So often in the humanitarian sector, participants, players, actors, NGO's, charities and institutions seem to interact with a much different set of protocols and rules then in the "traditional business" sectors. There seems to be less focus on business basic principals and guidelines. Why is this? What makes a humanitarian transaction different then a business transaction? If this hypnosis is true, what are the pitfalls of transacting in the humanitarian sector?
I will attempt to create an explanation, and possibly, some solutions in this article. Before we start, by way of background, I spent almost 30 years deeply involved in international business. My work was transactional in nature. It mattered not if I was building commercial properties, creating transnational privatization public/private partnerships, managing actors or actresses, producing film/TV projects, staging live events or buying/selling/trading, there were always basic business principals that were to be honored. In some of the transactions I was involved with, I was a principal buyer/seller, and in others, I was a broker or agent in the transaction. What is the difference? None! I held myself to standards and protocols that were, to me, the very underpinning of ethical protocols. Let me explain.
As a principal buyer/seller, developer, producer, I respected the path to the transaction (PTT). What do I mean by PTT? How did I learn about the opportunity? Who introduced the opportunity? What roles did the introducing parties have in the PTT? Furthermore, what was to be the reward/compensation for the parties that participated in the PTT? Of course, at time, some parties in the PTT may believe that their PTT role is more than, in reality, it is or should be. As a principal, it was always part of my job description to help all participants in the PTT to realize their stake in the overall transaction and to manage their understanding of limitations versus opportunities. Most PTT participants are rewarded/compensated by a commission, finders fee or small percentage in the consummated transaction. Their reward is based on the transaction coming to conclusion successfully. This being the case, each PTT participant believes that they know best the course of the transaction. Wrong! What the participants in the PTT do best is network and introduce, and if good at this, bring the proper principals to the table. So many times transaction fall apart due to over zealous PTT participants who believe they know best the path and course to the consummation of the transaction. It is a matter of trusting the transaction consortium builder and, of course the principals in the transaction. These are much different roles because, the end result for the consortium builder is different then the PTT participants.
Back to business sector versus humanitarian sector transactions mentioned above. The success of a business transaction is the successful sale, finance or trade of a product or service. It can be measured by an actual monetary value. This piece of land has "x" value and was sold at "x" price. This insurance policy has "x" value and its monthly premium is "x". This construction management contract has an ultimate "x" value and the finished project will have a "x" value. Assuming this basic concept, what are the measured results of a humanitarian sector transaction? The measured result is almost always, improve conditions for human beings. Life and death results. Healthier people results. Relief from disasters results. Access to medical care and medicine results. Repeat, life and death results. Not so much, more money for principals results or a larger piece of a financial pie result. Which is more important?
So, in each humanitarian sector transaction the profit is life itself. Going back to PTT (Path To Transaction) it is utterly paramount that there can be no conflict between the participants and, every participant must know what their role in the path or in the transaction must be. It takes a village means that people (participants) must work together applying their talents, capacities and gifting(s) to the overall profit, which is saving and improving conditions for human life.
The first business sector principal that must be applied to humanitarian sector transactions is respect for the PTT.
Why were you contacted?
For what reason(s) did the principals believe you were worthy to participate?
What is expected of you?
What do you expect of the principals?
Are you a principal or are you supporting the principals and their transaction?
What are you capable of delivering either in the PTT or in the transaction itself?
Once you have answered each of these questions you can flourish and learn the dynamics of the humanitarian sector transaction. Just as if this was a mortgage broker brokering a mortgage, would you expect the mortgage broker to paint your home after the sale? Just like a hotel broker, would that broker expect to be an owner of the sold hotel? Just like a Broadway producer, would that producer expect to get the leading role on stage? Does the napkin supplier in a restaurant business expect to be an owner? So forth and so on, each member of a humanitarian sector transaction must follow business sector protocols in order to reap the rewards of the humanitarian sector transaction, which is, life itself.