30 April 2010

#1millionshirts Phone Conf Running Blog

This is just based on my notes as the call went on. A podcast and transcript of the whole thing will be up soon and I will post that soon.

Update: Please also check out Linda Raftree's running twitter post from the event

Update 2: Katrin's notes

Update 3: Audio of the conference is now up

Update 4: Rachel adds her advice for Jason

Hosted by Lina Srivastiva.

Moderated by Katrin

  • Introductions
  • Jason
    • Jason intros self and explains intent of using marketing skills to create change for good
    • Expresses understanding that Africa is not an entire place to be categorized as a singular place
    • Thanks those who did call him and engage in discussions about his project
    • Intentions are to take his talents and translate them to good
    • Ideas not based entirely without contacting other organizations
    • wants to get people motivated
    • take in shirts and money to then use
    • where do shirts go next?
    • confrontational when points are clarified and accusing that he is being cut short
    • continues to call people against ‘cynical'
    • Must operate from current status - people are sending shirts already
  • @TalesFromthHood: #1millionshirts@iwearyourshirt raise the $. Give it to reputable NGO. Let them decide what/how/where. Easy.
  • Teddy Project Diaspora
    • no dialogue when introducing projects like 1 million t shirts
    • good intentions can have an extremely bad impact
    • solutions and programs already exist that are not as well known
    • had constructive convo with Jason last night
    • future of Africa belongs in Africa and should be engaged in new movement
    • “it is time for the world to take off the training wheels'”
    • success would have been possible if partnerships were found
    • stop thinking aid first
  • Marieme
    • Spoke to Jason yesterday
    • he just doesnt know how to do things and there are millions in America like him
    • ‘I was very angry yesterday’
    • Partner with Africans, not interested in top down projects
    • we will support in this working for you but do not wake up and think that your have the solutions for Africa
  • Christopher
    • first stop collecting shirts
    • Chance for a dynamic program
    • Suggestion: make shirts in conjunction with local campaigns by engaging communities to be sold abroad and in the US
    • Use the resources on this call as a way to grow a new and more effective idea
  • African Shirt company
    • Business lifts people out of poverty
    • local entrepreneurs need capacity to develop their ideas
    • stop collecting shirts
  • Tales From the Hood
    • Thanks to Tim and Marieme for their comments
    • need to discuss good aid and aid effectiveness
    • aid is a profession and not a hobby, can’t just decide to do it on a whim
    • the point is this is a profession with standards and norms that must be followed and applied
    • Raise money for a reputable NGO
  • Teddy follow up
    • We have about had it with NGOs and charities
    • people have turned the aid industry into a profession that is more interested in sustaining itself
    • to be effective you need to have an exit strategy in place
    • the more aid the less capable Africans are at doing what they can for themselves
    • “just rip the damn bandage off” and let us do it ourselves
    • Partner with private sector
    • We need to learn from this experience
  • Marieme
    • We are trying to say LISTEN up to Africans
  • Texas In Africa
    • What/Who is aid about?
      • broad consensus is that it is about the recipients, not always followed, but it needs to be about them and listening to expressed need (investment)
    • Media – Africa needs saving and the West must do it
    • Move to a model of empowerment
    • Jason, how are you picking your partners?
    • Look for:
      • long term presence in community
      • grounded in community (native staffed and run)
      • moving to self sustainability
      • look where Africans are making decisions
      • have an exit strategy
  • Saundra (Good Intentions are Not Enough)
    • Personal goal is to inform Americans
    • Use social media to prevent this from happening again
  • Teddy
    • Aid does have a place in development
    • The call should be about a paradigm shift in how do view aid/development
    • This begins a new conversation and partnership for the aid industry
    • Willing to offer advice and time to create this shift

Topic Change: The use and leveraging of social media towards development.

