The way we think about charity is dead wrong

For this month’s Young Professionals Ted talks lunch, I chose the talk. The talk I chose is called The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong by Dan Pallotta.

Here were the prompting questions I came up with to lead our groups discussion:

“These social problems are massive in scale, our organizations are tiny up against them, and we have a belief system that keeps them tiny.” Do you think that if enough people change their beliefs, organizations can grow big enough to actually do things like cure cancer and end homelessness?

He talked about the hypothetical Stanford MBA grad who makes $400k/yr and who donates $100k to charity. Which role would you choose for yourself: that one or the role of CEO of the charity?

If a Disney movie flops, no problem; but if a charity tries a new endeavor and it doesn’t produce the results, their character is called into question. Do you think this is the right perspective to have? Should charities be more careful when it comes to risk taking with donations?

People often wonder what percentage of their donation goes to the cause vs. overhead.
Have you ever reconsidered donating to a charity because of the fear your donation will be misused? Have you had the belief that overhead is not part of the cause? What do you tend to assume overhead means?

Why do we have a higher standard for things than we do for ideas?

I’m involved with a group of Young Professionals in my town, and once a month we all watch a Ted talk and then meet for lunch to discuss it.

This month’s was The Way We Think About Work is Broken by Barry Schwartz.

Points I found most intriguing:

“Bad technology disappears. [But] with ideas, false ideas about human beings will not go away if people believe that they’re true.” This implies that we have a higher standard for things than we do for ideas. We care about having the best and optimally-functioning cell phone, yet we don’t really care if there’s any science behind that detox tea we keep drinking.

We have much less attachment to things than we do to ideas. There is a quick turnover with things, but a slow turnover with ideas. We’re quick to exchange our laptop for the newer model. But we maintain ideas for generations and are often hesitant to stray from them and our identity with them.

“It is not true that you “just can’t get good help anymore”. It is true that you can’t get good help anymore when you give people work to do that is demeaning and soulless.”

“Human nature will be changed by the theories we have that are designed to explain and help us understand human beings … We design human nature by designing the institutions within which people live and work.” So, what kind of human nature do you want to help design? Note that this can apply outside the workplace as well.