Monthly Archives: January 2018

Have you enabled a Larry Nassar?

Dr. Larry Nassar sexually molested more than 160 young girls. He didn’t drive around in a van and kidnap girls he didn’t know on their way to or from school. He didn’t jump out from behind a tree and grab a girl and run. He wasn’t a stranger to the girls he harmed, nor to their families. Coaches brought girls to Larry Nassar. Parents drove their girls to appointments with him. University officials and Olympic team officials created and supported the environment where Nassar was allowed to do this.

Does that scare you? Good. It should.

Rachael Denhollander, one of the first women to come forward with public accusations against Dr. Nassar, was the last to speak at his sentencing hearing. Her comments are worth noting: “Larry is the most dangerous type of abuser. One who is capable of manipulating his victims through coldly calculated grooming methodologies, presenting the most wholesome and caring external persona as a deliberate means to ensure a steady stream of young children to assault.”

Back in 2011, I wrote a blog called Why don’t they tell? Would they at your org?. It is about how, over the years, more than one person observed Jerry Sandusky, head of the nonprofit organization The Second Mile and former Penn State defensive coordinator, molesting boys, or heard someone say that they had witnessed such. Yet none of those people called the police and none of the people in authority that they told about what had been seen called police. The blog was about how we create environments where, not because of policies but because of culture, we discourage people from asking tough questions or reporting something that has the potential to be profoundly disruptive to everything an organization, a program, or a campaign is trying to do. It’s how, in so many cultures, we are discouraged from even asking questions. The #meetoo movement has confirmed so much of what I said in this blog back in 2011.

graphic by Jayne Cravens representing volunteersIn that blog, I challenged nonprofits, non-governmental agencies, universities, government departments and other mission-based programs – and particularly aid agencies with staff members in the field! – to take a hard look at not just their policies, but their culture. and I asked: Are you never hearing about inappropriate behavior by employees or volunteers at your organization not because nothing is happening, but because people don’t feel comfortable saying anything?

Per this latest case of harm to children, here’s some additional, more practical advice for parents and anyone working with kids in any capacity (coach, church group leader, etc.):

Any adult demanding or frequently asking for one-on-one, unsupervised time with a young person is something to look closely at and ask questions about, no matter that adult’s degree, job, religion or familial relationship. Whether it’s a doctor, a priest, a rabbi, an Iman, a teacher, a coach, a choir teacher, an uncle, an aunt, whatever: think about that one-on-one time, why it’s necessary, if it’s really necessary, if it’s appropriate, and how it makes you or your young person feel. Never let fears of how your questions might be perceived or that you might make someone uncomfortable keep you from asking questions. It’s perfectly reasonable and appropriate to say, before your kid goes on a school trip or sporting event, “Will any of these kids ever be alone, one-on-one, with an adult and, if so, what would the circumstances be?” As a parent, remember that you have EVERY right to say to any person in charge, to any adult in a program, even to a doctor, that you would prefer that one-on-one time not happen. This isn’t about parenting or managing from a place of fear and suspicion; it’s about parenting or managing from a place of “I’m watching and I care.”

One-on-one time between an adult and a child or teen is usually a wonderful, positive thing, something to be encouraged and cultivated in many circumstances. It would be a sadder world without one-on-one time between adults and children. But one-on-one time between an adult and a teen or child shouldn’t happen just because of someone’s title, and shouldn’t happen without questions. Ask questions. Decide your comfort level. Listen to kids – and watch them, because often, their behavior will tell you very quickly that there is a problem.

Also see:

Lessons from UN Cares re LGBTI inclusion in the workforce

UN Cares is the United Nations system-wide workplace program created to provide support for UN staff and their families impacted by HIV. In recent years, UN Cares has expanded its focus to also address the rights of LGBTI people working within the UN system.

Laurie Newell, global coordinator for UN Cares at the U.N. Population Fund, says in this Development Ex article that people have come to her over the years describing the UN as a “really homophobic place to work” and asking if there was something that UN Cares could do about it. She says that one of the methods that has worked well in changing UN workplace cultures to be more welcoming for LGBTI people at the UN has been engaging the most senior leaders, because these are the people that can delivery the message with authority and emphasize what the organization expects “in terms of building an inclusive workplace of dignity, fairness and respect, including LBGTI colleagues.” She also says that, if your organization works in the area of human rights or the Sustainable Development Goals, you should “align the purpose of your initiative to the larger goal of the organization,” borrowing language from the SDGs. “We can ‘leave no one behind.” That means starting in-house with making the goals of the SDGs a reality.

