for access.

After computers, and internet – it still left most of the money. The school itself was run by nuns, so the Embassy asked who were the most needy children – these were quite obvious in the bunch. The Embassy paid for each child’s school tuition for the year, then purchased uniforms for each of them. They also gave the school enough money to provide a small meal for these children when they arrived at in the morning. Many children have to walk several miles, and because their families are so poor, they can’t afford to have breakfast, and their only meal everyday may be the lunch provided at school. This lack of food affects their concentration and motivation.

After all this – they were also able to build a small building to expand the school. How far money can really go if a single person puts in some effort – and it was by no means alone, the school was able to provide a lot of extra information too, as to where the money should go. Its amazing to think how closed minded some can be…