Tag Archives: policy

How Will Trump Presidency Affect Humanitarian Aid & Development?

Note: since this blog’s publication in November, I’ve been adding how Trump’s presidency actually is affecting humanitarian aid & development:

How will the Trump Presidency affect humanitarian aid and development policy and practice?

And how will it affect humanitarian aid and development workers from the USA?

Effects on the work

2015-07-21-SDGsAid and development efforts in the last 10 years have made amazing strides in terms of addressing issues that make many people, even a majority of people, very uncomfortable, even angry. It’s oh-so-popular to put in a well for drinking water or to build a school for young children or to provide maternal health care, but it’s rarely as popular in those same communities to encourage women to demand their sexual partners to use a condom to prevent HIV/AIDS, or to suggest a plan for providing housing and other help for refugees from other countries. Women’s equal rights to education, life choices, roles in society and employment are now unquestioned in the policies of most international development agencies, including the United Nations, something I wasn’t expecting when I started working internationally. Honestly, I fully expected some kind of “out” in UN policy documents to allow local people to refuse rights for women, if the refusal was based on religious or cultural grounds. But the UN has stood firm, at least officially. Yes, the UN and other aid agencies absolutely look for accommodation within local cultural and religious practices, they absolutely encourage recognition of local values, and that may mean your meeting with a local village is segregated, with all the men in one place, and all the women in another. It requires very delicate maneuvering at times, but the core policy and priority regarding women’s rights, and other rights, does not change.

Reaching women in socially-conservative areas, like Afghanistan, can be an incredible challenge, as you navigate a culture that does not want women in public and is easily angered if they perceive an attack on their religion. And just because local senior staff are singing the praises of gender mainstreaming doesn’t mean the staff they supervise has bought in. But, as an aid worker, you have to find a way. It is your mandate. You find a workaround. Because you know that full civil rights for all people is the only way a country can prosper and become resilient to corruption, crime, and armed civil unrest, and when civil rights for any residents are curbed, officially or by widespread cultural practice, the entire country suffers, and your aid and humanitarian efforts will ultimately fail.

Something that shocks a lot of people is that the UN has a human rights mandate that includes rights for people that are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ). The United Nations Free & Equal initiative is on Twitter (@free_equal) and on Facebook. It is an initiative of the Office of the High Commissioner for United Nations Human Rights. There is this video from the UN Secretary General in support of the Free & Equal initiative. I was stunned, and thrilled, to find this out a while back. It’s a daring position, given the majority attitudes about LGBTQ people throughout the world, including right here in the USA. In promoting equality and human rights, it’s a great comfort to know that a major international development agency has your back, policy wise.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a government agency, also has the  LGBT Global Development Partnership. It was put into the planning and formation stages by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then launched in April 2013 under the tenure of Secretary of State John Kerry. The initiative works to strengthen the capacity of local LGBTQ leaders and civil society organizations in developing countries and to enable the economic empowerment of LGBTQ people in those countries through enhanced entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprise development.

The UN and USAID initiatives in support of LGBTQ people are in response to the violence, economic hardship, stigma and political marginalization that are a daily fact of life for millions of LGBTQ people throughout the world. These people experience a lack of employment opportunities, discrimination in access to health care, housing and education and violations of their civil rights regularly because of their sexual preference. 83 countries and territories currently criminalize LGBTQ behavior or identification, and at least eight have laws allowing the imposition of the death penalty for same-sex relations. These USAID and UN initiatives are desperately needed, as are women’s empowerment initiatives. As are initiatives to help refugees. As are initiatives to help religious minorities. As are initiatives to help people with disabilities. And on and on.

But now, the USA elections of 2016 show that the majority of people in the USA support politicians dedicated to eliminating the civil rights gained by LDBTQ people in the USA over the last five years. Donald Trump is on the record as planning to create a militarized deportation force to remove 11 million undocumented immigrants from the USA, to ban the entry of Muslims into the USA and aggressively surveil any Muslim already here, to punish women for accessing abortion once he makes it illegal with the help of his Supreme Court appointees and Congress, and to change our nation’s libel laws and to restrict freedom of expression and freedom of the press. He talks about fully militarizing and otherwise empowering police to enforce “law and order” regarding Black and Latino Americans and other racial minorities in their own communities. He has said climate change is a “hoax” and that he will eliminate all government programs that address such. He promotes myths about vaccine safety. International programs that run contrary to these soon-to-be official policy positions in the USA, that run contrary to the values of many millions of Americans who support this administration, are now in severe danger of being eliminated as well.

