Tuesday, September 8, 2009

GET RICH GUIDE

THE GET RICH GUIDE FOR THE DEVELOPMENT SECTOR
A 2-Pager by Ajit Chaudhuri

People looking to make big bucks quickly and easily generally tend to avoid the development sector – their preferred career choices are investment banking, government service and spiritualism. They are making a mistake! Do not be misled by talks of sacrifice and penury, there is plenty of money to be made in poverty eradication. Here’s how it’s done!

Start your own NGO: The Trusts Act is structured so that the NGO and all its assets are in effect the property of its owner (in legal parlance, the settler) – which is why no matter how many UN jobs with tax free dollar salaries are dangled in front of their faces, NGO bosses never leave. There is little point in working your way up the hierarchy – no. 2s are synonymous with peons. So don’t waste time – start your own NGO, and then work to multiply its assets and infrastructure. Be sure to pack the governing body with friends and relatives. Have one ‘name’ there as well – someone from within the sector who sits in a lot of governing boards and contributes to none of them. Get a pliable statutory auditor – like the ‘name’, they too are a dime a dozen. Get one of your adult children in as second line management cum inheritor of the organisation, and ensure that s/he uses a different surname – Kumar is the surname of choice for boss’ children cum Deputy Directors.

Work the donor circuit: Speak English, practise that wearied sigh that combines exasperation and hope, and focus conversation on the misdeeds of the government. Nod appreciatively when donors describe their philosophies and policies, and commend their wisdom. Be suitably obsequious, and do not hesitate to equate their views with those of Einstein and/or Keynes. Ply them with bullshit about having followed your inner calling to work with the poor instead of joining the corporate sector. Do not ever get drawn into topics such as – if you have spent twenty years working here (and used lots of money in the process), why is it that the tribal/dalit/woman/child/farmer/whatever is in the same situation as when you began. And do not forget – these people tend to equate tailoring and table manners with intelligence and integrity.

Once you own an NGO and get the money, you need to ensure that it goes where it is supposed to go. The best ways of ensuring this are –

Overstate and underpay salaries: Most grants have money for salaries. Have fictitious employees earning fat salaries (who taught this to Satyam?), pay those who do exist less than the amount budgeted and pocket the differential, and hey presto, about 70 percent of the salary component of the grant can be in your pocket. If you are queried, say that it was towards a staff welfare fund that will enable the organisation to pay salaries when project funds are not available. Or, that you are forced to pay ‘tax’ to the Maoists. Some staff members are vocal about not liking it? Kick them out!

Get into revolving funds: This money is given to you to pass on as loans to beneficiaries who pay it back so that it can be passed on as loans again to a new set of people and so on, therefore revolving. Sell the concept to donors as enabling the money to ‘macro-benefit’. The beauty of this is that, when it is first returned, it can revolve into your pocket. You can even apply the concept to all money provided for activities. For example, you have raised funds to provide goats to people. Buy the goats, and thereby book the expenditure, but pass them on as a loan or at half payment. Ensure that the beneficiaries are willing colluders so that, when the donor comes, there are goats, grateful faces and no mention of payment or loans. If caught, make an argument combining concepts of neo-liberalism, community institution building, and the enhanced value people ascribe to a product when they pay something for it.

Use multiple funds: Get many donors to support the same thing. That community water tank could have been bought with X’s money or Y’s, who is to know. Vouchers can be easily relocated from one donor’s file to another (you have to ensure that you avoid the practise of marking the voucher as pertaining to a particular donor). And temporary signage expressing the community’s gratefulness to X can be easily organised. The donor wants permanent signage, such as a marble slab built into the wall? Express your concern at the trend of donors acquiring cheap publicity for themselves.

Enable over-invoicing via empowerment: This business of schools, hospitals, water tanks, goats, etc., requires someone to do some work. The beauty of the ‘rights mode’ approach is that nobody has to do anything – you merely have to organise people to demand services from the government by having meetings. Budgeting for meetings is easy, so many people into so much per person for food, transportation, and lodging. There is no way for the donor to check whether you actually held the meetings and, if you did, how many people actually came and how much was actually spent on food. Ensure that you maintain a book containing unintelligible minutes in some local language followed by a series of thumbprints. And don’t worry, this is not expected to show results – nobody seriously believes that the government does things because some NGO organises people.

