The Law of Diminishing Returns

Before I studied sociology – I studied economics. In economics there is something called The Law of Diminishing Returns. When it comes to my critique of charities (and how they can be fortresses) I think I’m about to hit diminishing returns. If you’ve been reading this blog, following me on Twitter, and/or watched me struggle to get charities to team up with me on the ground – you get it already.

There’s no reason to belabor the point.

You see – and I’m only now just scratching the surface of this – there is this whole vast online sphere of people who love to bash charities. No matter what a charity does – they will call it a “hand out” instead of a “hand up”. No matter how tactfully a charity shows poverty – they will call it “poverty porn”. And no matter how open and transparent a charity is – they will call them “secretive” and “closed”.

I don’t want to be that guy.

The majority of charities I’ve seen out in the field are doing a good job. The world is a better place because of the majority of charities I’ve seen – even if it’s the minority of charities that get all the attention due to scandals. I pull my hair out trying to break the fortress of many of these good charities because I think they deserve not to be left behind in a new era of how we interact.

You can still expect the occassional tweet about this. And, if something particularly poignant comes up, I’m sure I could blog about this again. But, I don’t want this project to be come off looking like I’m bashing charities. Charities are imperfect, they have flaws, and they can be like a fortress. But, like I said, if you’ve been reading my blog posts, following my tweets, and watching me struggle to work with them on the ground – you get that already.

Let’s avoid diminishing returns.

2 Responses to “The Law of Diminishing Returns”


  1. 1 Lucas Parry

    Well said Shawn! Sustainability is an ever-growing struggle for charities and ngos worldwide. Its a shame that some 80% of wells dug in the last 10 years in parts of Africa are in disrepair…. staggering since the price can range from $3000 – 10+ thousand a well – Sometimes its easier to throw our western money at the project instead of true holistic development where relationship and partnership is needed. Its a true delight when I find these organizations who understand partnership and operate in a true sense of the word with the poor.

    I read this recently – When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves By Brian Fikkert, Steve Corbett, John Perkins – I think you’ll enjoy it greatly!

  2. 2 Lucas Parry

    Well said Shawn! Sustainability is an ever-growing struggle for charities and ngos worldwide. Its a shame that some 80% of wells dug in the last 10 years in parts of Africa are in disrepair…. staggering since the price can range from $3000 – 10+ thousand a well – Sometimes its easier to throw our western money at the project instead of true holistic development where relationship and partnership is needed. Its a true delight when I find these organizations who understand partnership and operate in a true sense of the word with the poor.

    I read this recently – When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves By Brian Fikkert, Steve Corbett, John Perkins – I think you’ll enjoy it greatly!

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