I recently attended a meeting and presentation hosted by a local nonprofit land trust organization, otherwise known as a non-governmental organization or NGO. For the purpose of this observation, I am going to leave out the name and location of the organization, and here’s why.
A question was posed by an audience member to the speaker concerning what they thought the opposition was to their stated purpose and subsequent agenda. And while discussions took place regarding who and what those oppositions were, I could not help but think of my own observations of NGO’s over the years, and I wanted to pipe up with the response, “Your opposition is yourselves.” And these observations have some universal applications when it comes to NGO’s and the lessons derived from their achievements and setbacks.
The single most detrimental facet of the self-imposed opposition is human nature. Beginning with apathy to circumstance and extending to ego-driven personality conflicts within members of the organization, the effectiveness of a given NGO can be severely hindered if not hobbled altogether. The irony of it is that oftentimes they can be as inefficient and unproductive as the government they bemoan for being such.
And private corporations can take them with a proverbial grain of salt, too. That is because a private business possesses an element key to the success of any organization, which is centralized leadership with immense latitude in decision-making authority aimed solely at the profitability of the business.
Having said this, and being aware of the rule that the identification of a problem absent a solution is merely a complaint, I am coming to some clear ideas about what the current landscape requires.
You see, I get it that when I say these are some of the most consequential times in history, people have likely been saying this since the beginning. What makes the present more consequential then ever in my mind has to do with the ever peaking Information Age and the capabilities humanity now possesses to gather, assimilate, and disseminate almost everything from the simplest communication between two people to how to make an explosive device from ordinary household products. The progress in this regard is beyond staggering and appears not to have reached its fullest potential yet.
And more specifically, what makes these times so consequential is that the decisions we make as a race, a human race, can irrefutably contribute to our own demise on a level that rivals the speed of information.
The front line of defense in these is threefold.
Aggressive investigative journalism is as important as it has ever been, but it is suffering a salvo of attacks from a growing, powerful group that depends upon a lack of transparency for its success as well as the unfortunate byproduct of a free press — the trivialization and sensationalization of the news. This said, watchdog journalism is the tip of the spear.
In spite of the human nature factor that courts ineptitude, NGO’s are second in line. Organizations willing to target specific causes and staff themselves with experts both academic and legal, as well as boots-on-the-ground volunteers, are critical to raising awareness and engaging in dialogue about matters.
And last are willfully informed and doggedly participatory everyday people who support the other two by way of joining their ranks all the way to the simple process of donating money to support them or signing a petition.
One last thought, and I aim this pointedly to my conservationist friends.
My friend Noah Crowe told me that the definition of relationship could be surmised as two people willing to have a conversation. And that when one person refuses to have a conversation or walks away for lack of getting what they want, the relationship is severed.
If the matter at hand is of severe consequence, walking away from the conversation simply cannot be an option. I don’t care who it is — on a long enough timeline, we all have common ground.
See you out there.
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