Tag Archive for 'Where the Hell is Matt'

5 Mistakes in My Search for Sustainability

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve been away from Bangladesh. Although it looks like I’ll be going back in the near future, long-term sustainability is still a problem. It doesn’t help that I feel I do can more as an individual instead of formalizing – but that’s not the only hurdle.

Here are five mistakes I’ve made in my search for sustainability…

5) Searching for Magic Sponsorship: As I’ve said before, my videos have been inspired a lot by Matt Harding and his “Where the Hell is Matt?” videos. I mistakenly assumed that, since there was a company out there willing to pay a man to dance around the world, there would be some company out there willing to pay a man to go around the world helping people. Assuming this, and searching for that magic sponsor, only wasted time.

4) Courting Foundations: If you’re in the aid & development community, you already know of the Skoll Foundation, the Ashoka Changemakers Foundation, Echoing Green Foundation, and a gazillion other “social media” and “social change” foundations. Most like what I do – but all have a strict policy of only supporting tax write-off organizations. Assuming they’d make an exception for little old me was a mistake.

3) Soliciting Google: The number one question I get asked by everyone IRL is why doesn’t Google sponsor my project. Individuals, businesses, aid workers, & charity execs alike have assumed that, since my work showcases what you can do through YouTube, sponsorship through Google would be a natural fit. The frequency of this question lulled me into believing such a thing was possible. It was not – and I shouldn’t have thought to pursue it.

2) Not Setting Boundaries: I’ve encountered many selfless people who have helped me in very important ways along my journey. But I’ve also encountered people who were helping on the assumption they were becoming a “stakeholder” with veto power. As I’ve said before, with the exception of those we help, I never want anyone to have veto power over the community. I failed to see that different people have different (but understandable) reasons for helping – and I failed to draw proper boundaries.

1) Assuming the Value of this Project was Self-Evident: When I’m in the field, local villagers constantly come up to me to tell me how unique my work is and how they love what I’m doing. They love that I’m an independent voice outside of the NGO ecosystem. They love that I film everything and keep an eye on how every donation is spent. They love that I’m a direct line to the donors & manage the donations myself instead of some bureaucracy. My mistake? I assumed because they loved it – someone over here would love it enough to invest & sustain it.

I’ve made mistakes – and probably will make new & different mistakes in the future. Despite this, I don’t know what more I can be doing. Whether it’s teaming up with an on-the-ground charity, getting support from a foundation, or sponsorship from a or corporate benefactor – this should be all win/win/win. I know the path to sustainability isn’t easy – but at this point I’m not sure if there is going to be a happy ending.

The Final Year?

I plan to make a new video in the next few days – which will be more of a vlog. In it I’ll be mentioning that, unless I can find a way to make my project financially sustainable, by this time next year I will (most likely) have to end this project.

With the exception of Vestergaard-Frandsen‘s help getting me to Kenya for a couple of weeks, all the expenses of this project (airfare, living expenses, equipment, etc) have been paid by my life savings and by borrowing from my family. I ran my life savings dry halfway through last year and, to keep going, I’ve been borrowing from family to do this project. My dad has been the biggest source of financial support but it looks like he’s planning to retire in about a year’s time.

It was two years ago – almost to the day – that I filed my withdrawal papers at Notre Dame. Back then, I never thought this project would for go on for so long. Now, I don’t want it to end. There are so many exciting ideas rolling around in my head. I’d need more than a year just to do even half the stuff I’m dreaming of. But honestly? Not many people have parents as supportive as mine. Even if I can only do this for another twelve months, I should still consider myself a lucky guy.

Over the next twelve months, I’m going to go ahead full-steam and I’m still accepting donations (which continue to be for the poor – not for my living expenses, equipment, or airfare). But, on top of it all, I’m going to be keeping my eyes out for ways to keep this project going into next year. So far, YouTube partnership money has been ridiculously small – not even enough to cover a single month’s expenses. But, I’m hoping if there is a will there will be a way. I mean, Matt Harding was able to get the support of a gum company to help him dance around the world – twice! Surely, there is a way for me to keep this journey of fighting global poverty going 🙂

Where The Hell is Matt?

Okay, so it’s not the Matt from this blog. We know where that Matt is – Uganda. 🙂 This video is about Matt Harding and I just love it. This is actually the latest version of this video – he’s traveled around the world doing this twice before.

It’s such a simple, heart-warming, and touching video. It says so much without saying a word. It’s actually Matt’s videos that were a source of inspiration for my first YouTube episode. What does dancing around the world have to do with ending global poverty? Well, as Dr. Sachs said (and I quoted in my first video), we share a common human bond. You can overcome the barriers of race, religion, and language with simple generosity.

But, as Matt’s videos shows, dancing works too.