  • Christopher
    • This is a new and exciting
    • Where can it be leveraged best?
  • Danielle
    • The root of the problem is that most people that come onto a good idea do not peruse the ideas of those who have the most experience
    • This is not about cynicism, this is about passionate people and a real problem
    • how do we harness the media outlets to move in a positive direction?
  • Jason’s reactions and comments
    • thank you to everyone who has taken the time to discuss the issue
    • “i need to be able to say to people that I learned a valuable lesson” – need to reach out and communicate with people
    • I am a marketer, this is my strength and hard to pull back once started
    • If I can use my marketing connections in a positive way I can mobilize for good
    • Invited Teddy and Marieam to join his board of advisors moving forward
    • Re-engage charities to learn more from them
    • Marketing is my strength
  • Kofi
    • I am an African marketer
    • Had issues with the ways you characterize peoples lack of understanding
    • Can maintain marketing mindset and implement strategies that have been suggested
  • Marieme
    • You have learned and we will work with you on your board
    • please take away that you have learned something from this today
    • if you are not reaching out to the right people you will not be effective
  • Cynan
    • Jason you have more options on the table but you seem committed to collecting the shirts without a plan
    • UK NGOs have the same business model that uses shirt collecting to raise money for projects
    • if you are committed to the shirts find a model that will raise money, if not sure please stop
  • Erica UNICEF
    • Greatest value that can be given is an individual’s skills
    • partner with existing groups to help grown their PR
    • view this is a way to create business not start a charity or give charity

If you have more thoughts please use the #1millionshirt tag to continue the discussion. Thank you for everyone’s thoughts and we hope to continue this conversation.

Call on people on the call to find ways to continue this conference and discussion.

Innovative? Yes Practical? No


I want to discuss how a good idea can end up being a bad one.  Enough has been said about 1 million t shirts and I frankly do not consider it to be a good idea in the first place.  On the other hand, Project Dream Ball is more interesting to discuss.  It’s idea is to use packaging to create soccer balls for kids in the third world.


  • Kids love soccer.  This gives them the chance to play their favorite sport because they can’t without a ball.
  • All materials are used.  The package is the ball and the ball is the package.  Everything sent is used and there is no trash.
  • It is cheaper than a soccer ball.  Being that it is made of heavyweight paper, it is lighter and easier to ship.
  • It can carry things.  If you are going to be sending packages why not make the box useful.  Again less trash.


  • Little need. I base this on my experience and the fact that the kids would take used plastic grocery bags and string to form their own balls.
  • Creates MORE trash.  The balls will eventually break and become trash.  Often people discuss the wonder of spending a week in a country where they got to see the joy of kids getting a soccer ball.  What they do not see is that the ball lasts about a week before someone puts a stick in it (that really happened) or it breaks from extreme use.  Yes, this is a cheaper option but one that is much less durable and more likely to break quickly.
  • Is predicated on sending aid supplies.  There are many times when it is useful to have this sent to areas (ie. Haiti), but sending aid supplies to every third world person is simply unsustainable and inefficient.
  • Over supply.  If you send a bulk of these to one place then every kid will have a ball.  This will end up as more trash and many likely burned or used for other things.
  • Makes use to specific.  Some people will save boxes for other uses.  This makes it hard to reuse when it is already pre-cut to turn into a ball.


Overall it is not a terrible idea.  If an aid package is going to be sent, a creative way for using the box is a step in the right direction.  This is a project where it identifies that there is a desire for a certain good and seeks to provide it while being mindful of the environment, cost, and use.  At the very least, this project shows that there was some thought into its development and implementation.  I would not suggest completely disregarding it and abandoning the idea, but encourage the people who were clever enough to come up with this to continue to tweek it.  The problem remains that there will still be waste created by the packaging inside of the box and the balls will not last for very long.  Innovative idea? Yes.  Entirely practical? I argue no.

Have I missed anything?  Please correct me or add anything I might not have considered.

30 Posts about #1millionshirts

Good Intentions are Not Enough has kept a running list of all the blog posts that have been related to the 1 million shirts debate.  Saundra S has been kind enough to include mine in the debate and I am thankful for being at least mentioned in the discussions.  My knowledge and experience is limited and I suggest that everyone go to see the list of commenter's because many offer insights that are based in a lot more experience than mine. 

Word is that TIME is gathering info to write an article about the explosion of this online debate.  Keep on the lookout for an article to appear soon.  Contact has already been made with some of the bigger names in this debate (no I am not in that class of aid bloggers yet).

