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Special liaison: Holbrooke appoints Mia Farrow’s son as NGO liaison
Oct 22, 2009;
Politico | Of course it’s good to create opportunities for young people in the sector, but sometimes there are judgment calls that simply leave you boggled. Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, has apparently made the 21-year-old son of actress Mia Farrow and former husband Woody Allen his personal liaison to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Pakistan (his official title is Special Advisor on Humanitarian and NGO Affairs). The young fellow apparently is very bright, maybe a prodigy, was accepted to Yale Law School at 16 (but didn’t attend until 2006), and has had some sort of working relationship with Holbrooke since he was a teenager. But Politico described NGOs as “taken aback” by the appointment, and quoted one official as saying “You have seasoned, experienced NGO officials dealing with some very sensitive foreign policy and humanitarian aid issues, whose main contact in Holbrooke’s office is a [21] year old whose experience has been traveling to southern Sudan with his mom.” The State Department, where there is still no permanent head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, has countered to defend the fellow, with one anonymous person quoted as saying, “Kid’s a friggin’ genius.” Having had an office around the corner from Holbrooke during his days at the Carnegie Endowment for International Affairs when he was involved in the start-up of Foreign Policy magazine, that sounds just like Holbrooke, who himself is a “friggin’ genius.” But Holbrooke is a genius with decades of experience under his belt. Let’s hope that our society’s (and our sector’s) idolization of the young doesn’t end up making life experience and professional experience irrelevant.—Rick Cohen

Cancer nonprofits adjust strategy
Oct 24, 2009; The Signal | Adjusting fundraising strategies—sometimes the devil is in the details. This article describes how some cancer related charities in California are trying to overcome the downturn in participation at some of their Breast Cancer Awareness events. California, beset by unemployment and state budget woes, is hit hard by the recession so it makes sense that fundraising is impacted. Will paying attention to what they see happening in their own campaign work to boost bucks?—Ruth McCambridge

Critics of ACORN Vow to Form New Group Under Same Name in Louisiana
Oct 24, 2009;
Fox News | If it isn’t already clear that the attacks on ACORN are beyond concerns raised by the pimp-and-prostitute undercover filmmakers’ trap, this story has to provide more evidence. A former ACORN staff person is apparently trying to form a new group in New Orleans named “ACORN” to compete with the existing ACORN apparatus. No offense, but to create a new community organizing entity able to compete even with a debilitated ACORN requires money, professional advice, and more. So who’s on the team promoting this new ACORN? Disgruntled employees creating competing and sometimes similarly named organizations after their firings is not unknown. Remember when Millard Fuller was dismissed from Habitat for Humanity because of allegations of sexual misconduct, so Fuller decided to create a new organization in the same city as Habitat (Americus, Georgia), named “Building Habitat.” Within most of the nonprofit housing and community development sector, Building Habitat wasn’t seen as a particularly positive or constructive move on Fuller’s part (Fuller died this past February). One suspects that this effort to create a new ACORN has even less constructive motivation than Fuller’s anti-Habitat pique. One thing that is clear, however, is that ACORN needs to manage its communications process a bit better. The Times-Picayune article about the circumstances of this 37-year ACORN veteran’s firing is exceptionally confusing, ranging from some sort of connection to the New Orleans chapter’s criticism of President Obama’s New Orleans visit itinerary (having omitted the Lower Ninth Ward), some sort of conflict over the assets of a land trust controlled by the Louisiana ACORN, and relatively easy-to-read insinuations that she was terminated as a supporter of Wade Rathke. The fact that the national ACORN spokesperson cited in the article spoke anonymously didn’t help. Hopefully, in the review of ACORN’s intake and service delivery processes, the review will also address ACORN’s communications.—Rick Cohen


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