Selection; Survival of the Fittest


Darwin had it right. Let the weak and old get picked out of the pack. It’s a way to keep the herd free from diseases and to ensure that future progeny maintain the good genes. In English? It means searching, Ashoka, Skoll, and NYtimes for the best impact-per-dollar organizations.

Ironically enough, at a high, arms-length level, I hold a Darwinian  approach of how to select an organization built to aid people who can’t help themselves. We should choose the fittest, leanest, meanest, most vicious (at attacking root problem) organizations that we can, and make sure that their genes (best practices) get passed on.

This means when considering funding, time, support, and lime-lights, the fittest organizations should get as much as they need. Meanwhile, those organizations that just aren’t effective at getting the job done should eat last, perhaps to fall to the jaws of a hungry saber-tooth tiger in the future.

Vicious huh? I feel a little guilty  just writing it.

But here’s what I mean; when there’s a disaster in Haiti, NGO’s pop up like crazy to try to help. That is GREAT! One of the biggest changes of this semester is that I used to resent them and feel like they were sucking resources from effective organizations that could be going to save people’s lives, but no longer! Rather, I think that the production of effective, impactful, scalable, and well managed socially innovative organizations are more a product of iteration than of perfect primary design. The process that produces effective organizations and fine-tunes them necessitates.

So back to the real question; what is the selection criteria I subscribe to?

  1. Mission of the organization and vision of change. This should be cool, scalable, etc.
  2. Financial performance metrics; like Kim Tanner said, are often a great metric of how scalable and long-term the organization can be.
  3. Accountability and Transparency; if you know what’s going on in the organization, chances are impact is going to be clear and real.

On the flip side, I think on the not-high side, there’s a selection that’s much more organic. This comes from getting involved with the things your roommates are doing, your church is doing, and what tugs at your heart-strings. I think it’s very good, and human, to let fuse these two selection processes and criteria.