Get your assets to work for you: You have (oops, read as ‘your NGO has’) a nice SUV, office and training centre. Get these to generate funds by hiring them out to projects at a price that, as both the client and the service provider, you decide. And yes, build in a fat budget within the grant for training hall hire and transportation. Take this concept a step further by building in a huge consulting fee for experts and use this to pay yourself. You are caught? Say that you are not paid a salary from the project, but as it does absorb considerable amounts of your time and draws on your expertise you do need to be compensated in some way, and at a rate that the UN would have paid had they sent you to New York to take over as Secretary General.

Take up pimping: When you get tired of all the small time wheeling and dealing described above, you can consider the next stage in the hierarchy – the middleman. Donors want to work in poor areas, but don’t have the ability and the systems to do so. Offer services as a ‘resource organisation’, wherein your NGO does the unpleasant work of identifying NGOs and projects, monitoring them, providing training and expertise, and enabling the work to synergise at the district/state/national level. Ensure that this involves the pleasant work of receiving the funds and routing it to small time operators at a 25 percent operational charge and an additional bottom-up kickback.

Become a Guru! How long can this last? There is a saying – you can fool one person all the time, or you can fool all the people once, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. The development sector does not provide an exception. But herein lies the beauty of the system. Once you are revealed for what you are, with nice cars, jazzy properties, kids in expensive schools and colleges, latest communication equipment, etc., while undertaking poverty alleviation work on a token salary so as to ‘feel the pain of the poor’ – donors will flock to you for more of the same. You can increase the above activities fourfold while hitting the development conference circuit as a motivational speaker and receiving awards for your services to the poor.

Let me add that this is not everyone’s cup of tea. The same requirements for making big money everywhere else – of vision, intelligence, diligence, ruthlessness and a zero sense of ethics – are required here. If you don’t combine these, the development sector can be a cruel place in the long term and you may be better off trying to actually do good work for the poor.

35 comments:

Rahul Banerjee said...

there is a nice poem which voices similar sentiments in a more literary manner -
The Development Set
by Ross Coggins
"Adult Education and Development" September 1976

Excuse me, friends, I must catch my jet
I'm off to join the Development Set;
My bags are packed, and I've had all my shots
I have traveller's checks and pills for the trots!

The Development Set is bright and noble
Our thoughts are deep and our vision global;
Although we move with the better classes
Our thoughts are always with the masses.

In Sheraton Hotels in scattered nations
We damn multi-national corporations;
injustice seems easy to protest
In such seething hotbeds of social rest.

We discuss malnutrition over steaks
And plan hunger talks during coffee breaks.
Whether Asian floods or African drought,
We face each issue with open mouth.

We bring in consultants whose circumlocution
Raises difficulties for every solution --
Thus guaranteeing continued good eating
By showing the need for another meeting.

The language of the Development Set
Stretches the English alphabet;
We use swell words like "epigenetic"
"Micro", "macro", and "logarithmetic"

It pleasures us to be esoteric --
It's so intellectually atmospheric!
And although establishments may be unmoved,
Our vocabularies are much improved.

When the talk gets deep and you're feeling numb,
You can keep your shame to a minimum:
To show that you, too, are intelligent
Smugly ask, "Is it really development?"

Or say, "That's fine in practice, but don't you see:
It doesn't work out in theory!"
A few may find this incomprehensible,
But most will admire you as deep and sensible.

Development set homes are extremely chic,
Full of carvings, curios, and draped with batik.
Eye-level photographs subtly assure
That your host is at home with the great and the poor.

Enough of these verses - on with the mission!
Our task is as broad as the human condition!
Just pray god the biblical promise is true:
The poor ye shall always have with you.

Ajit Chaudhuri said...

great stuff

a serious issue written in a fun style... should be made compulsory reading for all donor agency staff

Sudhir Rao

Ajit Chaudhuri said...

Fantastic article!! loved reading it (both for the truth and humour).

RK Anil

Ajit Chaudhuri said...

My feelings over this are mixed.
It leaves me amused and concerned both, as I write back. Not surprising that it is based on your real experiences, infact when you talk about a few issues like becoming a resource organisation, using
multiple donors, and working for "empowerment" where no one knows how to measure it, I can also nod my head and agree that it is what NGOs actually do (based on my limited exposure). But somehow the article has a witty but very pessimistic tone throughout, or cynical is the right word maybe...

Reminds me of certain aquaintances, who, on my sharing that I work with an NGO, have made enlightened comments on NGOs generally are fraud and work as only money making agencies.

Anjali Agarwal

Ajit Chaudhuri said...

Hi Chow,

Would love next time's article to be on what you saw great in the NGOs that made you fund them? The mismatch seems to be so high.

Mathew John

Ajit Chaudhuri said...

Brilliant mate - which is why I got out of the dev sector and into Corporate!! Ah the follies of misguided youth...

