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The most important thing about an organization is the capacity to grow organically. That means, the organization is capable to grow and to be more efficient at any time. Also, another feature of the organic growth is the fact that your effort will leave something behind, something that will be used or reused later, something that later will be grown into something bigger and better.
Until now, the best example of a system capable of organic growth is Wikipedia. No matter how smart or “not so smart” you are, no matter how much time you have, you can still help Wikipedia. Even if you have only 2 hours available per month, you can still be useful for the project. You can always add new information, or at least make minor corrections, thus helping the project to grow and to be more accurate. Wikipedia is not only important for the education it provides. It is equally important the fact that it offers to anyone the opportunity to help and contribute, no matter how skilled they are or how much time they have. Also, once you added a useful information, it will stay there, or even if it will be moved to another page (many times the articles grow too large and they are split into more articles), it will still be used in the project. Therefore, your effort is not wasted.
That’s something very rare.
By contrast, most of the charities in this world are not capable to grow organically, they don’t offer you the opportunity to help, adjusted to your capacity and availability. Also, many times you can expect them to waste your energy, money and time. Simply because they are not coming with permanent solutions, but instead they just offer temporary relief.
Another important feature of an organization capable to grow organically is the communication. The members and supporters of the organization should be encouraged to communicate and to exchange ideas. Such an organization will have a web forum where the supporters can come and answer questions and get answers, where they can share their experience with others, where they can learn about how the organization works and what the other members think about it, where they can exchange useful ideas, where they can find others to start doing adjacent sub-projects that help the organization. If the organization doesn’t have a web forum, then at least it should have a well maintained blog, where they allow supporters to post comments, and where the organization is not leaving their questions in the posts unanswered. Communication is extremely important and vital in an organization, because it will give it’s members the opportunity to better learn, associate and to do things together, improving it’s capacity to grow organically.
By contrast, most of the charities, organizations and foundations in this world have terrible communication. They do not help their members and supporters to communicate and to learn, they do not answer questions, and they are not transparent. The biggest and the most prominent organizations in the world are a disaster when we talk about communication. For example, Red Cross, Green Peace, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Google.org do not have forums. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have a forum but they don’t answer to people’s questions in the posts comments. Google.org also has a blog, but it won’t even allow you to post a comment. Even worse than that, they won’t bother to answer your emails (Google.org doesn’t even have a e-mail contact).
At the other end of the spectrum, the best example of an organization capable of organic growth is Open Source Ecology, which has a forum, a blog, and a wiki, it allows the people to participate, they have camps where people can help, they need people with various skills to help them.
Unfortunately, most of the charities in this world do not allow you to help them with your time and effort, and when they use your help, your effort will not leave something behind, because it’s wasted on relief, instead of being used to build solutions. Also they don’t help their supporters to communicate, they don’t accept feedback, they are not answering questions, and they are not transparent. That’s the sad situation of the majority of charity and activism in this world.
As a conclusion, when you choose an organization to help, check if they are capable of organic growth. That will make the difference between leaving something behind with the energy you invest in it, or simply wasting it.