The End of Charity
As I’m travelling, I’m reading more - so that means it’s time for another impromptu book-review/idea-sharing post.
The book in question this time around is Nic Frances’ ominously titled The End of Charity. The points of the book aren’t that scary though - I find them to be pretty spot-on with what’s needed.
A quick overview:
- Society’s siloed approach isn’t working: Leaving businesses to focus on making money, and charities to making the world better isn’t really getting anywhere.
- Value needs to represent more than financial worth: Goods and services need to be given more accurate values which incorporate social and environmental worth.
- Businesses need to incorporate social and environmental mindsets into their operations: Remove the silos. Don’t leave the ‘doing good’ to a separate organisation (examples: Google Inc and Google.org, Microsoft and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, McDonalds and Ronald McDonald House Charities).
- The market will make it all work: Okay, that’s a little simplistic, but the market does a decent job at helping the best value goods and services come to the fore.
Now the book itself is far more detailed - Frances draws a lot from his own experiences, both in charities and in socially-minded businesses, so there’s no end of real world examples. It’s also extremely easy to digest, so I highly recommend reading it, even if you don’t have much of a business-focused mind.
Granted, some of these ideas can take some getting used to, especially on the left side of politics where broad strokes paint businesses (particularly corporations) as Bad, and charities and other non-profits as Good. A lot of what’s discussed in this book isn’t particularly new to me - I was introduced to the concepts while working at MBO (now Ergo Consulting) (which, perhaps not so surprisingly, had an awesome culture non unlike what Frances outlines for his own Cool nrg). I remember bristling at the idea put forward by our then CEO Paul Steele (who is currently COO at World Vision Australia) that business is the best way to enact social improvement.
A few years have passed since then, though, and I’ve come around to agreeing that the combined approach is far more likely to succeed than the old, siloed way.
Now, this hasn’t led to any dramatic chances in my freelancing lifestyle
- but it’s got my brain ticking away, so you’ll just have to wait and see what comes of it. That said, what do you you think about all this? Do you agree? Disagree? Do you have some suggestions on how to make the organisation you work for take a more holistic approach?