Even if all of these initiatives are, miraculously, not cut by the Trump administration, they will be much, much harder to deliver in years to come by aid and development workers. Why? Because any local person can look an American aid worker right in the eye and say, “Why are you promoting something – freedom of the press, rights for immigrants, rights for gay people, reducing car emissions, reducing green house gases, increasing wind and solar energy, vaccines for children – that most people in your own country do not support?” Any person can say, “Your own President mocks powerful public women, and brags of sexually assaulting them. Why is it wrong that men in my country are doing the same as him?” People in developing countries intensely watch what happens in the USA, and they are always on the lookout for hypocrisy, for the USA demanding something of another country that it does not do itself. That a majority of American voters support a political party and government lead by a man who promotes nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny and racism will fuel these movements in other countries, resulting in pushback against humanitarian aid and development workers’ efforts for the rights of women, the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, the rights of LGBTQ people, the rights of immigrants and refugees, and on and on.

US development policy can—and has—lifted millions out of poverty and social exclusion, and played a role in transforming countries for the better and creating peace and prosperity where it would not be otherwise. Travel the world, talk to people, you hear the stories over and over, in Africa, in Eastern Europe, and even in Afghanistan, by people that have experienced this transformation first hand. Yes, there is still vast amounts of work to do, and many gains are fragile, but that lives have improved and business has flourished because of USAID and similar efforts simply cannot be denied. These programs not only benefit local people in their everyday lives; they also create social and economic stability that, in turn, creates a market for USA-made products and reduces the need for American military action. A lot of support for USAID and other development agencies comes from a motivation for growing the USA’s markets overseas rather than any feeling of compassion – and I’m okay with that, because such investment still helps local people, which is MY motivation. Weak or failed states are havens for armed criminal groups, some motivated by religion but most motivated by greed, and these groups not only keep their home country in chaos, they also destabilize neighboring countries. Human freedoms in such countries are at risk – and so are their economies, and all the economies attached to such. And that includes the USA. Natural disasters, including pandemics, also destabilize countries – which, in turn, threatens surrounding countries – and ultimately threatens the USA.

Nancy Birdsall and Ben Leo wrote in White House and the World:

Gender discrimination, corruption, lack of opportunity, and repressive governments in many parts of the developing world are an affront to universal values. America is often the only actor capable of marshaling the resources, political capital, and technical know-how required to address these tough issues.

In addition to security threats, the US economy and the American workforce are more reliant than ever on developing-country markets. US exports to developing countries have grown by more than 400 percent over the last 20 years. Today, they total more than $600 billion annually and are greater than US exports to China, Europe, and Japan combined. Brazil, Colombia, India, Korea, Malaysia, Turkey, and other countries are leading markets for US exports. Three decades ago, these were relatively poor countries that offered limited US export potential. Populous countries like Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Nigeria have the potential to be the next wave of emerging markets. It makes strategic sense to further advance America’s global prosperity agenda, thereby helping to grow middle-class societies that drive democratic change, promote peace with their neighbors, and reliably purchase US products and services.

Even if what happened far away didn’t affect the USA, I would still want to help – that’s who I am – but the reality is that even neo-liberals have acknowledged this reality, hence why even Republican Presidents in the USA in the last three decades, until now, have supported the idea of a global economy and foreign aid.

(for USA-based readers, particularly Trump supporters – the term neo-liberal doesn’t mean left wing. In the rest of the word, the word liberal means someone who believes unfettered free market capitalism is the best economic and social policy for the world – in the USA, we call those people libertarians or Republicans).

Effects on aid workers

Trump has said he will reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture. This, coupled with his stated attitudes about Muslims, immigrants and refugees from Syria, has the potential to put workers in aid and development from the USA, working abroad, in further danger than they already face. It is yet another thing people from the USA working in humanitarian aid and development must consider, must be mindful of as they are offered posts abroad, and must think about as they navigate another country’s landscape.

