The catastrophic events that have stricken the people of Haiti demonstrate — quite lamentably — that in a world of nanotechnology, Google-enabled mobile phones, double tall soy lattes, and proposed universal healthcare, there remain societies on the brink of social, economic, and environmental collapse. For comparison sake, recall the 1989 earthquake that struck the San Francisco Bay Area; a 7.0 geological shift took the lives of 63 people. The same magnitude befell the people of Haiti on Jan. 12; while estimates vary, 100,000 could be dead. That is half of the population of the City of Tempe.
International aid organizations have begun to alleviate immediate suffering; there has been a nationally televised charity concert where people could “text-message” help from the comfort of their own home; myriad countries have sent physical and monetary support. However, there remains a normative question that should be on our minds:
What should we do to ensure a more sustainable Haiti, in the future?
Expand education efforts:
In a nation where 38 percent of the population is under the age of 14, developing intellectual capital will allow good ideas to originate, blossom, and be implemented in a country that is in dire need of them.
Economic development and investment:
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. By advancing an equitable combination of foreign direct investment, NGO/nonprofit work, and domestic revenue producing opportunities we can ensure that Haitians are placed on a path of economic self sufficiency;
Further micro-lending networks and opportunities to allow access to entrepreneurial capital and development. Jobs starting from bottom up will empower individuals and reduce the economic stratification that is rampant in the country.
Establish legitimate governance systems:
Haiti’s government has utilized 8,000 U.N. peacekeepers to maintain some semblance of order and control since 2004. While a future government does not have to be a veritable paragon of representative democracy and efficiency, the people of Haiti deserve a government that will work — vigorously and in earnest — to advance their well-being. Imagine there were a comprehensive and enforced modern building code prior to the earthquake; would Haiti have fared more like San Francisco?
The world is not a mutually exclusive place anymore. We, a global people, are connected to one another in innumerable ways. As such, we need to demonstrate our solidarity and resolute commitment to creating a more sustainable Haiti. I challenge you to ask what else you, your business, organization, or nonprofit can contribute towards the economic, social, and environmental revitalization of Haiti.
Let’s start a thoughtful and innovative conversation about how businesses, organizations, and nonprofits can move beyond status-quo assistance and be truly entrepreneurial and ground-breaking in their aid. I look forward to making positive change happen, together.