Contributions to date:
April 2nd $19,564
Phase One -- $10,000 Offer Declined
For several months I have been engaged in a courteous and thoughtful dialogue with Microfund for Women, as a result of which MFW has respectfully declined the offer of $10,000 from Backpack Nation.
Microfund for Women is a large and well-run organization. During the decade since its founding, MFW has dispensed over $20 million in loans to women entrepreneurs in the Palestinian refugee camps in and around Amman, Jordan. When MFW first came onto the Backpack Nation radar I did some background checking and could not find anyone -- in the US State or Treasury Departments or in my inquiries around the world of NGOs -- who had anything but high praise for MFW. Everyone told me that MFW is at the head of its class.
During the eighteen-plus months since the inception of Backpack Nation, it has become blindingly clear to me that this project's main currency is STORIES. (Doing good in the world is also certainly crucial -- without acts of cross-cultural generosity this project is nothing.) Backpack Nation aspires to drag the attention of the world away from the relatively few atrocities that dominate the daily news, and to refocus it on the uncountable acts of human-to-human kindness and compassion that, I think, are more representative of life on earth -- and to do that we need STORIES.
I told my contact at MFW that we didn't need a financial accounting of the $10,000, but we would need to tell stories about the lives of some of the individuals who would be affected by the money.
I wasn't privy to the conversations that my request sparked within MFW, but I did become aware that different layers within the organization would need to be consulted. I was told that concerns about privacy were raised, and I can imagine that there were other concerns as well. In the end, the offer was declined.
I came away feeling that I had been treated very respectfully and professionally (and I hope and do think that MFW feels the same way), and that the outcome was in fact absolutely proper. And in my mind this is actually a wonderful development that opens up new possibilities for Backpack Nation. And on we go. (Please see the section below on Phase Three.)
Phase Two -- Submission window approaching
If you know any travelers or foreign correspondents -- current, past, or future -- PLEASE alert them to the May 1-15 window for submissions to Phase Two. For complete details of Phase Two please CLICK HERE.
Phase Three -- Taking Shape
The news regarding Microfund for Women means that $10,000 is now available to fund a new phase. Phase Three will not be launched until sometime after Phase Two is completed -- at least six months from now I am thinking.
I've been excited about the possibilities that this development raises, and as I mull things over my thinking shifts from day-to-day. One of the ideas that first came to mind was that $10,000 might fund a bare-bones film project. Film has become THE popular medium -- and a film presentation would be a powerful tool for Backpack Nation. Perhaps we could send someone with a camera to follow an ambassador on his or her journey. Or maybe we could send someone with a camera to follow Marc Gold of 100 Friends on his next journey.
But I know next to nothing about the film world -- it seems that a film project would require a budget quite a bit larger than $10,000 -- and recently my thinking has shifted. In the last couple of weeks I've been telling myself to keep things simple, and I've use come up with a sketch of a plan:
Break the $10,000 up into twenty chunks of $500 and have them distributed by travelers who are funding their own trips. "Smaller chunks" and "Let the ambassador pay his/her own way" were the two suggestions I heard most as feedback during Phase One.
And one additional thought has come to me: If the money is going to go to an organization, it should be to a small, lean organization.
What do you think? Please email me your thoughts.
Thank you as always for your interest and support.
For complete details of Phase Two please CLICK HERE
You can read Brad's dispatches from the month-long taxicab trip across America in the MONEY of 2001 by clicking here.