I wrote this article in 2005 and had it as the index page for Chromewalker.org, but have placed it here because I feel it is still a relevant way at looking at how to overcome social problems. Although unrelated to technology, I hope you enjoy it.
— Diversified Charitable Contributions —
I am an engineer at heart… by this I mean that I tend to look at any situation as a series of problems and solutions. Regardless of whether we’re talking about a new chip design or a social injustice, I believe the success of any project seeking to solve a problem is measured by how close it comes to meeting or exceeding its stated goals within defined constraints, budgetary or otherwise. So what baffles me is how come in certain areas such as chip design we make quarterly, almost miraculous innovations that revolutionize the world’s technologies, and yet, in other areas, such as social problems, health epidemics, and gender inequalities we make substantially less strides? What is flawed in the way that we view our world’s problems that prevents us from making the same exponential achievements that we see in technology, but rather, in solving the world’s problems?
Recently I’ve started to think more and more about these problems, and how, in the macro sense, we as individuals don’t actively involve ourselves in helping others consistently, and helping society achieve the same level of exponential innovations in solving the world’s problems that we observe in technological innovations. Perhaps, though, I should speak more specifically to my experiences and barriers to contributing, since I can’t presume to know what everyone does and thinks. Due to limited time, limited resources, limited exposure to issues, and (up until now) lack of motivation to seek involvement, I have, in the past, shirked stepping up and proposing ‘a’ solution to any of the world’s problems. The purpose of this article, therefore, is not to propose ‘the’ solution, but hopefully ‘a’ solution. A solution that I can stick with for the rest of my life, and hopefully a solution that will help others in determining what’s important for them and what they can do to make a positive impact in this world.
Before I go any further, I should state that I have no academic diploma, professional expertise, or public reputation that will give legitimacy to what I have to say on this matter. What I say is merely the opinion of one individual. Draw whatever conclusions you wish.
To begin with, I’ll explain a little bit of the logic I used to come up with my ‘solution.’ I wanted to find a way to categorize the world’s problems in a way that wouldn’t overwhelm me. Between the homeless people that I see when I walk down the street and the people that I’ve seen in my international travels, I sometimes feel powerless in making any sort of significant impact. With so much people around the world needing some sort of help, how can I, make any difference? So in order to look at how to make the world a ‘better’ place from an engineering perspective, I broke down the macro problem into pieces that I could digest. The two major pieces I identified were long-term problems/solutions, and short-term problems/solutions. I categorized long-term problems as those that prevented humanity from ever reaching a hypothetical ‘utopian’ state whereupon energy, education, understanding, resources, food, opportunities, and health were in their idealized form. Examples of problems that fall under this category of mine are child abuse, illiteracy, drug abuse, gender inequality, racial inequality, religious intolerance, unemployment, health problems, and environmental abuses.
The other piece involves what I perceive as short-term problems. By short-term, I mean problems that affect individuals in the now, but not necessarily or not forcibly, generations in the future. Mind you, the line between short and long term is very gray, but examples of what I believe to be shorter-term problems are natural-disaster relief, political term campaigning, and vaccine shortages. Although the repercussions of these short-term problems can have long-term effects, their ‘solutions’, I believe, can sometimes be more easily codified and executed, and the impact of their solutions can be more visibly and quantifiably measured during a lifetime.
Because logically the good of the many is better that the good of the few, it would stand to reason that tackling those issues that prevent a long-term solution to the world’s problems should hold more importance over those of shorter term impact. I therefore proceeded to pick which issues of the long-term category I considered to be the most important. These issues are:
1) Investing more in making sure that future generations (children), have adequate nourishment, education, safety, and love to reduce the likelihood of the perpetuation of present day problems. Issues like child prostitution, malnutrition, lack of education, and child abuse have been scientifically proven to cause adults with greater likelihood of criminal behavior and adults with a greater likelihood of health or mental problems. By nipping the problem in the bud, so to speak, we are preventing these problems via free education programs, food programs, and free safe-housing programs we prevent these horrible problems from resurfacing in future generations.
2) Investing more in creating employment opportunities for present and future generations so that social issues brought about by poverty, such as crime and corruption are reduced in the future. Although in first world countries some sort of employment (as distasteful as it may be) or entrepreneurial opportunity is always an option, in developing nations many times nothing, absolutely nothing is available for people to do. By investing in programs that promote social entrepreneurship in developing nations, citizens of these nations can build, from within, sustainable businesses that can help bring the entire community to a higher standard of living.
3) Investing more in the ‘stage of our life’, or less artistically said, our environment. Without a ‘stage’ for our lives to unfold in, there will be no future for anyone one of us. This includes not only finding ways to reduce present environmental abuses, but also in finding innovations that allow us to grow as a species and not like a virus, consuming which consumes its host in the process of its growth. By investing in organizations that help corporations become more environmentally responsible, and by investing in projects that help curtail world pollution issues, we can perhaps delay or even cause a recession in the escalation of the world’s pollution.
