We’re very excited to announce that our founder and CEO Jim Ziolkowski will be contributing occasional op-ed pieces to Huffington Post Impact, an editorial section of HuffPo concerning social issues and non-profits. In his first essay, Jim takes a look at the recent Greg Mortenson controversy from his perspective as an international development non-profit executive, and hopes that disillusioned feelings towards Three Cups of Tea or the Central Asia Institute will not deter anyone’s efforts to bring education to those who need it most around the globe.
Please share Jim’s message with your respective networks, and look out for his next piece on HuffPo!
Here’s an excerpt:
The allegations made in the 60 Minutes piece about the veracity of Three Cups of Tea left many of us with a feeling of betrayal and a sense of doubt. The CBS story raised important questions about transparency, integrity and even the feasibility of actually building schools in impoverished countries. The accusations regarding Pennies for Peace and how donations from children may not have been put to good use are most troubling. With thousands of school children across the country raising money for non-profits, the situation raises larger questions about the line between involvement and exploitation.
Having founded (and still leading) an organization that mobilizes urban youth in the U.S. to contribute intensive local community service while building schools in developing countries, I feel compelled to weigh in. Through buildOn, American youth from some of the toughest high schools in the U.S. are transforming their own communities through service and are changing the world by building schools. A bold statement, but it can backed up with verifiable metrics and outside evaluations. Allow me to explain, using BuildOn’s after-school programs as an example.
One of the important lessons from the 60 Minutes piece is that you should NOT place your trust only in the word of a nonprofit CEO. Visit the projects and verify the results for yourself. If that’s not possible, look at the metrics, study outside evaluations of the impact, study the results and scrutinize the financial statements. If that’s not possible, you should not contribute to that organization.
Please, do not lose faith in nonprofits or the ability of American youth to change their communities and the world. Instead, elevate your expectations and demand more from not-for-profit leaders. If you don’t, the children and communities who are in greatest need of education will pay the price.