Monday, May 23, 2011

What happens in Aid Vegas stays in Aid Vegas

Here's the best thing about this business:

No one's watching.

It would all be very different indeed, if there would be public opinion, courts or other scrutiny on what does who and what goes where. It would also be a sadder place for me: HRI would be an entirely different entity and, well, Emma would be out of a job.

I'd just hate that!

Think about it: money goes out of coffers to do “something good” and soon enough, it reaches Emma's desk, along with priority areas and guidelines designed to serve a good mix of crowd-pleasing, political agendas and the personal ambitions of this or the other bureaucrat sat stiffly between here and the capital of a Certain Country South of Canada.

Like you or me, Emma has priorities, too, pet causes, feelings. There are people she likes, organizations she respects. There are boxes to tick, agendas to follow. In the complicated map of her decision-making, "the people in need of " out there are an abstract entity, represented in meetings by the impassioned speech of the odd government official and the few pixelized pictures on the walls, filling to the “values” of the Agency.

It's lack of knowledge meets lack of experience meets unchecked authority, The Best Of.

Like you or me, Emma will sooner or later take a very bad decision. If this would not be Aid Vegas, someone would call it, she would admit it, become a better person, yadda yadda, no damage done. If there would be damage, she would have a sudden career change, facilitated by the press or a court, or her superior worried about the press or a court.

In Aid Vegas, however, things work differently because the only ones partial to noticing mistakes fit into one of these three categories:

1. The Losers: Trying to blow the whistle or otherwise point out potential flaws in Emma's strategy or her logic. They usually leave the country before term and/ or their unfortunate organizations get de-funded and relegated to the fringes of the business, forever scrambling for a tiny little line of some minor sub-award, and i'm talking best case scenario here;

2. The Insiders – Emma's peers would obviously not get involved. Her superiors will back her up because admitting her failures is admitting their failure. Covering up and going along with it is the best possible strategy;

and of course

3. The Smart ones – Play along, win awards, hire people, run life-saving meetings, thank you very much.

There are no outsiders, no courts, no evidence. We are in the realm of opinions, built by jargony reports no-one reads, cables no-one knows about and the occasional whispered briefing or phone call, all of them apt to present a reality we all can live with.

Success is forever relative, measured by complicated but elusive indicators eventually judged by Emma and HRI jointly. It's a fact that failure, though very fashionable these days, only happens in small doses and thankfully, due the life-saving nature of our work, never has significant consequences.

Meanwhile, more funding our way just makes business sense.

(Bono of course has all the attention and he tends to speak of HRI and our good, selfless work, and our eternal need for more resources, so I am glad you are all buying his music).