So this past week I raged about the ‘putting pipes in the ground’ approach of a corporate-philathrophy project. I realise what I need is for these City Councils in Australia not to keep putting money into ineffective ‘feel-good’ and ‘look good in report’ projects – but to smarten their act and participate in genuine and sustainable change.
I am a designer and as such a member of a community that for fifty years (looking just at the post war boom in the total design economy) has lied to itself that it was doing good. I have little respect and faith in justification that claims design makes the world a better place. If that was the purpose of design – it would have done things differently.
But before I get sidetracked too much let me point you to a project that changed ‘operation smile’ (sure it benefits people – but is just not good enough, we can do better) in to ‘smile train’. So instead of building rooms in slums in India – wha would you do? Give that some thought and if you ahve any ideas I would love to hear about them.
Meanwhile take a look here (below) and at Freakonomics – which sparkles with brilliance.
Mullaney helped conceive a plan. Instead of using Operation Smile’s hard-raised millions to fly doctors and equipment around the world for limited engagements, what if the money were used instead to train and equip local doctors to perform cleft surgery year-round?
Smile Train works as a charity because it is run like a business. Fixing a child’s cleft lip or palate is a relatively cheap procedure with outsize payoffs: cleft children in many countries are ostracized and have a hard time going to school, getting jobs and marrying, and the surgery reverses those disadvantages. Indeed, when pitching a reluctant government, Mullaney refers to cleft children as “nonperforming assets” who can soon be returned to the economic mainstream. He fights bad incentives with better ones: when Smile Train learned that midwives in Chennai, India, were being paid off to smother baby girls born with cleft deformities, Mullaney started offering midwives as much as $10 for each girl they instead took to a hospital for surgery.
Smile Train has also harnessed technology to create efficiencies in every aspect of its business, from fund-raising to charting patients’ outcomes. It developed surgery-training software that helps educate doctors around the world. There are high-tech quality-control measures: using digital imaging, a Texas cleft expert grades a random sample of operations performed by Smile Train doctors around the world, in order to know which surgeons in, say, Uganda or China need more training. These are the sort of innovations that likely make Smile Train one of most productive charities, dollar for deed, in the world. Over the last eight years, Smile Train has performed more than 280,000 cleft surgeries in 74 of the world’s poorest countries, raising some $84 million last year while employing a worldwide staff of just 30 people.