The entire Development Ex article is worth your time to read.

Being gay and working in a humanitarian agency is wrought with difficulties and risks, and the biggest challenges can come from co-workers, as this Guardian piece illustrates. Sexual harassment and violence against female aid workers while on mission is widespread, but what’s under-reported is that many gay male aid workers are also targets of such, specifically because of their sexual orientation, and the majority of perpetrators of sexual violence and harassment against aid workers, including blackmail, are their own male colleagues.

International aid agencies and NGOs have mandates that include deliberately, publicly supporting human rights, equality, inclusion, protection and social justice, yet these same agencies will often ignore conditions in their own work place that make it hostile to gay staff members, justifying their lack of action as respecting religious or cultural views of anti-gay staff – something they would not tolerate were those views about a different tribe or ethnicity.

LGBT Aid Workers is a very new online platform for LGBT aid and development workers to come together, share stories and advice, and get support from each other. It’s worth checking out.

I made a personal commitment years ago to be supportive of gay co-workers in my humanitarian and development work: I will staunchly, absolutely protect their privacy, I will never, ever do anything that could “out” them (to be “out” is their choice to do or not, it is not mine), I will listen to their concerns and ask how they would like me to be an ally, particularly regarding their safety, and I will speak out with co-workers if I hear anti-gay rhetoric, reminding staff – even a supervisor – that human rights includes all humans.

Also see:

Accessibility: a human rights & a digital divide issue too many ignore

If your initiative has a mission regarding human rights or the digital divide, shouldn’t that include a web site that is accessible for people with disabilities or using assistive tech?

I’ve made a less-than five-minute video talking about why. I captioned it using the YouTube closed captioning tool, which is AMAZING:

Voluntourism is fighting back

I have voluntourism in my Google Alerts, so that I can get links to press releases, news articles that mention the term. I’m not fond of voluntourism, where volunteers pay large amounts of money to go abroad for a few weeks, or even several weeks, to engage in a short-term activity that will give them a sense of helping people, animals or the environment. I look at this growing industry with great skepticism in terms of actually helping anyone, because it’s focused on the wants of the volunteer – that feel-good, often highly photogenic experience – not the critical local needs of local people or the environment, and there’s little screening of volunteers – most everyone is taken, so long as they can pay. What these foreigners bring through these voluntourism programs is often not skills, experience or capabilities that cannot be found locally – it’s money, and I see no evidence that this money benefits local people – maybe the people that run the program are “helped”, but not those meant to be helped by the volunteers. I don’t think all pay-to-volunteer schemes are horrid, and I don’t think creating a vacation that has a social or environmental “good” goal (transire benefaciendo) is a bad thing, but I think there are a tremendous number of voluntourism programs out there that aren’t really benefitting communities in the developing world – and some are actually causing harm. I push back to questions about and posts prompting voluntourism on Quora and Reddit, and I’ve been pleased to see more and more people doing the same. That push-back must be working, because now I’m also seeing a lot of voluntourism companies aggressively fighting back on the blogosphere, asserting that their programs are worthwhile (but never offering hard data to prove it).

I’ve been happy to see the tide turning against many forms of voluntourism as people realize that work abroad should make local people the number one priority, not the feel-good experience for a foreign volunteer. For instance, Australian NGOs are refusing to place volunteers in orphanages abroad, because of the exploitation of children, potential harm to children, and lack of any data showing such voluntourism helps children at all.

The UK’s International Citizen Service (ICS), which has placed thousands of young people in volunteer roles around the world, is now under scrutiny: Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) has taken action against ICS and other members of the UK consortium of organizations providing volunteering opportunities over safety concerns. The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), according to a report by VSO, regarded ICS as a “high-risk programme due to the security and safety issues” involved.  “ICS safeguarding incidents have included death by drowning of two volunteers, sexual assaults, and the detention of volunteers by local police.” Volunteers live and work in countries where they may be exposed to petty and violent crime, political instability, endemic diseases and natural disasters.