Distancing yourself from these policies and statements on social media, including Facebook, might adversely affect your employability with USAID and international agencies that receive funding from the US government during the Trump President and Republic control of the federal government, however, such posts could also help you in your work with people from other countries, people angered and further disempowered by Trump’s foreign policy. That doesn’t mean you post anti-Trump memes on Instagram or are ever have to say publicly who you voted for. It could mean posting sometimes on social media of your support of and concern for Muslim Americans, Syrian refugees, people in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, the Occupied Palestinian territories, human rights for immigrants, etc., and your condemnation of waterboarding, torture and any violations of human rights.

It was already difficult for female aid workers to complain about sexual harassment on the job; when I complained about such 10 years ago, while doing field work, I was told by a UN HR manager, “Well, you just have to ignore it and not let it bother you. If you can’t, you can always quit.” That’s the usual response, I quickly learned when talking to colleagues. But now, women aid workers from the USA are going to be at even greater risk of sexual harassment and assault because of the Trump presidency. The incoming President has, by his statements and behavior, made it acceptable for anyone, including politicians and other government representatives, to rate women by their looks and to insult women reporters, politicians, artists and celebrities with most vile statements about their character, appearance – even their sexuality. His bragging about sexual assault also normalizes such behavior in the minds of many men, in the USA and abroad. Megyn Kelly, a reporter for the politically right-wing Fox News channel, noted to Trump during a Presidential debate she moderated: “You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs’ and ‘disgusting animals.’ Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees.” Imagine a female aid worker having such comments directed at her by men she is working with, and when she says these comments are inappropriate, is told, “But it’s what your own President says!” It will be hard to demand such comments stop when the head of the most power country on Earth is saying the same.

For male aid workers in particular, repeated statements on social media and as a part of your aid and development work in support of women’s equal rights and respect for women, as well as condemnations of sexual harassment and assault, can help counter the dangerous narrative being established about acceptable treatment of women. More than ever, your female colleagues need you to speak up when you hear people you are working with joking about sexual assault or women’s behavior.

Final thoughts for now

It’s all quite dire, I know. But it’s based on what Trump and GOP members of the House and Senate have said and promised, and therefore, it must be considered as really happening. Organizations and governments abroad that have counted on support from UN and USAID need to think about what they will do if that support vanishes, both the financial support and the rhetorical support. Aid workers from the USA, more than ever before, need to be conscious of how they are perceived abroad, and remember that the safety climate in a place can change dramatically per a rumor or a sound byte on the news. And aid agencies need to revise all of their safety measures for their staff, particularly women, and to think about how they will reinforce their anti-sexual-harassment policies in the face of this new climate.

Also see:

US aid for women’s sexual health worldwide under threat, from The Guardian

Taking a stand when you are supposed to be neutral/not controversial

Update Dec 1

The UN in the Era of Trump from Centre for Policy Research, United Nations University

The $64,000 Question: Can the UN Survive the Trump Era?, from PassBlue.

Battles to end poverty, inequality will falter in Trump era, experts predict, from Reuters

Also, I’ve gotten two comments from people taking issue with my comment “the USA elections of 2016 show that the majority of people in the USA support politicians dedicated to eliminating the civil rights gained by LDBTQ people in the USA over the last five years.” It is true that Secretary Clinton garnered more votes on election day – and that her lead in the results continues to grow: As of Dec. 1, Clinton has garnered 65,152,112 votes, compared to Trump’s 62,625,928. That’s a margin of 2.53 million votes. The Democratic Party nominee’s margin in the popular vote is also rapidly approaching 2 percentage points. But I’m not sure the vote really does represent what a majority of Americans think. Perhaps I’ve got more access outside the bubble than a lot of folks, but being from a rural part of the USA, I see and hear a jaw-dropping amount of glee over the soon-to-come rollback regarding civil rights gains in the USA. There’s no question in my mind that this is, indeed, what a majority of people in the USA want – and that’s something we need to accept in order to address and change it.

