Let me start off by saying I am pissed. On fire. En Fuego.
I should not be writing this. Honestly I should step away. I feel like I am drunk dialing my ex boyfriend. Nothing good can come from this but shame and embarrassment….for Madonna.
An audit has just been done of her project in Malwai. 3.8 million dollars has been spent, no land has been purchased, nothing built and the project is now being scraped.
Exactly a year ago I wrote a blog post about Maddona ‘s plans to build a $15 million school for about 400 girls in Malawi. FYI, Malawai is a country of 15 million people so it was clear from day one that her plan was flawed. This plan was always more about the donor than the community. If you want to read my then tactful post Wide and Deep challenging her to rethink her strategy feel free, I would love to hear your thoughts. I was worried about the intent and impact of her plan, but gave her the benefit of the doubt. I asked Madonna to increase the scale and scope to serve more girls in a real cost efficient manner. I asked her to help as many girls as she could with the funds provided. I was both kind and polite. How many girls did Madonna help?
Zero. None. Zip.
She did not even help herself.
Her name and reputation are mud at least from where I am sitting. Will she have another top dance tune. Probably. Does she have any credibility left….umm..no. I had no idea when I asked her to serve more that 450 girls that I also had to ask her to pay attention to what was happening with her project and its financials. Where were the systems to track the money, community involvement and program development? Where were the metrics and internal controls?
When you partner with communities they kind of need you to listen to them and learn from them, to know them. Your partners expect that you will do what you promise and meet your moral and financial obligation. They actually need you to pay attention. If not to them then to the employees that you hire to represent you. You need systems and legal agreements more than ribbon cutting ceremonies.
Sometimes those that want to help–actually hurt. I actually tweeted this earlier today. Little did I know that those words would haunt me . Little did I know how much those words would hurt.
Institutions, foundations and donors have resources and they can be amazing supporters and advocates, they just can not be in the drivers seat. They do not get to drive, hold the map or determine the road that will be utilized. The vision has to be driven by the people. True movements do not have CEOS, benefits or popstars. They happen when thousands of people discover their power and in doing so discover their possibilities. Movements take courage. It takes courage to discover your own way and own your destiny. I believe that at their core individuals do want to help–and sometimes when you are bone and soul weary it feels GOOD to have someone tell you that they will help you, give you what you need. It is sometimes very hard to ignore these strong, loud voices, and hear your own heartbeat. 15 million dollars rings loudly and has a strong pull. Communities are all called to find their own way– no one walks their path for them.
We need to better educate donors and if we can not educate them, then we need to tell them no thank you. Say no to the gift. Non profits and communities also need to know how to be discerning partners. If you want to learn more on how to be a good partner, how to choose a great partner and how to protect what you create, then join me next month in a teleclass. You can find the details here: Partnership, Activate .
I pray that Malawi hears it’s on heartbeat and paints it’s own vision. I also pray they find educated generous partners who want to engage with them on finding solutions. I also hope that Madonna has learned much and uses these lessons and learnings–the most important lesson being that intent is NOT impact. They should never ever be confused. This is actually about more than Maddona…its also about a board that was incompetent and staff that had no integrity. A stunning lack of governance on multiple levels.
Will I dance the next time a Madonna song is played? No, probably not. Because I will forevermore think of the people of Malawi and not much feel like celebrating.