Book Summary

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Doing Good…Says Who? explores the impact of good intentions from the inside. The authors conducted over 400 interviews and synthesized the lessons learned. The end result is that you are on the ground with volunteers, nonprofits, donors, and—most uniquely—the intended beneficiaries of good will. Through story telling, humor, analysis, practical advice and a discussion guide, five key concepts emerge:


  1. Respect and value people

The reader will explore what a Maya woman with a sixth grade education can teach a donor who approaches poverty with Handi Wipes and a retired U.S. school principal with years dedicated to helping Guatemalan school children.

  1. Build trust through relationships

When a young Maya mother and her baby die in childbirth, tensions rise among older and younger generations, within families, and among local midwives. Will the new clinic be able to bridge these differences? The reader will follow a young volunteer through the ups and downs of building trust in the community, and in keeping well-meaning, short-term medical volunteers tuned to the local culture rather than their imported standards.

  1. Do “with rather than “for”

How much can campesinos in a coffee cooperative, an impoverished Maya mother with a micro-loan, and a Maya community working together on a reforestation project do for themselves? How do prospective donors see their work? The reader will struggle with Stanley, visiting with a group of business professionals, as he confronts the unintended consequences of his generous handout of ten thousand dollars. Where will this money go and why?

  1. Ensure Feedback and Accountability

The board of a microfinance organization has done everything right . . . research, expert advice, and due diligence. Dramatic growth is underway and from where the director and the board sit, all indicators look good. So why does the local staff tell another story? What are they seeing differently? How will it impact results?

  1. Evaluate Every Step of the Way.

Stephanie, a New Yorker out of her element, takes the reader along with her as she learns by trial and error . . . who to listen to, when to act, and how to evaluate the impact of her efforts. Why can’t she convince the curanderas (healers) to start a business based on their expertise with herbs that will increase their income? What do the curanderas see that she doesn’t?

Book Summary