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A Goodhart isn’t enough

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After a month cycling in Malawi I am well accustomed to the phrase ‘give me money’, given subtle but punchy variation with the addition of my – ‘Give me my money’. I haven’t counted but would estimate it is shouted on 20-50 occasions ever day I ride. Not only is it irritating, it is also illustrative of dynamics within the country: a dependence on AID and a belief that muzungus (white people) are here to give.

My initial response was to reply ‘why?’ Sadly, this merely causes brief bemusement, for the chorus to resume moments later.  It does however feel like a valid question, not in terms of why money is wanted but why so many people ask for it. Am I expected to stop and give money to everyone who shouts? Is it serious or done partly because it is deemed funny? In the UK people might currently expect me to be selling a Big Issue (I am receptive to Facebook feedback), why is it so different here?

Speaking to a conservationist based in Malawi, he shares similar but more important worries. Part of his work involves trying to educate the local community about how to live in close proximity to spotted hyenas; covering topics like how to behave if approached and how to make livestock safe. Despite holding workshops, designed to benefit humans and hyenas alike, they are struggling to get people to attend. The reason for this is that no food or cash is offered to incentivise turnout; something offered by other charitable organisations in the area.

Former Bank of England advisor Charles Goodhart came up with a theory that when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. Dubbed Goodhart’s Law, this is the exact trap the charities have fallen into, as they become bigger and more bureaucratic, targets get put in place.  The argument would go that the number of people attending workshops is a good measure of a successful workshop. So the charity puts in place targets based on workshop attendance. However, the original measure (attendance) becomes meaningless because workers on the ground will focus on that target – by giving out food and money –rather than the actual point (running good impactful workshops). Not only is the focus on attendance likely to detract from the workshops, it is also damaging to the wider community, as my conservationist friend is discovering.

The importance of targets in the ‘giving’ world is significant and examples of badly chosen ones are not hard to find.  Another example is projects which are given funding – sometimes at significant levels, from taxpayer’s wallets – but are miles away from deserving a penny. AID organisations pre-allocate funds internally based on categorisation, for example $500 million for agriculture in Malawi, this then essentially becomes a target for allocation. If you don’t use it, you are likely to lose it; perhaps only getting $400 million next year. The creation of the quasi target then results in non-worthy causes being given funding, in order to protect next year’s pot.

A similar problem can occur with trophy hunting when licenses are forward sold. A hunter may buy a license for say $10,000 to shoot an adult male lion. After a long day tracking, he doesn’t see an adult male lion but on his way to camp crosses paths with a young juvenile male. Not something he would have wanted to shoot beforehand, he decides to shoot it, as he has already paid the $10,000.

Putting targets in place seems intuitively like a simple thing but good targets are actually fiendishly hard to achieve. One way to get around the problem is to have multiple targets which pull in different directions or to use a combination of qualitative and quantitative targets. This still might not help my friend though, who is talking to an empty room about the pros of not picking fights with hyenas. If you are going to give money, the best solution is probably to give small and give focused; those charities are less likely to require targets in the first place and be more efficient with money they do get.

Written by Douglas Drake

Aspiring adventurer, writer and environmentalist. Having sold his soul for a few years, Doug is now pursuing his true passions in life which revolve around animals and the natural world.  With a background in business and finance it is likely Doug’s articles will tilt that way.

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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