Well Said

Spotted the following in the letters section of the New Yorker (in the April 16th 2012 issue):

I was mildly horrified by John Colapinto’s article on Trevor Neilson and the work of Global Philanthrophy Group, which coördinates celebrities’ philanthropic endeavors, following as it did on the heels of the “Kony 2012” film debacle (“Looking Good,” March 26th). I admit that I don’t personally know any of the individuals profiled in the article—or the “Kony 2012” producers, for that matter—so I cannot question their motives or impugn their desire to help.

However, the two decades I’ve spent working in international development have taught me that effective help, which contributes to long-term positive change, requires that philanthropists and their advisers possess a set of attributes that are sometimes hard to come by: an abundance of humility, high tolerance for uncertainty and complexity, patience in understanding context, and willingness to listen to the people who live with problems that most philanthropists encounter only occasionally. International philanthropy benefits from synthesizing diverse local views, and requires the building of genuine, respectful partnerships with local organizations to be effective.

Without these, philanthropy is in the long run mostly self-gratification, regardless of the intent.

Andrea Johnson

Bronx, N.Y.

Normally I skim over ‘The Mail’ but this letter got my attention.

A lot of the defences for Celebaid and other flavous of crappy development measures, particularly from your average party conversational opponent, runs along the lines of “but at least they’re doing something” or “well now people are aware of the issue” which are as infuriating as they are misguided. The focus isn’t on whether or not the person agitating for change is good, bad (or ugly) but whether or not anyone is benefiting from that change. Anyone is a misnomer – anyone but the activists themselves.

Incidentally, does anyone know Andrea Johnson? Does she blog? Does she write? Does she tweet? Surely, in this age of mass self publication she has a way of getting her opinions out into the world beyond writing letters to the editor?

Anyone who writes so eloquently and succinctly on this issue – particularly if they’ve been in the industry a while, as she claims – is an absolute treasure.


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