Vijaynidhi

Ajit Chaudhuri said...

How far would it be sensible for you to write a "Set of Governance Guidelines" for NGOs and their benefactors? Good people should speak out and be heard and I cannot imagine that your voice will not be heard.

JL Pasricha

Ajit Chaudhuri said...

Hi Ajit,

You forgot to mention the easier option - join a foreign funding agency (preferebly be its sole representative in India). All you have to do then is draw a fat salary (and lots of "travel reimbursements each time you travel) and twice a year do the hoopla for your bosses. Running an NGO means that you have to repeatedly put up a show. Too much hassle. Having seen both ends, I prefer the funding agency route to becoming rich.

Glad to see more of you are showing your cynicism so openly.

Cheers!
Gouthami

Jaya said...

Ajit - Oftentimes i wonder how you have survived in this industry for so long with such unbridled cynicism...you must tell me, because i am going to be a drop out soon...

i did not start my NGO, but ended up heading one, and in just a year I find I am weary of pandering to the whims of donors of all sizes and weights and shades...and life ke liye saala kuch bhi karega!

Ajit Chaudhuri said...

Hi!

This is a formal letter coming to you after a lot of Should i or shouldnt I?
And after i have allowed myself to cool down for at least a fortnight. And i would seriously advice you to take me seriously.

After reading your last piece Get Rich Guide for NGOs and after having made some others read it - some read it without knowing my views on it - i can feel the pain that you go through every time you meet any one of us from the NGO sector. It must be tough for you to do your job, of giving money to some of us when you KNOW what we all are or what most of us are. I am not sure how i can help in your healing, but i seriously feel you need it. Maybe i an suggest some counsellors, but am not sure if you will consider that at all. Had i been the religious type, i may have prayed for you. Alas, i cant do that either.
I have really liked reading many of your other pieces, even though may not have agreed to your views or your style of presenting them, but nevertheless they were enjoyable. This piece however is in a different league. It bares your cynicism, no, actually your suspicions about the whole sector which you fund and the deep wounds that have been created all these years. I must wonder how you must be hating it these days while earning your bread because that it is the only way you have chosen at the moment.

You have probably seen the NGO sector more than i have but my perception is NOWHERE near yours. So while we may be entitled to enjoy our opinions, i just feel it too much for a friend like you to suffer. Wonder how you cope
with it all?

Hope we meet and talk when you are healthier in mind and spirit.

Sunil Kaul

Ajit Chaudhuri said...

The write up is hilarious and hits the nail on the head. Once I get a bit of time, I will also contribute with more instances of making money - things that I have realised along the evelopment pathway - we could make it a best seller - on the lines of everyone like a good drought. you have amazing writing skills :) - i wouldnt be surprised at tempers flying from so called development gurus.
Arun Nathan

prashant said...

Hey Ajit,

Thrilled, simply thrilled to know that even after all these years, you have sacrificed neither your style nor your general disregard for the establishment.

This, from one who sold his soul to the Devil for a glimpse of the face of Helen of Troy.

Prashant

AT said...

And once you are through with all this...write a book- 'How Development developed Me'

Another enjoyable work of art. By any chance are you planning to put all these in a book?

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Anonymous said...

I do like ur article~!!! ........................................

Anonymous said...

我喜歡........................................

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat...................................................

Anonymous said...

讓好心情回味發酵;壞心情留在文字裡隨時間消逝吧!........................................

Anonymous said...

精彩的文章是我停留的理由~.........................

Anonymous said...

噴泉的高度,不會超過它的源頭。一個人的事業也是如此,它的成就絕不會超過自己的信念。..................................................

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Anonymous said...

一個人的價值,應該看他貢獻了什麼,而不是他取得了什麼..................................................

Anonymous said...

光這幾句話就價值連城了,讀著讀著小弟的眼眶就濕了... .................................................................

Anonymous said...

死亡是悲哀的,但活得不快樂更悲哀。......................................................................

Anonymous said...

死亡是悲哀的,但活得不快樂更悲哀。......................................................................

Anonymous said...

當一個人內心能容納兩樣相互衝突的東西,這個人便開始變得有價值了。............................................................

Anonymous said...

Hello~安安唷~很高興見到你哦!!............................................................

Anonymous said...

初次造訪,安安^^..................................................................

Anonymous said...

成功可招引朋友,挫敗可考驗朋友............................................................

Anonymous said...

[做人難,人難做,難做人] 人.事的艱困與磨難,是一種考驗!要以樂觀歡喜之心,很珍惜地過每一天!^^............................................................

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