Update:
Donald Trump might be more popular than you think, from Politico, Feb. 2, 2017

Update January 13, 2017

From an article today in The New York Times: “a series of questions from the Trump transition team to the State Department indicate an overall skepticism about the value of foreign aid, and even about American security interests, on the world’s second-largest continent… the tone of the questions suggest an American retreat from development and humanitarian goals, while at the same time trying to push forward business opportunities across the continent.” The article says, “The questions seem to reflect the inaccurate view shared by many Americans about how much the United States spends on foreign aid and global health programs.” In the article, Monde Muyangwa, director of the Africa program at the Woodrow Wilson Institute, noted that “the framing of some of their questions suggests a narrower definition of U.S. interests in Africa, and a more transactional and short-term approach to policy and engagement with African countries.” Ms. Muyangwa said the queries could signal “a dramatic turn in how the United States will engage with the continent.” The article notes that Former President George W. Bush quadrupled foreign assistance levels to African countries during his term, and President Obama largely maintained that, even as his administration was making cuts elsewhere.

Update Jan. 26,  2017

More from undispatch.com Trump dramatically expanded the scope of the Global Gag Rule to include all global health assistance provided by the US government. Rather than applying the Global Gag Rule exclusively to US assistance for family planning in the developing world, which amounts to about $575 million per year, the Trump memo applies it to “global health assistance furnished by all department or agencies.” In other words, NGOs that distribute bed nets for malaria, provide childhood vaccines, support early childhood nutrition and brain development, run HIV programs, fight ebola or Zika, and much more, must now certify their compliance with the Global Gag Rule or risk losing US funds.

Update February 8, 2017: Charities Say That Trump’s Refugee Ban Will Be “Incredibly Problematic” For Their Work Abroad. Charities operating in countries on the US president’s banned list, or employing staff with dual nationality from these nations, also warned the ban would jeopardise their work. A nonprofit has said plans to have Syrians speak to the US Congress have had to be shelved.

Update February 27, 2017: With aid under attack, we need stories of development progress more than ever – from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the UK’s leading independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues.

Magical paychecks

I’m on a lot of online communities, most focused on nonprofits in some way. And recently, on one of them, someone posted this:

I need to have some kind of porn blocker software on the computers at our office, since volunteers have access to the computers.

Sigh.

Yes, that’s right: while employees, because of their paychecks, aren’t at all inclined to do anything inappropriate on work computers, volunteers, who are unpaid, just can’t stay away from online pornography.

Sigh.

I’ve heard people at nonprofit organizations talk about extensive training and supervision for volunteers regarding confidentiality, working with children and working with money, who then balk when I suggest exactly the same training and supervision is needed for paid employees.

Paychecks are NOT magical! A paycheck doesn’t make someone more knowledgeable than a volunteer, more experienced, more trustworthy, more respectable nor safer.

I love a paycheck as much as anyone! But it doesn’t give me super powers.

More about working with volunteers.

Before you create that online profile… do you want to keep it?

Each time you create a profile on any service — Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Twitter, whatever – you have to use an email address for that profile.

Choose that email address carefully, because it could determine whether or not you get to keep that profile once you leave your organization or agency.

More and more, staff members across organizations – not just the marketing department – are creating online profiles and participating in online groups and social media as a part of their work. An organization’s IT staff might be participating on the TechSoup Community to talk about their approaches to choosing hardware or tools to ensure system security. An agency’s human resources staff may be on an online community for other HR managers, to discuss the latest legislation and court rulings affecting the workplace. An agency’s program director may be on Facebook and Twitter to interact with people participating the agency’s services, classes, whatever.

When that staff member leaves the organization or agency, the tech waters can get quite muddy over who owns those online profiles. Often, it’s not the content of the profile that determines who owns such – it’s what email address was used to register that profile.

If there is any chance you will want to keep any online profile after you leave an organization, don’t register that profile using your organization’s email address.

In an article by Society for Human Resource Management, entitled, Ownership of Social Media Accounts Should Be Clarified in Agreements, Jim Thomas, an attorney with Minor & Brown in Denver (whose No Funny Lawyers Blog has been listed as one of the top 25 U.S. business law blogs according to LexisNexis) offers advice regarding company ownership of employee online activities. He notes in that article:

The clearest case for employer ownership will be an employee who uses other employees to maintain his or her accounts,” Thomas stated. “Beyond that, indicators will be use of employer e-mail addresses, employer standardized or coordinated formats (this is what your page should look like) or approaches to social media (coordinated campaigns); employer-provided photos and/or content; employer-provided passwords or passwords that are shared with the employer; employees who are allowed to use employer computers to use social media during working hours. Not that any one of these or even all of them will be dispositive.

