Project "Phoenix"

Project Description

It has been suggested that the main (large) charity organisations are very wasteful of their resources, that they are more concerned with their own image than helping those for whom they claim those resources, and they generally mess things up. An example I have been given is of some nurses sent to Africa to give medical care to some of the world's poorest people. They were flown out there, each given a brand new four-wheel drive vehicle, but were so lacking in motivation that they usually worked for only a few hours a day. The charity they were working for also failed to provide adequate supplies of medicine. Allegedly, there are also some "aid-work tourists" - people who will join a project which involves going overseas to some exotic country, where they will work for a minimal amount of time before flying home and/or moving on to the next project: simple sensation-seekers, whose enthusiasm lasts as long as their perception of novelty. It also appears to be common knowledge in some circles that a large portion of the money raised for overseas development ends up in the pockets of the charity's employees - not necessarily dishonestly, but simply by the large number of employees and high wage rate.

The idea, then, is

  1. to find and document the faults with these charities
  2. to fix these faults, and prevent them from occurring in the future.
Exactly how this can be accomplished is not clear at this stage. The first part could involve, for example, travelling to where these charities work (or rather, fail to work) to simply notice what goes on. However this would be quite costly and be of no direct help to the needy, and therefore quite risky. An alternative approach would be to join the targeted charity, to get involved with their work, and to try and locate and fix the problems from the inside. It is possible that the agent would have to keep some of their aims secret - they likely would not progress far in a charity if their stated aim was to reduce the amount paid to the charity's employees!

Project Cost

The project will take sustained effort from a (at least one) dedicated individual, quite possibly for many years as they climb the charity's internal hierarchy. The agent(s) will have to be effective at dealing with people, at project management, at dealing with internal politicking and power games.

Utility value

Unclear at this time - the size of the problem is unknown, the ease of solution is unknown. Bearing in mind the size of the larger charities' budgets (many millions of pounds per year in the UK) it could be considerable.

Related Projects

Additional Notes

The idea for (and name of) this project came from a British development charity called "You And Me" - which carried out a review of charity inefficiency, incompetence etc across many countries over a period of a few years in the 1980s. The original Project Phoenix reports included a great deal of information gathered from interviews with workers and representatives of the charities concerned, and were delivered to the charities' head offices and to the governments of the countries that the charities were operating in.

The original Project Phoenix reports have been declared "confidential" by the authors ("You And Me"), and are not generally available. I have been refused access to them.


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