There’s even a growing backlash against medical voluntourism, per reporting by Noelle Sullivan, a member of the faculty in global health studies at Northwestern University, who says her research shows that some people volunteering abroad for a few weeks, or several weeks, to engage in medical “help” for people in developing countries “does indeed cause harm.

It must be taking its toll, because I got a link to a press release about how a certain African “foundation” has hired a PR agency “to change the public perception of medical volunteering or voluntourism.” I’m not going to link to the press release – no free publicity here for a for-profit marketing company. But I had a look at the “foundation”‘s web site. The site is mostly about the gorgeous “luxury” accommodations for volunteers on a game reserve, whcih has an onsite gym, an infinity pool, a private patio “for stargazing,” and nearby opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, golfing, weight training, yoga, abseiling, white river rafting, tubing, kloofing, microlighting, helicopter rides, “and hot air ballooning!” The company can hook volunteers up with wildlife photography tours and photography courses, half day trips to an animal rehabilitation center “featured on National Geographic,” and visits for “pampering yourself at the local spas.” I’m surprised there aren’t workshops provided on how to take the perfect “Look how I’m helping these poor people” selfies… Oh, there is a page or two about the medical services volunteers will squeeze into their busy schedule enjoying all that hiking and hot air ballooning.

Also see:

Governor Bevin & Donald Trump Are Wrong on Community Service Requirements

logoRemember at the start of the year when I warned that 2018 is the time for USA nonprofits to be demanding?

Well, here we go.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and Donald Trump, as well as governors all over the USA, want to require unemployed Medicaid members to volunteer with nonprofit organizations – or, probably, Christian churches – in order to receive those benefits.

This idea was first floated back in Spring 2017. At that time, Danielle Clore, executive director of the Kentucky Nonprofit Network, had a lot to say to Bevin’s office when it asked the group to support his proposal:

The bottom line is this will cost nonprofits money – money and resources we don’t have to spare. It takes professionals to effectively manage volunteers. For the experience to be valuable for both the agency and the individual, volunteer efforts have to be managed. Is it worth the limited and precious resources of a nonprofit to manage a volunteer that is there because ‘they have to be,’ not because they want to be? Nonprofit employees are spread so thin as it is and I feel like a volunteer requirement for anyone not truly committed to the mission of the agency isn’t an effective use of anyone’s time.

I do not typically take people who are ‘required’ to volunteer, because they don’t make good volunteers. Also, 20 hours is A LOT OF TIME. We don’t allow people to volunteer that many hours because at that point they could be considered a part time employee employee, and you have potential legal issues to consider.

Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, told Kentucky Health News in an interview at that time, “We need to provide them with the support services that they need, but forcing people to volunteer in order to get health care doesn’t make anybody healthier. We know this. There are data to suggest that. In fact, sometimes these stringent requirements put people in a position where they are unable to get care and then they get sick, and they are unable to work.”

I’ve blogged about all this before, in April 2017, when I said that requirements to volunteer are getting out of hand. And I’m calling on all nonprofit centers, all consultants regarding nonprofit management, including volunteer management, and everyone claiming to be advocates for volunteerism to speak out about this.

Here here’s my Facebook post about how I feel:

Nonprofits are not sitting around saying, “I wish several thousand people were forced to volunteer and they would then show up at our offices to do all this work we have just laying around waiting to be done by just any ole’ person that comes through the door.” Bevin and Trump are expecting nonprofits to involve several thousand more people as volunteers – people who are being forced into the act – but without funding all of the increased costs nonprofits are going to have to create more assignments and supervise these people. Nonprofits, don’t do it. Just DON’T. Not without a great deal more money.

Let’s see your statement.

Also see:

Learning From The ‘Not-So-Nice’ Volunteers

graphic by Jayne Cravens representing volunteersI am trying to find and revive some of the most popular articles and commentaries I’ve written over the years that were hosted on other people’s web sites, many of which are now only available on archive.org, and then only if you can remember the URL of the defunct site.

In 2004, I was invited by Mary Merrill to write a column for her December Topic of the Month. My topic was:

Learning From The ‘Not-So-Nice’ Volunteers

The premise: we have a lot to learn from the “not-so-nice volunteers”, the people who are putting their time and energy into defending human rights, addressing social ills, and battling institutions who they feel are attacking their quality of life or an element of their community that they treasure. And we have a lot to learn from the people who manage such volunteers.

