Now, I don’t know about you, but I for one am getting pretty fed up with this nonsensical idea that we can rely on organizations such as the UN, large international NGO’s, and governments to solve some of the most pressing issues society has ever faced. Have a look at some of the headlines you’ve been able to read over the past few weeks:
“The need for humanitarian aid has doubled over the past decade”. ~ The Guardian
“Conflict caused by governments drives 80% of humanitarian needs”. ~ World Humanitarian Summit
“United Nations whistleblower reveals UN wasting millions of dollars on ‘questionable’ projects”. ~ The Daily Mail
“Less than 2% of humanitarian funds go directly to local NGO’s”. ~ The Guardian
UN spent only 0.7% of its wealth – 12 Billion – on aid. ~ The Daily Mail
I think we can do better. Much better. Enough talk about what isn’t working, let’s start fixing it! Here’s what YOU can do.

3 Things Governments, Companies, NGO’s, and Volunteers Can Do – Starting Today! – To Solve Society’s Challenges

3 things governments can do

1. Make religious and political alignment your top priority to prevent more conflict from taking place. The fact that 80% of funds are spent on solving conflict is predominantly your fault to begin with. Seriously, it’s not rocket science – it’s not all that hard to just get along.

2. Get out of the way of grassroots NGO‘s who are fixing the real problems much more effectively, sustainably, and at a more rapid pace. Provide incentives for long-term volunteers to make recruiting talent easier and faster, and reduce the complexity of governance to make deploying talent easier and faster. Understand that as a leader your are supposed to serve, NOT control.

3. Provide more funds to grassroots NGO’s instead of corrupted, bureaucratic, and ineffective large organizations and international NGO’s. All you’re doing is making things harder, because the more money they receive, the more complexity they will build into their organizations. Stop investing in this negative, downward spiral, and focus more on bottom-up problem solving.

STOP causing more conflict in the world. Simple as that. As far as I’m concerned you don’t even need to work towards resolving your current conflicts. Just make sure you don’t make it worse or start a fire somewhere else.

3 things NGO’s and social causes can do

orang asli liter of light incitement

1. You are in the business of helping people. The fact that another NGO receives funds for trying to address the same issues as you is a great thing! Competition doesn’t exist in this industry. There is only collaboration. What counts is that the problem gets addressed. Focus on establishing strong partnerships – especially when you’re both doing the same thing.

2. Especially for upcoming social enterprises: learn business. The future of entrepreneurship and business is social business. It removes your dependability, strengthens your resourcefulness, enables you to attract and deploy talent faster, and allows you to get the best of both worlds. It’s incredibly easy to use your business as a force for good, so why wouldn’t you?

3. Start reinventing the wheel. Don’t think that you can change the current system. It’s just not gonna happen. It’s too broken to be fixed. It is corrupted, incredibly inefficient, and worse, inert. If you want to disrupt and really fix problems you should start working on an entirely new wheel. Some problems cannot be fixed, they can only be left behind. How do you think the invented the wheel in the first place? That’s right, by reinventing what wasn’t called the wheel back then.

STOP competing. Your ideas are more important than you ego. There is always (always!) potential for collaboration and partnership, which will eventually only lead to better ideas, and more social impact. ‘We can only do this together’ is a cliché for a reason.

Here’s a quick 2-minute video from my cofounder Zikry Kholil on the good, the bad, and the ugly of partnerships:

3 things companies and corporations can do

1. Get involved in socially responsible work. No, not because it is your duty. Because it is not your duty. This is a false premise of CSR and is exactly why it isn’t scaling the way it should. Get involved because it is good for your brand. Study after study shows that operating your business in a socially responsible manner has a positive effect on your bottom line. If it’s good for your brand AND good for everybody else, then why the hell not?

liter of light cameron highlands incitement
2. Invest that same money in smaller grassroots NGO’s, instead of sponsoring large international NGO’s because it looks good for your shareholders in your annual report. Not only are they often much more eager to make it worth you while, they’ll also make sure that your money actually goes to those that need it – in comparison to the pathetic 2% of funds that iNGO’s spend on actually fixing problem whereas the rest goes into overheads (read: pockets!).

3. Dare to think out of the box marketing wise. You large MNC’s are often stuck in old thinking patterns, but trust me, my generation and the ones coming after me will become more and more conscious about your company’s footprint on the planet, and they will eventually stop buying your products. It’s ok to want ROI on your investment in CSR, don’t let that stand in the way of getting involved at all. You should receive incentives for doing good work. But take charge here, and lead the way for the NGO’s you work with, take initiative. You have the marketing muscle, they often don’t.

STOP recruiting people by telling them your company has some sort of special mission or purpose, when in fact, you don’t. You’re louring away talent from the NGO’s and social businesses that do exist for a purpose, and really need that talent – talent that will soon leave your company anyway after unwrapping that gift box only to find out nothing is inside.

3 things volunteers and hopefully-soon-to-be-volunteers can do

1. Don’t let the term ‘social work’ or ‘volunteering’ scare you away. I know, I know… It sounds boring, lame, and mundane. And in a lot of cases it is. Volunteering has an image issue, because NGO’s are often run by dinosaurs. But there are plenty of organizations out there that actually make volunteering damn cool. You get to learn new skills, meet fantastic people, and make a lasting impact on people that can do nothing but rely on YOUR help.

2. You shouldn’t have to pay to volunteer. You should GET paid. The fact that you’re paying to participate in social work means that the NGO you’re working with has become a victim of the broken system, whereby funds are not distributed fairly, and they lack the resourcefulness, creativity, or even resources to come up with new and innovative ways to attract funds. Can’t blame them, it’s freakin’ difficult. But our mindset has to change. We live in a world where we believe that good things should come for free, or as cheap as possible. Because the act of doing good should be the reward in itself, or so are trained to think. This couldn’t be more wrong. Next time you’re planning to do volunteering work, look for initiatives that reward you for your work, these are the organizations that are built to last.

3. Be more committed. We must create sustainable solutions, and we can’t do it without you. For a lot of these issues a certain level of expertise. Most of it, again, isn’t rocket science. But coming in for a day to spend some time with orphans, or refugee kids, does more good for you than it does for them. You will leave the same day feeling great about having done something good. You will leave them feeling more abandoned then they already did. Make volunteering a habit. Just because it’s not happening to you, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

STOP talking about problems and issues if you’re not doing anything to fix them. If there’s anything I’ve learned over these past 5 years in this industry, it’s that complaining is easy and talk is cheap.

Talk minus action equals jack shit – #tajs

Too many people get caught up it the hype, because it’s supposedly “cool” to talk about these things. But it’s not cool at all, in fact, it is damaging and making it harder. Companies recruiting talented people pretend to have some sort of important mission/purpose, but in reality they’re not doing jack sh*t to contribute.

What do you think we can do differently to tackle these issues?

Let us know in the comment section below

And remember to stop talking about the problems in our world, and start taking action. You can sign up to volunteer for one of our social projects such as Liter of Light today.