The best advice is to have frank conversations with your supervisor, and to get clear policies from senior management, regarding who owns employee social media activities, and how accounts will be handled if you depart the organization. And you will have to have more such conversations and agreements every time your supervisor or senior staff changes, if policies aren’t in writing.

Nonprofits & volunteers – time to brag on Techsoup!

There are a LOT of opportunities right now on TechSoup for nonprofit employees and volunteers to share experiences and offer advice. Here are some recent questions and topics oh-so-ripe for your comment:

Nonprofit looking for Best Practices for Gathering Emails, other Info from New Donors.

Nonprofits, libraries, universities, others using Moodle? There’s someone looking for advice from you!

How does your nonprofit, library, other mission-based organization deal with “bad” tech etiquette?

What’s your experience with ICTs for rural economic development?

A small nonprofit maritime museum books sailing trips – & needs software advice for reservations

Are you a nonprofit or volunteer using Ubuntu Linux?

Nonprofit that collects veterinary medical supplies seeks inventory management software for Mac.

Firing a volunteer over insulting musings on Facebook re: a nonprofit or library?

Software for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment?

Nonprofits & libraries: are employees, #volunteers using Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, other cloud apps? Share!

Nonprofit with network question: Some entries in NPS logs are in Hex others in plain text. Help?

SMS Engagement for civil society, the humanitarian sector, nonprofits, government programs – your experience?

Sound off re employees & volunteers appropriate behavior online

I found this article today: How to Handle an Employee’s Controversial Online Behavior – it’s from 2010, but it still works – the graphic is awesome!

I also have my own thoughts on the subject: How to Handle Online Criticism, written especially for nonprofits, NGOs and other mission-based organizations.

On a related note, there are three threads on TechSoup regarding social media that so beg your participation:

Social Media Policies in the Workplace

Instant Messaging policy

Reporting to an Executive Director re social media

Would love to read more comments on these TechSoup threads! How does your nonprofit, government agency, charity, non-governmental agency or other mission-based organization handle all of these various aspects of social media/online activities?

Excuses, excuses

Here’s a conversation I had this week as a member of a certain city’s citizen’s committee regarding bicyclists and pedestrians:

Me: “I’d like for this link to the state agency name redacted web site to added to this web page on the city’s site. I’ve sent two emails requesting it, but no one has responded.”

City representative: “We don’t have money in the budget to do that.”

Me: “You don’t have the money to add a link to a web page?!?”

City Rep: “Actually, it’s because the decision makers need to review that change first.”

Me: “Okay, who are the ‘decision makers’?”

City Rep: “Oh, we don’t have a policy yet on how those decisions will be made.”

THIS IS WHY I DON’T BELIEVE IN CONSPIRACY THEORIES INVOLVING THE GOVERNMENT.

This is also a perfect illustration of the change of mentality that’s needed for effective online communications. Using web pages and social media has nothing to do with budgets or policies – it has to do with mindsets.

Fear-based management – it’s a customer service KILLER.

volunteer managers: you are NOT psychic!

A colleague recently posted that this was one of the things that makes a great volunteer manager: going with your gut feeling.

UGH! Dislike!

In my trainings, I say just the opposite: do NOT assume your gut is telling you the truth.  

NEVER let your gut be your guide to decision-making.

I’ve had volunteer managers tell me that their gut reaciton to applicants to volunteer is their primary guide to keeping “bad” people out of their program. And, so, I remind them of all of the many people who had no negative gut feeling about clergy, coaches or youth group leaders before or while those people abused children. And of all many people who did not have a negative gut feeling about that boyfriend, spouse, family member or friend who, after years of knowing each other, turned out to be a liar, a cheat – even a killer.

Everyone in the Penn State/Second Mile scandal went with their gut instead of following good policy and procedures. Look where it got them!

Linda Graff once told me that one of the most chilling things you will ever do is sit in a courtroom and watch all of the many people ready to testify on behalf of their husbands, wives, sons, daughters, neighbors, co-workers, etc. – oh, no, that person could NOT do the things you have accused him/her of. It’s impossible. I KNOW this person. I don’t care what your evidence says – I know in my soul he/she is a good person. Those people’s guts told them one thing – and despite the facts, they prefer to listen to their gut.

