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Philanthropy

Engaging the membership and being financially solvent are great achievements for Consensus. But there should be a higher purpose to Consensus than just becoming a great SNS for the non-profit world. Consensus should channel its profits towards helping the world become a better place. Therefore, I recommend that Consensus set up a philanthropic foundation to provide financial resources to organizations around the world. I'm going to call this the “Consensus Foundation.”

For the most part, I and the PM should let the membership, through its unique system of governance, design Consensus Foundation. I have already designated “philanthropy” as one of the low ring committees to start this discussion.

Despite my willingness to hand over the philanthropic nature of Consensus to its membership, I do have my opinions based on my experience on the peripheries of the non-profit world. One thing that often surprises me is that many non-profit organizations have no long term guarantee of future financing; in fact, not much more than one year at a time. Reliable funding sources can disappear entirely within a year for strange reasons, something the corporate world does not usually face.

This unreliability makes it very difficult to enact long term plans. I would like Consensus Foundation to provide, after the organization has been accepted for funding, for ten years of funding. In other words, the organization can rely on a Consensus source of income for a decade. With that guarantee, the organization can make better long-term plans.

Despite the 10-year guarantee, organizations receiving Consensus Foundation money still need to be held accountable each year. Rather than having the executive director of the recipient organization issue a lengthy, custom designed report to justify the good work the organization has done or sending Consensus Foundation agents to inspect that good work, I have another solution in mind that should be cost effective and more reliable.

You have probably noted the Bahá'í ad in the ad show of this website. You were probably wondering why such ad would be on this website. Well, I have been a Bahá'í for 22 years. And as I have grown in this religion, I have seen it as a very subtle force slowly moving humanity into a better, worldwide civilization. This force, in my opinion, comes from Bahá'í principles (originating in 1844): gender equality, elimination of racism, reduction in disparity between rich and poor, a world government, etc., which are slowly becoming mainstream ideas even though much of the world still knows very little about this religion—and significant elements of the world are still resisting these social forces.

In the Bahá'í Faith, we have an administrative order that creates elected bodies to make decisions. We believe that these bodies are also models of governance from which humanity can learn. And my four-year experience in the administrative order has convinced me that ordinary people are capable of some great consensual decisions—given the right tools and attitudes. Whether the world learns of these Bahá'í principles by direct or indirect means is not that important.

I recommend that the Consensus Foundation use locally-based institutions of the Bahá'í Administrative Order to oversee the non-profit organization and determine whether the funding should continue each year. Being local in nature, these institutions can provide continual oversight throughout the year rather than a once-a-year review. If the local institution finds the work of the non- profit organization satisfactory, the institution can advise Consensus Foundations to release the funds for the next year. If the local Bahá'í institution sees some deficiencies in the implementation of the funds, it can still release the funds but give the NGO/NPO a year's warning to straighten out its operation. If the NGO/NPO fails to comply, the local Bahá'í institution will advise Consensus Foundation to stop the funding and direct its resources elsewhere. The local Bahá'í institution will take its role as overseer seriously and responsibly.

Using the Bahá'í Administrative Order in this way is only a suggestion, and it is at least a decade before this concept can come to any kind fruition. But I hope this suggestion generates lots of discussion as Consensus eventually decides on the governance of its philanthropic foundation.

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