Trust in NGOs Dependent on Media Independence

NGOs operate on the principle of being independent “Third Sector” organizations, working outside the realm of the government “Public Sector” and the for-profit “Private Sector.” The independence of NGOs of all causes has long been considered a fundamental operating principle.  For humanitarian organizations, being perceived as an extension of state power could have fatal consequences. For another group of NGOs, a lack of independence may not be life-threatening, yet for political non-profit organizations in the U.S., a perception of partisanship could result in the revocation of its “social welfare” tax-exempt status.

An independent news media, where people have the freedom to access objective information, has long been seen as foundational to democracy.  The recent tragedies in Libya and Egypt highlight the potentially lethal consequences of a perceived state manipulated media flow, as these countries’ governments have inculcated the widespread belief that the US government approves of the inflammatory “Innocence of Muslims” video, believed to be the source of turmoil in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia and Libya. Continue reading

Global Health Brouhaha No Laughing Matter

This post examines the latest—and simultaneously age-old—furor gripping the international development blogosphere: is foreign aid advancing global health?

The Lancet recently published the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s controversial study demonstrating that for every dollar donated to advance global health, recipient governments reduced their own health expenditures by anywhere from 43 cents to $1.14. Taxpayers in donor countries—donors’ donors, if you will—generally insist that development assistance complement and enhance, not subtract from, the aid recipient country’s public health agenda.

Funding for global health has skyrocketed by over one hundred percent over the last decade (see figure 1). Therefore, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s conclusion was deemed newsworthy: the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian and Reuters all reported on the research, fanning the subject into a heated public debate.

Figure 1: Donor Commitments to Global Health Initiatives

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Don’t Give Money to Haiti…Now

Dan Pallotta at the HBS blog argues that the reason we were able to raise an astounding $560 million in 17 days for Haiti is not due to the goodness of our souls, but the prevalence of media.

He emphasizes the importance of marketing in philanthropy and quotes David Oglivy, the father of advertising, who challenged others to “try launching a new brand of detergent with a war chest of less than $10,000,000.”

In comparison, development organizations around the world are trying to end world poverty with a smaller sum. Pallotta contends that humanitarian organizations be given the resources to promote and create a similar demand for their causes.

He is not necessarily advocating for Miley Cyrus-type marketing; dignified yet persuasive campaigns using photojournalism or documentaries are what he had in mind.