I have almost let my gut feeling turn volunteers applicant away — and those people have turned out to be some of my best volunteers. What I was actually doing was hearing my prejudices: about age, about culture, or about education (or lack their of). And I was honest enough to explore that and admit to it.

I have had people tell me, after working together for a couple of months, “You know, my first impression of you was insert-negative-comment-here. You have turned out not at all to be that way.” And I thank them for NOT going with their gut!

I’ve had endless numbers of volunteer managers tell me that their gut reaction to virtual volunteering is NO WAY IS THAT SOMETHING MY ORGANIZATION SHOULD DO.

In the course of my job, I never let my gut make decisions for me. Ever. Yes, my gut reaction might lead me in a direction, but if my gut is telling me something in the work place, such as don’t accept that person as a volunteer or that new idea just isn’t worth trying, I don’t make a decision based on that – I do more investigating and questioning. When it comes to effectively supporting and engaging volunteers, I need facts. Why am I having that feeling that such-and-such isn’t a good volunteer? Is it that he is being evasive in his answers? Is it that she seems too good to be true? Is it that he looks like an ex-boyfriend? When I start answering those questions honestly for myself, I either come to the concrete, fact-based reason I don’t want the person as a volunteer or I have to accept that my reluctance is more about prejudice than reality.

Volunteer managers: you are not psychic. There are no such things as psychics. Listen to your gut, but do NOT let it make your decisions, and if you haven’t said in the last three months, “Wow, my gut was wrong about that!” then you are NOT being honest with yourself!

Also see:

Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Feelings Betray Us by retired FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole (with co-author Alisa Bowman)

Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton

Beyond Police Checks: The Definitive Volunteer & Employee Screening Guidebook by Linda L. Graff

 

What is “too much” from an online contributor?

When a nonprofit, NGO or government agency starts an online community or hosts an online event, they envision questions being asked and the staff or event hosts answering such, all in an oh-so-orderly fashion. No arguments, no disagreements – just a reasoned exchange of online information by all participants.

However, online communities and events rarely work the way organizers or hosts envision. These communities or events have hardly any messages at all or an overwhelming number of such. They may be inactive for days, weeks, even months, and then suddenly, a lively debate may break out that sends message numbers through the roof and makes the organization feel uncomfortable. And on many communities, only a small percentage of members regularly share information or engage in discussions; the rest of the members, often 90% of such, are lurkers, reading messages but rarely responding to such.

Most users still get online community messages via email, so remind members, more than once, how to manage email – specifically, how to filter community or event messages automatically into a folder within their email program. The people who get the most upset about a surge in messages are people who subscribe via email digest, where all messages are put into one single email, so encourage members to change their subscriptions to individual messages and to filter these into a folder of their own, which makes it much easier to find the messages each person will want to read and to delete the messages a user doesn’t want to read.

Remember that lively debates are a natural, important part of a successful online community or event. Don’t panic when they happen: let them happen, think about why people are saying whatever it is they are saying, keep everyone fact-based, and let them run their course. Step in only if

  • someone says something that is not fact-based,
  • if arguments get personal,
  • if people are repeating themselves,
  • if your policies are violated, or
  • if the argument reduces down to a back and forth between just one or two people.

You can tell people to take the argument off the group if you truly believe the argument has run its course with other members, or even dismiss someone from the group if he or she has violated policy – but be ready to quote from their messages and your written policy to clearly show the violation.

When should you suspend or dismiss an online community member? If that person:

  • uses inappropriate language or images, as you define such (be ready to cite specific examples in your dismissal; inappropriate is a really vague term!)
  • makes false or misleading statements even after being cited for such (again, be ready to quote examples)
  • posts off-topic even after being warned not to
  • violates confidentiality rules
  • encourages illegal activity (if you are worried that your community could be held liable if a community member does, indeed, engage in that activity and get caught or hurt)
  • violates copyright or trademark laws such that your online community could be held liable
  • misrepresents himself or herself (for instance, as running a nonprofit organization that turns out not to exist, or as being a staff person from an organization when, in fact, he or she isn’t)
  • chronically posts inaccurate information (claims an organization engages in activities that it actually doesn’t, claims there are certain rules and regulations about an activity when, actually, there are not, etc.)
  • contacts community members or event participants off-list and engages in the aforementioned activities
  • tries to stifle views different from himself or herself (again, be ready to cite specific examples of such, with quotes)
  • threatens anyone