Blogs to note for aid and this debate (they have the experience that I severely lack and are the people I learn from the most in regards to aid amongst the many more on my blog roll):

Good Intentions are Not Enough

Blood and Milk

Aid Watchers

Owen Abroad

Tales from the Hood

Texas in Africa

28 April 2010

Aid Workers Vs. 1 Million T Shirts

@Saundra_S did such a great job putting this together that I am just including her original post here:

What aid workers think of the 1 Million Shirts campaign

Within the past few days there has been a torrent of blog posts and tweets about yet another organization shipping donated goods overseas. Donated goods are in general bad aid, I've written numerous posts on theproblems with donated goods. Unfortunately, donating goods is so appealing to the uninformed donor that these programs continue to flourish.

While donated goods are a common problem in the aid world, the recent 1 million shirts campaign touched a nerve with aid workers and has created a flurry of blog posts on the topic.

Here's what professional aid workers think of the 1 Million Shirts idea

What's wrong with 1 million t-shirts - Anonymous Country

FOUND: The 1 millionth stupid idea by wannabe do gooders - Project Disapora

1,000,000 Shirts - Tales from the Hood

Nobody wants your old T-shirts - Aid Watch, guest post by Alanna Shaikh

An Open Letter to 1 Million Shirts - Siena Anstis

Say No to Old Clothes - Blood and Milk

Some Alternative Ideas to Donating T-shirts - Texas in Africa

A Suggestion for the 1MillionShirt guys - Aid Watch

The return of expert analysis, 1 million t-shirt edition - Aid Thoughts

Another GIK Start-up: 1 Million Shirts - Amanda Makulec

Whose Shirt is it Anyway - Good Ness Communications

Ian, who doesn't blog, has responded to 1 Million Shirts in the comment section below

Here's what 1MillionShirts thinks of aid workers

I don't drink Hatorade

And his second unnamed video post

Apparently since posting this unprofessional response to the criticism they received, Jason and Evan have offered to do something else if someone comes up with a better idea. Which leads me to ask the question, is this about the needs of Africans or the needs of Jason and Evan. They say they are just trying to help. As I've said many times - Good Intentions are Not Enough to ensure good aid projects.


I'd love to keep a running list of all the blog posts related to this controversy. If I've missed one please add it in the comment section. Thanks.

Cash Not Gifts (Please)

If you have not been following, I suggest that the 5 people who might see this post go to twitter and check out everything going on with the #1millionshirts tag. There has been a lively discussion that has lead to blog posts from aid watchers, texas in africa, blood and milk, Tales from the Hood and many others. They speak to the poor idea and mainly focus on the economic side.

To sum it up, Gift in Kind (GIK) organizations pose these issues and problems:

  • Prevent economic growth of industry (ie. textiles for donated shirts)
  • Flood an already saturated market with a good
  • Fix little by providing a material good that does little to improve true quality of life
  • Cause unintended changes by shocking local economies
  • Treat individual countries composed of varying cultures and peoples as if it is one blanket place called Africa where everyone is the same

I want to highlight some of my experience with this being that I lived in Kenya, one of the target countries for 1 Million Shirts, for a year. I also lived in the rural Western part where it seems that this initiative is hoping to be able to provide resources that apparently do not make it.

Malava is 90km north of Kisumu, a 2 hour matatu ride to Kisumu or Eldoret. Nairobi is 9 hours away by bus. Not quite as remote as the northern parts by Lodwar, but a good distance from any cities.

Each Friday we had a market filled with dried fish, women selling the exact same vegetables and clothing. Clothing ranged from cloth from Tanzania to a used Cintas short sleeve button up. I personally bought a handful of t-shits and dress shirts throughout the year. My overcharged white person price was 50ksh for a t-shirt and 75ksh for a dress shirt. That is roughly $.75 and $1 respectively. They were about half of the price for locals because they knew how much they should cost.

While much is made over the idea of living on $1 a day, people do save a little bit and pay to buy the clothing. Of everything offered, nearly nothing was from Kenya. Cloth was imported from Tanzania because it was supposedly better and pants, dresses, shirts, and t-shirts came second hand from the first world. The majority came from the US, I cannot say that with certainty or proof, but every shirt was adorned with American sports teams and communities. In my short travels to Uganda and Rwanda, I noticed that this was equally as easy to find to be sold and was worn by nearly everyone.