I’ve reposted that article on my own site.

 

More than helping: wanting to make a difference

One of the most common questions on Quora and the Community Service section of Yahoo is regarding what kind of volunteering is “best.” Given the number of these type of questions from teens and 20-somethings on these platforms, I don’t buy the line about millennials not caring about society, not caring about others, etc. They wouldn’t keep asking questions about volunteering if they didn’t care about something more than themselves. But the number of questions, always about what kind of volunteering they should do, which one is “best”, etc., also shows that a lot of people are lost when it comes to knowing what is a meaningful volunteering opportunity and what would be most worthwhile to them.

Too many initiatives have focused on promoting volunteering without giving realistic guidance on how to find volunteering opportunities – not just how to use a database that lists volunteering opportunities, but how to choose which task or role would be best for someone.

I put assistance to people and communities into two categories:

  1. relief/aid/comfort/charity, such as giving food, providing emergency shelter, providing emergency medical aid, chopping wood for people that heat their homes with such in winter, singing for sick kids to cheer them up, making blankets for children in cancer wards, collecting food for a food bank, etc.
  2. development, such as educating people about HIV/AIDS, educating people about organic farming, providing preventative medical care, educating people about the importance of spaying and neutering pets, creating a community garden that provides food, educates about food production and builds community, etc..

Activities in category number one usually don’t change anything long-term. They usually don’t create a widespread or sustainable change — it helps just in an immediate moment. Not that that’s bad – sometimes, often, that’s exactly what’s needed, such as providing a cold weather shelter on a freezing night, or food for an area decimated by a natural disaster.

Activities under the second category are focused on changing things long-term. The activities are meant to change people’s behavior or how people think about something or to help people to not need emergency aid anymore. These are the activities that, I admit, I am MUCH more interested in personally and professionally.

One kind of assistance isn’t necessarily better than the other. Some situations call for approach #1, and some call for approach #2. Also, activities that seem to be short-term charity can actually contribute to longer-term development and transformations. For instance, say you have a program that helps youth explore leadership activities, better understand their community, work together better, reduce conflict with other young people, etc. So you organize charitable activities for the youth, like participating in a Habitat for Humanity build, or cleaning up a beach, or serving food at a homeless shelter. All of those activities are charitable activities that provide immediate, but not lasting, aid – yet, those activities can contribute to long-term changes / transformations for the youth involved.

Several years ago, because of these frequently asked questions from young people about volunteering, particularly Girl Scouts looking for Gold Award ideas, I made a list of Ideas for Leadership Volunteering. It grows regularly as I come across articles about young people making a difference through their own, self-initiated volunteering activities. It’s focused mostly on that second category of community assistance. If you are a young person looking to make a long-lasting impact on your community through volunteering, this is a good place to start. In fact, I have used this list with women in developing countries who are looking for avenues to cultivate their own community leadership skills.

I also have a list of ways for young people to find community service and volunteering.

Other resources I have for people who want to volunteer:

2018: time for USA nonprofits to be demanding

Did you know Meals on Wheels is being hit HARD by big budget cuts?

And Meals on Wheels isn’t the only one: many of the nonprofits that provide critical services and improve our quality of life and protect the environment all over the USA are NOT funded primarily by charity – by individuals and corporations giving money – and that means their already precarious funding situation is about to get more dire with the current federal government and philosophy of the majority of Congress. That’s not a political opinion: that’s a reality.

Meals on Wheels, like many nonprofits, does NOT get most of its funding from donations: a third of its funding comes from a provision of the Older Americans Act signed into law by President Nixon in 1972. The rest comes from state and local governments, corporate donations, and individual charity. But the OAA, like most government programs, is being scaled back, including federal and state government funding for Meals on Wheels. Among the reasons government officials are giving for the funding cuts, besides that “charity will take care of it” is that they doubt the program is needed – and say there’s no data to prove it is, let alone that it is doing anything critically necessary. As this December 2017 article in Slate notes, part of the problem is that Meals on Wheels data hasn’t been robust until recently:

A literature review in 2015 found that most studies related to home-delivered meal programs were small, unrigorously designed, and measured “self-reported dietary intake,” an unreliable metric. (Try measuring what you eat for a week.) Though senior nutrition advocates swore by the program, the lack of data made it harder to argue for more funding and may be the reason the OAA’s nutrition program has floundered. For many poverty programs, robust data are necessary for survival but not sufficient. Meals on Wheels programs are stuck in an appropriations purgatory where many don’t receive enough money to stay at capacity, much less expand, but they’re too adored to be cut much without political reprisal.

