Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Doing Well By Doing Good

“Activist and fundraiser” Dan Pallotta will speak during the Community Impact Summit, an anti-poverty gathering to be held in Sydney next Wednesday and Thursday.

By Steve Jurvetson [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Dan Pallatto (Photo by Steve Jurvetson, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The summit will bring together “business, government and non-profit sector leaders [emphasis theirs]” to “commit to specific, positive actions to help citizens living in poverty.” They will “take steps to ensure that we are doing our best to remove some of the barriers that low-income residents face.”

(Barriers like, oh, I don’t know, $195 fees to attend anti-poverty conferences?)

Although I’ve given up TED Talks (and drinking melted shortening) for Lent, I made an exception and watched Pallotta’s (“Curing the Charitable Curse“) just to get a sense of what I’d be missing by not attending his keynote. What I discovered is that Pallotta thinks charities should be run more like businesses.

Yes, Pallotta is getting paid to offer the same advice that we’ve been given about pretty much everything for the past 40 years. Universities? They should be run more like businesses. Hospitals? They should be run more like businesses. Countries? They should be run more like businesses.

You know the drill:

Pay big salaries to attract “top talent!” Because you can dependably judge people’s abilities by their salaries—look at Don Cherry!

Spend like a drunken sailor on advertising and marketing campaigns—because they totally work. That’s why Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are both president of the United States today.

Stop looking at education and healthcare and poverty-reduction as jobs for GOVERNMENT, you mad person. See them as problems YOU can solve or if not solve, exactly, at least GET RICH trying to solve!

“Business,” proclaims Pallota less than two minutes into his talk “will move the great mass of humanity forward.” And the 10% left behind must be moved forward by charities acting like businesses.

Okay, I know the man is busy, but has he really not had time to read a newspaper lately? Did he miss that 2017  Oxfam report that showed EIGHT men “own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity?”

Business has not been moving the mass of humanity forward.

So when Pallotta argues that non-profits must shed their Puritan distaste for doing well while doing good, that they must pay their executives six-figure salaries, that they must not be afraid to invest in their own overhead because the pay-off for the hungry and poor and sick will eventually be so spectacular, I find myself wanting to snap his head mic in two. (Which is why it’s probably just as well I can’t afford to attend his talk.)

Isn’t there a danger somebody making hundreds of thousands of dollars running an anti-poverty charity might not really want to end poverty? I mean, isn’t it like for-profit drug companies that don’t want to cure diseases so much as turn them into chronic conditions requiring a lifetime of medication? Or like companies running for-profit prisons that don’t really want to see incarceration rates fall?

I, for one, am going to save myself $195 and instead of attending the Community Impact Summit, I think I’ll rewatch My Week On Welfare by filmmaker Jackie Torrenz.

Then I’ll read the articles on poverty from Robert Devet’s Nova Scotia Advocate. Devet, in a bold move, asks poor people about their experiences navigating the Nova Scotia social services system and how they think things could be improved. (SPOILER ALERT: none of them says, “Pay the CEOs of non-profits six-figure salaries.)


Northern lights

Nova Scotia native Maggie MacDonnell (she’s from Afton, Antigonish County) is one of 10 finalists (selected from an initial 20,000 nominees) for the Varkey Foundation’s 2017 Global Teacher Prize.

MacDonnell, who teaches in Salluit, the “second northernmost Inuit community in Quebec,” told Marika Wheeler of CBC Quebec that she’d initially tried to dissuade the friend who nominated her from doing so:

“Who in their profession really thinks they are the best in the entire world at what they do; it’s a bit of an overstatement,” she said.

She finally agreed when he reframed his proposition, arguing her nomination could bring awareness of issues facing Indigenous youth.

The prize comes with $1 million to be used toward a project of the winner’s choice, and MacDonnell said if she wins she’ll use it for an environmental stewardship program for Inuit youth.

And while a resume like MacDonnell’s (she has also worked on HIV/AIDS prevention in South Saharan Africa) has the potential to make lesser mortals (like me) roll their eyes, the actual person seems really right on. All the finalists seem like fine people, in fact, but I’m now officially Team Maggie. The winner will be announced in Dubai on March 19.



Maggie MacDonnell – Global Teacher Prize 2017 – Top 10 Finalist from Varkey Foundation on Vimeo.


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