The Changing Face of Charity


"Charity is not an answer to poverty. It only helps poverty to continue. It creates dependency and takes away individual's initiative to break through the wall of poverty."

No, that's not a conservative rant against government largess.

It's a core philosophy of Garmeen Bank, the organization credited with launching microlending nearly 30 years ago.

Microcredit was (is?) a revolutionary concept…a totally different approach to development funding.  And, as governments have reduced foreign aid, there has been a surge in this approach.

It's practical. It's manageable. It's sustainable. Most importantly, it works. 

There are a number of reasons, but I think in part because it consists of not just financial capital, but also human capital (individual potential and responsibility) and social capital (community engagement and support).

I was struck by that as I read about two innovative approaches in this morning's New York Times.

With one, "Social Impact Bonds," investors front capital to fund programs and are repaid (with interest and possibly even incentives) only if the programs achieve targeted objectives. The model is a program in Peterborough, England designed to reduce recidivism. The approach is also being considered for two Massachusetts programs, one for people coming out the juvenile justice system and another to house the chronically homeless.

In another, columnist Ezekiel J. Emanual proposes that older Americans (the demographic of increasing wealth) could choose to donate their Social Security or Medicare benefits to help fund child care and education of children (the increasingly impoverished demographic).

Times change. Needs change. And the ways we meet those needs must change as well.

I find it encouraging that creative individuals – and organizations – are trying to do just that!