But the article also notes that, in 2013, a public health researcher at Brown University, published a paper that found “if all states had increased by 1 percent the number of adults age 65 or older who received home-delivered meals in 209 under title III of the OAA, total annual savings to states’ Medicaid programs could have exceeded $109 million.” Most of the savings would come from keeping seniors in their homes and out of nursing homes, which are more expensive. 92% percent of Meals on Wheels recipients say the service lets them live at home.

Meals on Wheels has relied on its VERY well known name and mission statement to be enough for government funding, let alone charitable gifts. No more. It needs data to prove the need for its existence and data to prove that its effective – not just number of meals delivered and number of seniors served, but how that changed anyone’s physical or mental health, let alone what independence it created and, ultimately, how much money it saved taxpayers.

And the same is true for YOUR nonprofit.

The United States federal government has just passed a massive tax cut that is giving all of these corporations and very well-off entrepreneurs and business owners a great deal of even more money. Meanwhile, several issues are at a crisis point in the USA: homelessness, poverty among people that are working full time, lack of affordable housing, opioid addiction (as well as other drug addictions), lack of access to health care, lack of access to dental care, understaffed schools in crumbling buildings, failing infrastructure, under-staffed public lands, arts groups on the brink of bankruptcy, and on and on.

So it’s time, for nonprofits in 2018 to be demanding.

Corporations, high-tech gurus and rich entrepreneurs like to tell nonprofits what they should be doing.

You should be using such-and-such fantastic new software/tech tool

You should be using social media more effectively.

You should be involving more volunteers.

You should have micro tasks and expert tasks and group tasks for volunteers.

You should be using meta data more often and more effectively.

You should have a program that addresses such-and-such.

You should do such-and-such activity.

And on and on.

Oh, but, when it comes time for funding any of those activities, they also love to say, “Sorry, we don’t fund overhead.” Let’s make 2018 the year nonprofits turn that statement on its head. Let’s make 2018 the year government officials and corporate leaders hear loud and clear that what they want from nonprofits takes MONEY.

Every time someone says,”You should be doing this,” tell them how much that will cost and ask them how much they will be able to donate to make that happen.

If a corporation asks you to give feedback on an employee volunteering idea or other philanthropic activity, say you would be happy to – and tell them what your hourly consulting fee will be.

If a corporate person says your executive director makes too much money, ask that person how much he or she makes, plus what benefits he or she gets (retirement, paid vacation weeks, bonuses, health care insurance coverage, etc.), and offer a comparison for your executive director, including level and type of responsibility.

When a business calls and says they would like a one-time volunteering opportunity at your nonprofit this Saturday from 10 to noon, tell them great, and also how much they will need to pay to cover the costs you will incur to make this happen. Make sure you charge an amount that truly makes the time and effort on your organization’s part worth the expenditure of your resources.

When a business says they need precise data that proves your organization does what it says it does, present them with an evaluation plan and how much it will cost to undertake such.

Sign up to speak during at least one city council meeting this year, to talk about what your organization is doing to address a community issue, to make your community a better place, etc. Offer specifics – not just number of activities, but testimonials from those that have benefited from such.

Sign up to speak during at least one of your city’s citizen’s committee that’s concerned with an issue your organization or program addresses (public safety, the arts, the historical commission, etc..).

Offer your own information for any “state of the community” statement your mayor or other local official prepares.

Say “NO” a LOT more. If a corporation wants you to do an event, activity or program that your organization cannot afford to do, say no. If a corporation wants you to do an event, activity or program that you don’t feel would be truly beneficial for those you serve and might actually detract from your mission, say no.

Nonprofits are going to be asked to do far, far more in 2018 than they have ever been asked to do before. They are, in many cases, going to be holding families and communities together, and be all that stands between survival and disaster for many people. They are also often what makes a community or public event or public space worth visiting, let alone living in or near. None of what nonprofits do is free. Meanwhile, corporations are experiencing record profits and corporate executives are enjoying record-breaking high salaries and bonuses. Time to charge them in full for your services and remind them of the financial costs of your work.

Also see: