Author: Arthur Combs

Shock. Squalor. Solutions

I’ve been working in some of the worst slums in the world on and off for a couple of decades, so when James Schaffer and I visited two trailer settlements in Southern California’s Coachella Valley last week, I did not expect to be horrified. It turns out my nonchalance...

Who’s Responsible for Fostering Impact?

Creativity and input can come from both grantor and grantee Instilling impact as a daily practice is part of what our small firm does for organizations.  Impact is the word of the decade for social change orgs.  We hear it incessantly, but we’re constantly taken aback at how many...

A Remedy to the Three Cups of Tea Problem

Philanthropic Investment Management: a Rigorous Practice that Minimizes Fraud and Waste Last Sunday, 60 Minutes ran a story questioning the veracity of Greg Mortenson’s phenomenally successful memoir, Three Cups of Tea.  The investigation was spurred by complaints from former board members and donors to the NGO Mortenson founded, the...

NGOs Can Learn Something Crucial from Coca Cola…

If sales data are an indication (and they are) Coca Cola and McDonalds executives probably listen to locals more carefully than your average NGO manager… Western NGOs that try to work solo in the developing world almost always fail to achieve their aims. Strong local partners. Lots of trust....

Sustainability, Business, and Aid

Schaffer&Combs partner Arthur Combs is working this week in central Vietnam on a wheelchair project… Sustainability is a buzzword that gets thrown around so indiscriminately that it sometimes makes us want to grind our teeth. It is, nonetheless, a vital concept. In international aid a lot of foreign groups...

In a Revolution, Things Break

We’re a small organization with a tremendous privilege. Through a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, we have a front row seat to what we’re beginning to think is a revolutionary time in business–and maybe in economics as well. We’re looking at two changing business models...

How to Look at a Slum

It’s Not What Outsiders Think; And in order to do meaningful work here, you have to see beyond squalor and misery. Why is a business consultancy writing about slum life? Because our work with NGOs brings us into contact with it, and because successful development projects are best conceived...