 

You may also have rules about advertising a business, but be careful; if a vendor answers a question like “Where can I find volunteer management software” with “Here’s our company’s product…”, that’s actually a helpful answer. Allow the posting of business information if it is truly on-topic for your group. You may also have rules about when it is appropriate or inappropriate to share information from an online event or an online community outside of that event or community.

Some organizations panic when an online community member that isn’t an employee starts engaging in leadership activities on a group or within an event – when the non-staff person answers questions before the official moderator gets to them, frequently shares events and resources that are on-topic to the community, and otherwise posts on-topic, but posts more than the moderators or facilitators. Don’t panic when you end up with a “super user” – celebrate it! When someone starts exhibiting leadership on your online community:

  • write or call the person directly and thank him or her for the contributions
  • ask the person where he or she heard of the community or the event
  • ask the person why he or she feels so motivated to share

If the person responds to every post to a community, then do likewise: “Thanks, Mary, for that information. Does anyone else have something they would like to add or share?” That encourages others to share as well.

If you want to limit community members to a certain number of posts a day, per person, that’s fine, but that means your staff, including your moderator, has to abide by the same rule!

You may want to approach a super-user about becoming the official moderator, freeing up your staff time for other activities; however, make it clear, in writing, if, as moderator, the person would then be prohibited from sharing opinions. You may also want to invite the person to create and host a specific online event!

By all means, if the person posts inappropriately, per your written policies, tell the person. But don’t reprimand someone for being an active community member!

Also, don’t let one community member dictate what makes your online community or event a success; if one person complains that your community has too many messages, that doesn’t mean everyone feels that way. Survey your community at least once a year so you can get everyone’s opinion.

And a final note: no super-enthusiastic online contributor lasts; it may take a few months, but every super-sharer on an online community eventually slows down. It’s impossible to maintain that kind of unofficial enthusiasm on an online community.

Security Management in Violent Environments

The Humanitarian Practice Network has published a new version of Good Practice Review 8 on Operational Security Management in Violent Environments. The new edition both updates the original material and introduces new topics, such as the security dimensions of ‘remote management’ programming, good practice in interagency security coordination and how to track, share and analyse security information. The new edition also provides a more comprehensive approach to managing critical incidents, in particular kidnapping and hostage-taking, and discusses issues relating to the threat of terrorism. It’s published by the Humanitarian Practice Network at ODI.

One of the unique aspects of this publication is an entire chapter on sexual aggression, which offers blunt advice to both women AND men regarding how to prevent rape and sexual abuse during aid and humanitarian deployments.

The Humanitarian Practice Network at the Overseas Development Institute is an independent forum where field workers, managers and policymakers in the humanitarian sector share information, analysis and experience.

I really hope that the Peace Corps will read this report, per its recent and apparently ongoing mishandling of the sexual assaults on some Peace Corps members. The document’s frankness and specifics are something the Peace Corps could learn from.

No matter what your role in humanitarian actions/aid work, no matter what agency you are working with, download and read this publication, and then compare it to the manual/policies for your own agency. If you see a need for improvement in your agency’s practices and policies, speak up!

New Congress Brings Stark Agenda for Nonprofits

The new Republican majority in USA Congress will have a big impact on programs that affect charities and the people they serve. The Chronicle of Philanthropy lists what the nonprofit world can expect from the new Congress. It’s must reading!

This is a followup to my earlier blog warning that the Fall 2010 election in the USA should have every nonprofit’s attention – and every NGO’s attention abroad that receives money from the USA in some way, directly or indirectly. It provides links to commentaries by other organizations as well as ways to address the proposed changes.

As I noted in that earlier blog, US government budgets have already been cut severely, and the cuts that are coming will become even more severe — and the irony is that the same local, state and national governments cutting nonprofit budgets are also asking nonprofits to maintain their services in the face of these cuts.

Also see these tips to use your web site to show your organization’s accountability and results.