Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Buy It Forward: Update

I solicited comments on the "Buy It Forward" concept and you did not disappoint. Thanks to all of you who wrote me back.

As I anticipated most of you see the glaring flaw in institutionalizing something like this: abuse. People are slime aren't they?

Greed and self-interest rules the human spirit in this day and age. The real point of exploring this was to foster a shift from the self serving to the altruistic within the bounds of the consumption-based system we live in. Yes, I was looking for a glint of man's better nature. Naive yes, pointless no. What we can do is support the local food shelves (my grocery store makes this very easy by pre-packaging donations for you) and of course, giving to the Salvation Army and other top-notch charities.

Please peruse these excellent comments. Again thank you all for taking the time to think about it.

It could work, but it would take careful vetting and require a very clean administrative staff-something difficult to maintain if it really took off. You may want to ask somebody with a reputation for absolute trustworthiness to help run it once it took off-maybe a group like the Salvation Army? The Knights of Columbus? This is a variation on the charitable works of such groups, after all. The people who are asking for items would have to be vetted to avoid freeloaders (and they`ll come from every crack in the wall) plus you would probably need a
way to get receipts to the donars for tax purposes.

Hmmm. Interesting concept. I`ll think on this a bit more.

I find the idea compelling and full of hope! The details are the tricky part. I have lost a little faith in my fellow man after the last election. Electing Obama is one thing, maybe he will be the next great American president, for all of our sakes I really hope so. It's the Franken election that really scares me. Anyone who takes even a minute to look at this guy sees how disingenuous he is, and yet half of the people around me voted for the man. I want to believe the best about everyone, but as time goes on it is becoming more difficult. I like your idea, I'm not sure how to put it in place. Maybe start by looking at something like freecycle or other similar websites. They have their flaws but the idea is similar

love you dad! : )

I think this is a good idea. I think that you're right though - it could easily be taken advantage of. Maybe instead of institutionalizing it in churches and community organizations to prevent corruption, it could just be a personal philosophy - i.e. everyone could be their own judges of who is worthy to be helped in this way. I mean, Pay It Forward is spread by individuals. I'm sure there are plenty of people that we come into contact with every day who could use a little help. Either way, our country could use a little social consciousness - especially lately.

As you pointed out yourself, the big challenge would be to keep the crooked people from taking advantage of the system, sad but true. You always amaze me Mr. Craig. So I take it then that YOU are the originator of the present "Craiglist".........it all makes sense now! :) Good thoughts.
Cool idea, Craig. I believe the biggest challenges would be fraud.

Next steps?
The concept reminds me a bit of how some business was conducted the the movie "The Godfather", but it is an interesting thought. What do you think? Is it possible in a small/big scale, or does it just invite too much corruption? Or is this just the role that the Salvation Army fills and other non-profits that are also in trouble?
I like the concept. It serves an altruistic end as well as providing a highly efficient way of directing economic resources into goods and services that make lives better by actually being put to a useful purpose.

Unfortunately, institutionalizing the process (i.e "craigs list-type" mechanism) risks the intent by exposing it to the unscrupulous, or bogging it down with a burdensome "grant request" kind of process. Either outcome could kill it.

Finding a way to promote the "personal" search for deserving opportunities to "buy it forward" has a better chance of success. The bounds of both the scope and criteria are set by the individual giving, which avoids the need to establish any form of structure to what is inherently un-structureable. Make the focus on the "giving" as a broad based ideal, while minimizing the aspect of "deserving" , which is an intensely individual concept at best.

I like it.

More comments to follow as they come in! Be sure to read my brother Tom's long and spirited comment on the original post.