4) Investing more in programs that help us understand our bodies, its ailments, limitiations, and cures. As we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives, without good health it is nearly impossible to move forward on anything. By investing in organizations that help us find cures to diseases that rob us of intellectual capital and loved ones, we can extend the productive (and charitable) lives of our world’s citizens.
Although I believe these to be the most important issues on my personal long-term agenda, I realize there are many other issues that are equally important. However, these are the ones that I feel solve many of the worlds problems from the ground up.
The solution that I propose, therefore, is for you the reader to consider doing something similar to what I did to break down the world’s issues into something that you can understand and feel at a personal level, and then invest in your solutions in the way you can. Below, I’ve included a guideline of the process I used:
1. Break down, in a way that is digestable for you, what you believe the world’s problems to be.
2. Pick the problems that you believe are the most important, and mentally construct possible solutions.
3. Depending on your means, choose a strategy by which to tackle your problems/solutions. If you have the financial resources to start your own charitable cause to execute the solutions you mentally constructed, do it. If you have spare cash here and there, utilize charity search engines such as justgive.org, networkforgood.org, guidestar.org, or charitynavigator.org to identify charities that come close to the solutions you mentally constructed and contribute to those charities on a regular basis, and last but not least, if you’re short on financial resources, find volunteer organizations, such as NewYorkCares where time IS your donation.
4. Lastly, diversify your solution strategy. Rather than taking the risk of investing too much time or money on one issue or charity, spread out your contributions so that you have a greater likelihood of executing your charitable agenda. If enough of us did this, it would be no different than the success that mutual funds have through diversification. Research your charities like you would any financial investment. Look for financial records, star-ratings, and historical performance.
Below, I have included a list of other problems that I thought about during the writing of this article. Below these, I’ve included a link to my personal contribution basket via Justgive.org that you can contribute to if you’d like, a short explanation of what the charities do also follows.
Other issues to consider-
Oceans and Waterways
Natural Disaster Relief
Charities Researched and Endorsed
I researched the following charities based on my stated long-term objectives, and their ability to fulfill them effectively. They all have ‘four star’ (The best) rating from CharityNavigator.org.
FINCA International, Inc.
We support the economic and human transformation of families trapped in poverty through the creation of Village Banking groups. These peer groups of 30-50 members (largely women) receive 3 critical services: working capital loans, an effective mechanism for family savings and a community-based system.
Save the Children
We are a private, nonprofit and nonpartisan relief and development organization. Our mission is to make lasting, positive change in the lives of disadvantaged children. Our International Save the Children Alliance of 24 independent member organizations works in more than 100 countries throughout the world.
Partners in Health
Please see our new listing, PARTNERS IN HEALTH A NONPROFIT CORPORATION, under EIN 04-3567502, for a current profile on Partners In Health and the work of Dr. Paul Farmer.
HOPE WORLDWIDE LTD
HOPE worldwide is a faith-based charity founded in 1991 by the International Churches of Christ. Our non-sectarian programs serve disadvantaged children and the elderly, provide education, and deliver medical services in developing communities.
Concern Worldwide US, Inc.
Concern sends experienced volunteers to assist the poorest people in developing countries, providing disaster relief and long-term self-help programs: education, health, engineering, agriculture, community development.
Grameen Foundation USA
Grameen Foundation USA is a non-profit, tax exempt organization, promoting the Grameen Bank methodology of poverty alleviation through micro-credit — access to small business loans for the poorest people.
KIDS ALIVE INTERNATIONAL INC
KIDS ALIVE INTERNATIONAL, INC. IS A MINISTRY TO CHILDREN AND YOUTH, DEDICATED TO FULFILLING THEIR SPIRITUAL, EDUCATIONAL, PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL AND SOCIAL NEEDS BY ENABLING THEM TO BECOME FULLY DEVOTED FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST AND EFFECTIVE CITIZENS IN THEIR NATIONAL CULTURES.
GLOBAL GREEN USA
TO ENGAGE IN CHARITABLE, EDUCATIONAL, AND SCIENTIFIC ACTIVITIES THAT PROMOTE THE WELFARE OF THE ENVIRONMENT.
We are a global organization that invests in leading social entrepreneurs – practical visionaries with the same creativity and determination as leading business entrepreneurs – who apply these qualities to solving social problems on a large scale.
United States Fund for UNICEF
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF is the oldest and largest of 37 funds for UNICEF around the world that raise money, educate, and advocate on behalf of UNICEF. UNICEF works in over 160 countries providing health care, nutrition, clean water and sanitation, education, and special protection to children in need.