There is funding…”

There is funding…”

The funding is there…”

There is funding…”

If I got a qirsh for every time I’ve heard this statement in the few years I would be rich by now. There is money being thrown at the MENA region left right and center and Jordan gets its fair share. Whatever the project may be, if it falls under a sexy topic, you will get the money. But I have issue with the idea of what is or isn’t sexy. I have issue with being pushed into working on a project because the funding is there. What is so urgent that it has to be done now? Who dictates that agenda?

I am working with a few groups of volunteers working to better the lives of their communities. Each group has its own working or fund raising model, these include membership fees, donations, sponsorship, or international funding or combinations and mixes of all the above.

With each one there are pros and cons of course. There are set structures, set fees, targets for fund raising or specific designated amounts that need to be spent. But in looking at these models the one I am most uncomfortable with is when money is designated with a preset agenda and the people working have to shift gears to meet that agenda.

This, to me, is a top down approach that disrupts the natural flow of growth, ideas, creativity and may or may not address the needs of whomever the carrot is dangled in front of as temptation or bait. I am not saying we need to shun all monies and development aid. But what I am saying is I am more comfortable with a bottom up approach. If it takes us an extra 6 months for us to come up with the same idea, so be it! Why the urgency?

Let us build the proposals and requests for funding, the learning process within that is so valuable. Just sitting down and thinking about what it is we need, want and then being able to verbalize it, formulate it and present it is integral to the success of any endeavor. But when we are told this is the project, this is the idea this is what we want done with them money then aren’t we just stooges?

If we just continue to be reactionary to the carrot and only see the carrot on the stick in front of us how can we steer our own course? How are we making decisions and choose which road to follow? If we want to even follow a road at that? I believe it is important for us, as recipients of aid, to think deeply about the strings that are attached to the aid that is thrown our way. No matter how well meaning it is and how endearing it is to us. We should also make sure that we are not selling ourselves short by reacting rather than being proactive about our needs. We should be putting the sex in sexy, in our own terms, in our definitions, at our own pace, without being pushed into directions that seem full of sex but may or not be sexy for us.

Let us work this process bottom up, and we can get creative about funding. Like I told a friend of mine the other night in reference to this mega project of his. He was dismayed as he spoke of his dream since it would cost phenomenal amounts of money to execute and build from scratch. “You don’t have to do it all from scratch, there are many ways to collaborate locally and make it happen.” We can be creative and find the resources around us if given the space and time to look at our needs bottom up utilizing what we have rather than what is being handed down to us in ready made projects that just need execution.

Just look at the Jabal Al Qalaa kids I work with, they are very resourceful in building and making their own toys and entertainment. What would happen if someone came and told them here is JD 5 and this is how and what you will spend it on when making your toys! I want to make my own toys and I don’t want to be told this is how and how much to spend, I want freedom to play… wanna play with me?

Last week I blogged about a civil societies open day and sure enough I went. The announcement said three and I show up at 3:30 pm to a scene of organized chaos. The organizations were still showing up and setting up, but it was all well laid out and set up in a way that it was a bee hive of activity. So I took a stroll and came back and sat across from them watching the scene unfold with fascination.

While I was waiting I observed the Gender equality campaign in action and was quiet surprised by their operating style and the way they were going about it. I am a staunch equalist, and I think their aim is fantastic, their implementation leaves a little bit to be desired. I must say though I did get one of their buttons and sport it proudly on my bag.

But that is not the focus of my blog, so back to the open day. When I saw that most of the stalls were up and functional I decided to walk around. I enjoyed looking at the wares of these organizations and their brochures but I could not really grasp what it was they were there to do. Was it networking? The setup did not allow for that. Was it PR, there was some of that. Was it awareness and advocacy, some but not a lot of that. I was there representing my curiosity as well as my organization. I was very excited to go see these organizations, talk to them and interact on a professional level; which is what I thought was the objective. But in reality it was a mini bazaar, which is not a bad thing since it was in a public forum and they were interacting with the public, and in that sense it was a success.

I guess my expectations and how I understood this event and its reality were two different things. But I do want to give credit where credit is due. This is a great initiative that Tatawoor and the Municipality of Greater Amman collaborated on to pull off. Well done and more of these events are needed. Maybe next time we can have a two prong approach one for the public and one for the professionals working within the civil society and development arena.

This Wedenesday the 30th of July, there is an open day for the Civil Society Organizations. It will take place in Al-Wakalat Street / Sweifieh at 3:00 pm; this open day is for people to meet the civil society organizations and gives people the chance to get to know what do these organizations do and it gives a chance to the organizations to network with other organizations as well.

This was a message sent to me by one of the groups I have joined. I read that and I think it is a fabulous idea. They are transforming a public space, a pedestrian shopping area nonetheless, into a public forum for people and organizations to network and promote their work. I would love to see how it works out and to find out more by actually going. Anyone care to join?

I read a headline that one of our prestigious banks turned a billion dollar profit last year. And somehow that didn’t make me happy. This is a capitalist institution and its supposed to turn a profit but turning a billion dollar profit in a country where the poor are getting poorer. People can’t make ends meet. Their homes are cold and their bellies are empty and here you see a front page news item that one of their esteemed institutions has turned this huge a profit. 

Now a number of people may jump to the defense of this organization since it supports the arts and culture as well as has numerous charitable functions. But what they do is a tiny drop in the ocean of poverty here in Jordan. With this much in profits you’d think their contributions back into society would be much more. I truly think that the haves should give more back to society than the have nots and I am not talking about individuals but rather institutions and organizations. 

Corporate social responsibility is something that such large corporate should invest in and invest in heavily. Jordan is going to start an economic era of need and desperation. When you have these two conflicting pieces of news side by side you can’t help but think what is wrong with this picture?!

I hope that I am wrong and that the organization in question and many others are investing heavily (not just tiny drops) back in the community and the country where it really counts.