Thoughts on Collaboration Between NGOs

For successful practical collaboration/cooperation/coordination for the lifecycle of an aid effort, you’ll need a well-considered overall structure that addresses all aspects of the planned and anticipated interaction. It would need to define who the stakeholders/partners are and how they will interact — which means defining an acceptable process for someone to lead the coordination without implying that they are leading the aid effort itself. It will also need to reflect the reality of the situation and clearly capture the roles and responsibilities of all involved for this effort specifically, being careful to acknowledge that this agreement doesn’t compromise any partner’s independence outside the defined scope of the agreement. It should also help each partner present the cooperation in a positive light to their respective constituencies — the moral high ground being the focus on the needs of the mission (while maintaining the integrity of each organization involved).
Actions mean so much more than words, and demonstrated willingness to forego total control for a greater result (and the prospect of follow-on collaborations) is a powerful selling point. Plus, the next time, it should be easier/faster to put such an agreement in place.

A Personal Insight


Beginning in the late sixties, Piet Hein’s little book of little poems entitled Grooks showed up on new, then used, bookshelves, frequently provoking feelings of curiosity or nostalgia depending upon the reader’s history with the volume.  One of his Grooks that stayed with my wife (and, thus, with me) over many years is ‘T. T. T.’

T. T. T.

Put up in a place
where it's easy to see
the cryptic admonishment
     T. T. T.

When you feel how depressingly
slowly you climb,
it's well to remember that
     Things Take Time.

Long after we forgot the wording of the poem, the phrase ‘Things Take Time’ would help provide a needed recalibration and perspective.  And as I dealt with personal challenges somewhat later, my wife’s compassion demonstrated an honest embrace of the sentiment.  In heartfelt acknowledgement of this powerfully simple principle, I cross-stitched a tiny ‘TTT’ for her locket.

Until recently, I saw the lesson of T.T.T. as in the poem —  a lesson in patience, a reminder that doing anything significant (or well) almost always requires the benefit of time to bring it into full flower.  Things Take (i.e., Require) Time.  Now, after a full decade of effort, sadness and satisfaction deciding how to disperse all the contents  of our departed parents’  homes and then purging our own cluttered house during renovations, I am struck by another lesson in those simple words: Things Take (i.e., Demand) Time.  And when you reach our age, you can feel how important it is to parcel out very mindfully the time you have to spend on things.

In the first lesson, it is the things that are important — accomplishing things that matter, creating things that will endure: a lesson for the earlier arc of your life.  Once your life’s trajectory has passed its peak, it is time that becomes precious, and you feel the need to free yourself from reliance on the less important things that will use up that time.

Things Take Time — yes, they do.  And yes, they will.

“Finding Solutions to Feed the World” @ SAIS

On May 9, Jim Borel of DuPont spoke at the JHU School for Advanced and International Studies (SAIS).  Among his points on the global food situation and efforts to address the issues were the following:

  • Malthus was wrong in his 1789 projections of linear growth of food resources vs. geometric growth of the population.  It’s time to accept that we can feed the world if we want to.
  • In developing countries, 1/3 of food produced is lost to waste between the farm and the market (due to lack of refrigeration, adequate storage, transportation infrastructure, etc.).  And in the ‘advanced’ world?  We also lose 1/3 of food to waste, but in our case it occurs between the market and the consumer.  Picture how much is thrown out by grocery stores and restaurants as well as individuals and families.
  • Hunger used to be hidden in remote regions [where it could also be ignored by the rest of the world — RDM].  70 million people died of starvation in the 20th century.  Now, with projections of 70% of the population living in urban areas, we will know when hunger strikes.  [My question is, won’t that also translate into greater anger in those affected?  That the world knows and still does nothing?]
  • Three areas we need to advance —
    1. To face unprecedented global challenges, we need local solutions.  85% of food never crosses an international border.
    2. Ensure science becomes local wisdom.
    3. Sustainability: Ensure crops get from farm to market.