Tsunami appeal afterthoughts

Once again, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the tsunami appeal, especially cosponsors. Most of the pledges have already been redeemed, and the remainder are flowing in as people get some free time (I got notification of one more just as I was typing these words). In this post, I want to answer a few questions that were raised in the course of the appeal. In fact, part of the idea was to get people thinking about such questions.

First, why not just send the money in myself, without making a song and dance about it? One reason is that I wanted to try out the cosponsorship idea, and it worked beyond my most optimistic hopes. I’ve always said the comments are the best part of this blog, and now we have a numerical measure. 80 per cent of the money raised by the appeal came from cosponsors, most of whom are part of the regular group of readers and commenters here. I also think the “comment for cash” idea was worthwhile. Apart from a handful of mean-spirited comments (and even some of these were facetiously intended, I’m sure), the great majority of people who took the time to comment also took some time to think about the tsunami, the victims and the efforts to help the survivors. I think this must be a good thing.

Second, why the Red Cross? The main reason was that I’d already given to CARE and Oxfam and I thought World Vision got a pretty good run with the concert, so it was their turn. I also hoped that the Red Cross would be an uncontroversial choice, but inevitably, some issues were raised. I’ll discuss these in a later post, but for the moment I’ll observe that all organisations are imperfect. We can’t I think use that as an excuse to do nothing.

Third, why the tsunami and not the chronic problems elsewhere in the world? This is the big question for me, and I’ll try to explain my reasoning as best I can. I can’t remember a disaster that’s elicited a sustained response on the scale of the tsunami tragedy. Three weeks on and it’s still major news, at least here in Australia. I really think there’s a chance for a permanent change in attitudes here, that might embed aid efforts into our society. Unlike the immediate aftermath, the disaster is no longer at the forefront of our minds, but we’re still doing good things to raise money and feeling good about it. Why shouldn’t we just keep on doing this all year, and next year, and the year after? I think the best way to promote this change is to keep focused on the tsunami relief effort for a while longer, then to encourage people to keep up the effort level (higher than we’ve been used to, but not a huge burden), but with broader goals. So, as soon as I think the time is right, I’ll be running another appeal with a broader mission, probably on health.

Finally, some technicalities. The WordPress blog held up well to the challenge of an unprecedented number of comments, and there was much admiration for the controversial instant preview feature (contibuted IIRC by Rob Corr). Another controversial issue, the Quiggers Beard, continued to divide commenters.

Although I started reasonably early, a lot of people only discovered the appeal late on Sunday, and no doubt some didn’t find it until it was too late. Next time, I’ll give more notice and run for an entire weekend.

If anyone else has any ideas for next time, I’m very keen to read them.

5 thoughts on “Tsunami appeal afterthoughts

  1. A big well done to all involved. On my comment which some of the above may have been directed at – I’d just like to say why would I comment there if I disagreed with the proposal. I note some posted somewhere like the Monday Messageboard in protest.

    That said, I stand by my reasoning for now.

  2. About your beard: you said Tim Blair’s offer of $100 was too low. Perhaps you could set an appropriate target (to compensate for the risk of a Samson-like loss of intellectual power) and people can chip in to try to meet it as a group. I’m prepared to offer $20 to the kitty.

  3. Definitely a worthwhile exercise. We should try to keep the vogue of giving going as long as possible and you never know, just maybe it will become a bit more ingrained in our national culture. As I inferred in my $4.55 worth of commenting (comment number 53 out of 470 – I’m sure everyone read it), I think we should try to build on the new found concern for others in our region to also have some better debates about how to get fairer trade with these countries to help make their re-development more sustainable. It’s not a matter of aid vs trade, but trade can certainly be a major long-term help for these (and other developing) countries. However, I believe we need a better debate on what constitutes fair and effective trade, as opposed to just a continuing re-run of the centuries old tussle between ‘free’ trade and protectionism in a modern form.

    I also like the idea of people writing positive things about people or parties or issues that they would normally criticise – the more the ideological straightjackets can be loosened to allow more objective critical thinking the better (although only doing it for money sort of defeats the purpose somewhat, but at least this example was in a good cause, and a trend has to start somewhere)

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