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Feelback vs Feedback

Money, despite my naive dreams and desires are seldom free. The most common payback for development- or charitable money is the Report. Some come in the form of newsletters, some as websites or blogs, some as fridge magnets, some as text messages, some as an emotional emails or even a phone call or gift made by locals.

In general I think some people want feedback due to notions of stewardship, responsibility, accountability or most obvious control. Others don’t really want this type of feedback, they just want feelback and that is why beneficiaries start to ‘play’ them. Donors want to feel that sense of significance and legacy, they want to feel like they make a difference, they want to feel that their hard earned money makes them a hero. Often they think, because they had the skills and opportunity to access money, that they are smarter than those they give the money to. These beneficiaries will do well to keep the kind-hearted, unselfish donor in the loop. Neglect can have dire consequences, but these consequences will never be regognised as punishment, rather euphemistic ‘out of sight out of heart’ rhetoric. These days it seems like a fair demand to ‘be in touch’ and ‘be personally involved’ with those getting your cash. It sounds great and are indeed a similar shadow of the ideal relational philosophy, but don’t be fooled by these ‘connecting’ donors: they want feelback, not friendship. Feelback is a demand from people donating let’s say 10% of their income. However, true friendship will cost much more than 10% and that is way to risky a door for most ‘wealthy’ donors to open. They want feelback and transparency on their terms, at their time, in their format: friendships are more messy, more equal and more scary.

To summarise I recognise two types of feedback loops:

– Guillotine Reports: As in French Revolution, not office guillotine! The name says it all… give the report, the newsletter, the picture, or your funding will get the chop! Demand driven, with a myriad of manipulative tactics and games on both sides. Test: stop reporting for 6 months and see what happens… demands and subtle warnings or real concern and offers to assist with problems.

– Rainbow Reports: These are not even reports, maybe call them updates. Bottom line, they are unexpected, unique, a gift and sincere. This occurs when your money really made a difference and the recipient really appreciates you as a person or friend.

One of the above types of ‘feedback-loops’ are common and one is rare. One should be governed, critiqued and reduced; whilst the other should be encouraged, celebrated and desired.

Power Plays

When I think of development I don’t think about money and poverty as much as I do about equality, fairness, hope and fun. Why? In short, when my wealthy white friends travel to manica to go ‘reach out’ or ‘develop’ the youth of Manica in Mozambique, they very quickly realise that despite material lack, the people in Manica are richer than them in many ways. It is not about money.

“Wealth is the ability to be generous” I think the first person to coin the phrase was Cicero. By this definition, few rich people are rich, if you get what I mean. Sometimes poverty is very ugly and cruel and requires drastic material intervention. Yet, in ‘poor’ communities I always find much life, generosity, humanity and good. Rich people, like myself need to figure out how to turn our things into tools, things like money, blankets, skills can become small bridges that allows friendship and mutuality.

If you give, say you throw things over the river to the poor and suffering but you are not willing to build a bridge and walk there yourself, then your handout will do more harm than healing. Giving without going is part of the problem. And if we go, we have to go in fear and trembling as if walking on holy ground, because our cleverness and cash can destroy the beauty in the community and individuals we think we want to help.

We often ask, how can I help… how often do you ask, how can I be helped by those I intend to help?  That is the start of addressing the power venom we carry in our charitable footsteps.