The unclear ROI of many NGO initiatives

The ICE Bucket challenge and the follow-up discussion on the high management costs of the organization inspired me to look a little bit closer on the ROI of NGO Initiatives. While high overhead cost can be a problem, there are two bigger problems at hand.

1. What initiative has the highest ROI?

Freakonomics shed light on the big problem of deciding which initiatives will have the greatest ROI. This challenging issue faced by large companies is even more problematic within an NGO environment. Many initiatives are useful, but as in every company we need to decide what to do first and what is the ROI of a certain initiative. Some consider this as inappropriate as it might even cost lives, but the Copenhagen Consensus Center did very interesting and profound work on the ROI of different actions. For example, stopping domestic violence has a huge, short term impact. The UN risks not achieving higher goals by just creating a broad bucket of NGO Initiatives.

2. How can we bring more creativity to solving problems?

NGO initiatives are very often quite conservative–the focus lies on proven solutions. What is often missing, however, are entrepreneurial, disruptive initiatives. Peter Diamandis works on these disruptive approaches with his X-Price. In a conversation with Tim Ferriss and Tony Robbins he shared some interesting stories on how he established the X-Price over the years in a very entrepreneurial way. It’s certainly worth listening to. A good example for an entrepreneurial initiative is the Global Learning X-Price. I love the idea of a self-learning software. They are currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo. Have a look.

photo credit: DFAT photo library via photopin cc