Why I’m not working with a “good cause”

I'm in the process of asking for donations to help fund the trip – I'm going to write about the process some more today, but basically yesterday I started systematically asking twitter friends to make a donation and spread the word.  After I'd gone to bed last night, Drew Buddie tweeted a link to the indiegogo page and one of his followers, @rachelala said "I really like @lloyddavis plan http://bit.ly/platefund  but couldn't some of the funds raised be donated to a 'good cause'?"

Great question, thanks Rachel!  I'm not thinking of doing this at the moment.  Here's why.
Firstly I have a bit of an allergy to institutionalised, corporatised charity – I'd rather do things face to face with people or help them organise their own way out of difficulty than give to another body, which although they do fantastic work will always have its own overhead and despite the best intentions of all involved, that overhead can sometimes be poorly managed.  I know that not all "good causes" are in this category but that's why it's not my first thought.

I'm also certainly not trying to compete for funds with anybody doing "good works".  If you only have a certain amount of money to give and you see what I'm doing in the same category as helping folk who've been shot by their own government in Libya or giving to your local pet rescue service then please don't give it to me.  I'm in a different category in my own mind, more entertainment, interesting adventures, experiments, storytelling that kind of thing – it's art.  Contribute to my journey instead of buying a DVD boxset, or something.

And I'm not going to bang on about this, but I'm satisfied that I do plenty of good work in life, some of it paid for, much of it not.  Some of it is publicised and talked about on the web, much of it is private, between me and individuals and small groups and part of the deal I have with those people is that I don't talk about it and I'm not going to start now.

I see it as a way of letting other people in on the creation.  It's giving people the chance to contribute if they want to and show their gratitude for this and other work. Steve Lawson talks about this in the context of music sales.  And so here's an interesting thing – that desire to contribute is only transitive to a degree.  That is, my immediate friends, people who know me already may be readily willing to help without question, but that degrades to "interest" and possibly "suspicion" when we get just one step removed in the network to the friends of a friend.  If you read what Steve has to say about gratitude, you can see why this might be so.

I don't know Rachel and I'm not ascribing any motive to what she was saying, but when I've come across it before I've interpreted this idea of association with a good cause as a suggested way of me assuaging some guilt for going on the trip and having the experience myself.  I think that's the logic, I'm not sure, please put me right if not.  I don't feel guilty about doing this trip – it's not a jolly though I'm sure it will be fun.  It's not work in the way that I've worked at a desk all day in the past and in the way that many other people make their living, but it's the way I am drawn to do things.  And I will not just be taking as I travel around, I'm giving something of my experience all the time to the people I visit, some of them will find that inspiring, others will find me boring and annoying, c'est la vie!

I also want to remind you that part of this trip is to understand the value of the social capital one can build in online social networks.  To that end, I'll be accounting for as much of the trip as possible – so that I'll be able to say broadly where the money came from, what the value was of things given me in kind were and broadly where the money was spent and then compare that with an estimate of what it would cost to do without any online presence.

I'm trying to be open-minded about this and I'm happy to keep talking about it – indeed talking about it is *part* of the project.  If you were wavering or just felt the need for clarification, I hope that this helps – as ever, it's helped me to write it, thank you.

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman