secret asshat syndrome

“What are we looking for when we donate/volunteer?”

I’ve found that this is a hard, hard question to ask. Because it presumes we’re looking for something for ourselves in the exchange, and the answer may put us on the defensive/feeling vulnerable since it gets to the core of who we are inside + how we relate to & view other people of different socioeconomic classes/backgrounds, etc.

Obviously, depending on who you’re talking to, this question gets different reactions. Jean Valjean from Les Miserables might be looking for redemption. For one girl I met a few weeks ago, who survived the Darfur genocide and founded a nonprofit, she is looking to be a part of a bigger fight for justice, protection, and opportunity. Another guy I met at that same conference who works in advocacy is at least partially fueled by a desire for security- that what happened to his grandfather at Auschwitz won’t happen to his grandkids. Many of various belief systems do this in search of salvation, or as an expression of gratitude for their salvation. And others: moral urgency, a desire to seek purpose, a sense of knowing that we are a speck in the universe (#damndaniel is probably more famous than you at the moment), reminded daily by the billions on the Internet, and we want to feel we’ve done something impactful in our lives by the time we die. So, tons of reasons. Your answer strongly influences (obviously) the way in which you approach helping others.

This is the part of my post where it gets less ‘feel good’ –

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@ the lemkin summit

posts will be delayed – we’re meeting with the offices of representatives & senators tomorrow on Capitol Hill to talk about 3 pieces of legislation…

yet to come – elephants, sanctions, taxi services in north korea, oh my!

follow #lemkinsummit on twitter for updates and pictures of 150 people in action.


at the Lemkin Summit in Washington DC

humanitarian work ≠ human rights work

Um, what do you mean humanitarian work ≠ human rights work?

I’m what I like to call an “anecdotal learner” so I’m going to just highlight a story here to explain.

Once upon a time in March 2009, human rights (“HR”)activists celebrated years of hard, important work and got the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir on war crimes charges.

Why was this a big deal?   #1, this was the first time in history that the ICC went after a current/sitting head of state. Big implications for the future. and #2, al-Bashir deserved it. Which will be talked about later, but in two sentences: he is responsible for the genocide and systematic rape of several ethnic groups living in the Darfur region. + broadly, his genocide plan was: hire guys to slaughter the men, then airstrike the village, then have the hired people rape the surviving women to impregnate them.

So, understandably, human rights activists were happy. Humanitarians were not. Because soon after, al-Bashir kicked out 13 humanitarian NGOs and shut down 3 Sudanese NGOs.

These included:  Doctors without Borders (MSF) + Oxfam CAREMercy Corps Save the Children Norwegian Refugee Council, the International Rescue Committee, Action contre la faim, Solidarités and CHF International.


& this is an excellent example of the theme of this blog, which is that good intentions, and even good work, may have unintended and harmful consequences.

those interested in reading more: nytimes. irin. US dept of state memo. misc. here and here.

blog organization

Loosely organized as:


  • Discussions of past aid efforts, case studies, what “went wrong” or “went right”
  • Tidbits  or events in history that really influenced humanitarianism


  • On-going humanitarian crises, quick info summary or links to informative articles, several organizations or fundraisers worth checking out if invested in aid relief.
  • Profiles of different organizations, because people keep asking me “have you heard about XYZ” (and please, i want people to tell me about them…email or tweet @betterlemonaid or


  • Thoughts, questions, articles, and ideas about social enterprises, social entrepreneurship, humanitarianism in the future, etc.
  • Future of careers; some thoughts here and there on how the workplace is changing (impact investing, generational differences, corporate social responsibility)


Humanitarian aid organizations hereby referred to as “HAO” & non-profits as “NP” &non-governmental organizations as “NGO” & human rights organizations as “HRO”&  Humanitarian/human rights called “HHR

the story behind lemonaid

[post moved from previous site, discontinued Dec’16]

The title of this blog may be about lemonade, but the idea for this blog started in December 2013 when I had a martini in my hand.

I was sitting at a bar, and a guy jokingly asked me to summarize my “life philosophy in five words.” I did, because it was really easy:


When it comes to volunteering, philanthropy and humanitarian aid, perhaps the greatest reason that aid efforts fail (and that those failures are omitted from newsletter updates…it’d be quite a downer, huh?) is because of ego and the desire to believe that good intentions ARE enough.

“But good intentions are really important, aren’t they?”

Yeah, they are. Usually necessary, but insufficient to enacting positive change in the world. Something changes as you grow older- that “something” being your obligation to be more aware of the world and its complexities.

“and the thinking behind the cheesy blog title is because…”

The image of young children working a lemonade stand for a fundraising cause is supposed to symbolize, among other things, an admirable spirit of giving (as well as an entrepreneurial drive). As those lemonade stand kids grow up, we stop patting them on the head about “changing the world” because we expect them to learn the truth – that there is a world of complexity attached to the act of giving.  AKA life is complicated as heck.

This blog is an attempt by a young adult to:

(a) Educate myself about modern humanitarian aid (for starters there’s this Onion article that is pretty helpful. Seriously.)

(b) figure out how an ordinary person can/should get involved, by highlighting some cool social entrepreneurship ideas/enterprises and great causes along the way.

Talk to me! comment or tweet at @betterlemonaid – always looking for new orgs and causes to spotlight

Coming soon!

[moved from the previous site]

This blog will launch in January 2016. Not 100% sure yet but I’d like to focus on something like the following:

  1. Discussion of if and how young working professionals can contribute to the not-for-profit space/humanitarian space without quitting their jobs – weigh in and and tweet at @betterlemonaid
  2. Spotlight of great social enterprises, foundations, organizations
  3. Head in the Sky – debates on how corporate social responsibility, activism, etc. e.g., the debate over the Kony 2012 campaign
  4. Feet on the Ground – notes on the talent/job market, market challenges, and any postings of specific volunteer work opportunities

The name has no relation to the wonderful “lemonaid” initiative by Robin Hood Foundation (except that someone over there had the same thoughts on the word-play of “aid”) – nothing about this blog or its content is meant to reflect on that separate initiative.