Nicholas Kristof highlighted some very impressive young philanthropists in his New York Times column yesterday; but one of his observations made the Nonprofiteer cringe.
The humanitarian prodigies like Ana and Nick are laudable for going beyond simple protesting to help their causes. Today’s young social entrepreneurs come across as more constructive than my generation of student activists, and more savvy about how to accomplish their goals cost-effectively.
“Simple protesting”–another term for that is “political action.” And as committed to the service-providing nonprofit sector as she is, the Nonprofiteer doesn’t imagine–and doesn’t want others to imagine–that it’s a substitute for monitoring, and where necessary changing, government policies toward those in need. Nor is it clear that organizing a nation’s worth of benefit dances to pay for anti-malarial bednets is more “cost-effective” than organizing a nationwide letter-writing campaign urging Congress to spend money on bednets instead of the Iraq war.
So while we’re celebrating charitable young people, let’s not devalue those who choose political involvement instead. There’s nothing “more constructive” they–or any of us–could do than holding our own government to account.