In Kenya, men dress in slacks and a button down shirt. Both bought from used clothes sellers. On the weekends they wear t-shirts, bought again at the weekly market. Other items are soccer jerseys and giveaways from local radio stations or companies.

With a high availability and use of clothing already coming in to Kenya via America, the need to give it away is not existent. People will of course take anything that is free, but that will not really provide any service. Even by providing the t-shirts to be sold, the current structure will alter and could possibly cause more harm than good.

To finish, good intentions are not enough. It is not enough to just want for the best and hope that you are doing right by intent. Here is an example of good intentions with little or no research. There are plenty of well established organizations (ie. MSF, Red Cross, etc.) who are involved with development and disaster and have the experience and knowledge to provide the necessary services in the third world.

Please, do not donate your shoes because Jessica Simpson tells you to do it, or send a t-shirt with one dollar to be shipped to Africa. Make a cash donation to a responsible organization that will make a real difference in the lives of people.

14 April 2010

Blogs To Read

I just added a few blogs to my roll on the right hand side and I have been using Google reader non stop to follow all of these blogs.  So far, they are the essentials in understanding development and economics.  Two subjects which I personally find interesting and need to read up on because I know so little.

  • Economist's View – Economist Mark Thoma out at U of Oregon provides abridged articles and papers with light commentary.  A nice way to read up on econ without having to read through all the dry parts.
  • Paul Krugman – Now famous Left NYT blogger and writer.  Not much to say since he is well known enough other than he is the intellectual antithesis of conservative extremism.
  • Kenyan Pundit - Ory Okolloh blogs about Kenya and other developing nations.  Mostly she is focused on politics of these nations, but gives an insiders perspective of development.
  • Grasping Reality with Tractor Beams – Economist Mark DeLong out at Cal does an even better job of distilling articles with little or no commentary.  Between him and Thoma I get the majority of major econ news for each day.
  • Good Intentions Are Not Enough - Saundra Schimmelpfennig’s blog is imperative to read when thinking about the Haiti disaster.  With experience in the aid response to the tsunami, she discusses how aid can be appropriately administered in such situations with first-hand experience.
  • Owen abroad – British Economist Owen Barder lives in Ethopia and shares his incites into development in East Africa and globally.
  • Scarlett Lion – Photographer Glenna Gordon shares her photos and thoughts from Liberia.  Her posts are at times helpful, but it is her compassionate photography that is best part.
  • wronging rights -  Kate Cronin-Furman and Amanda Taub are lawyers whose development ideas come from the legal side of human rights as opposed to the strictly economic side which is grossly over represented in my blog roll.  Their intern Chris has a list of articles for WTF Fridays that ranges from hilarious videos to WTF inducing quotes.
  • Blood and Milk – Alanna Shaikh focusing on development.  Her 10 years of experience provides for practical development advice.

Those Ever Popular Flying Toilets

Another take on the overuse and fascination with the flying toilets of Kibera slum comes from Kenyan blogger Ory Okolloh.

On Kibera, flying toilets and poop.

I have been wanting to write this for a while now. Especially after I read about Peepoo: a biodegradable plastic bag that acts as a single-use toilet for urban slums in the developing world. Inspired by the ever ubiquitous Kibera flying toilets.

Now my post is not about the benefits (or idiocy) of Peepoo, I’ll leave that to the World Toilet Organization . It is about the framing of Kibera and the telling of its stories, which seem by and large to be synonymous with flying toilets and violence.

A few months ago I had the privilege of engaging with young Kibera residents involved in the Map Kibera project and other community media projects. We ended up discussing a wide range of issues…I was particularly interested in why they had joined the project and why they want to continue the work they were doing. Over and over again they expressed the need to share their view of what Kibera was and tell their stories, and most importantly correct the negative perceptions out there about Kibera.

Do all this through a map I asked?

Yes, they replied – people didn’t know for instance about the different “villages” within Kibera, or the number of business, or health resources, and one young man told me – the fact that we have toilets..lots of them. Mapping to them was about giving voice… in this case what they are calling the Voice of Kibera.

I instantly connected with those young people and the sense of pride about being able to tell their own stories…I hope from them we will eventually get to learn more about the real, diverse, full of life, and complex Kibera and less about poop flying all over Kibera.

I hope that as their work gets out there