Surprising power of neighborly advice, and the Brother’s Self Help Group

So this week our four graduate students in International development from George Washington University returned from their two-week trek across Kenya. Their goal was to visit 20 GlobalGiving projects and ask them all a set of survey questions they had designed. I hoped they would have 15 questions. They left with over 50. The week before they left, Dennis Whittle, our GlobalGiving co-founder suggested they add one question to the list.

“Get them to ask organization staff, ‘how do you know that you are serving your beneficiaries?'” he said.

When they returned, Shiela, one of our interns asked them, “So what question was the most useful in picking out good orgs from bad ones?”

“That question about ‘how do you know you are serving the people,'” Kara said.
“Any others?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Michael added. “Asking non-founders of organizations, why did you choose to come work here?”

Last week I also heard something profound in its simplicity to the credibility problem the world has. If you haven’t heard, there are many organizations worldwide taking money to do the peoples’ work and delivering very little. Some of outright crooks and some are incompetent. Many are good. But a few crooks can get away with a lot of money and poison the public’s appetite to help strangers. Deborah Winston works with indigineous peoples to give them the tools to help themselves. She said, “When you want to know if a person is bad or good, you ask a child. They will give it to you straight.”
“Wow!” Makes sense to me.

Finally, on the question of which organization left these guys with a strong impression, they immediately mentioned the Brothers Self Help Group. The founder, Vincent Atitwa came to my workshop and from the site description of the work, you can see he needs a lot of help in the description of his activities, but these four folks insist the community is totally raving about this guy’s organization. He works in the REALLY poor areas of Western Kenya. I thought he was kookie when he begged for bus fare to get home after my workshop, but according to them the area is dirt poor. These are $1 a day folks.

Based on the strength of reccommendation of Kara, Michael, Gerald, and Ryann, I gave $25 to this project. In March, 2009 Science Magazine has an article on the “Surprising power of neighborly advice.” Basically, asking your neighbor for his or her impression is often more reliable than being given the facts without any first hand impressions. This project description versus the impressions of friends is a case in point. And to prove this point, I gave some money. The way GlobalGiving works, this organization cannot remain on the site unless they raise 50 donations in the first month. That is a proxy for having the base to use the platform effectively. I did my part. Now it is time you did yours. Or is it too late?

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More information about Brothers Self Help Group:

Their Facebook Group

Their Website

On GlobalGiving

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