One Approach to “Radical Transparency”

Jerry Hsiang, Treasurer and Board Member at The Unmentionables. Jerry is a firm believer in the abilities and capabilities of the whole The Unmentionables team in spreading ‘Dignity through Hygiene’. Please feel free to contact him at jerry.hsiang@theunmentionables.ca.

Refugee crises wreak havoc on human lives and international economies at an alarming rate. More than 1.3 million migrants crossed over the Mediterranean and Aegean seas into Greece in the past two years. Furthermore, there are more than 65 million refugees globally. These vulnerable people need your help to access the protection, health, and dignity that undergarments and intimate hygiene products provide. Organizations need to be better prepared to respond with timely and necessary aids to those in need through efficient supply chain management.

One of the core challenges that plagues non-profit organizations is opaqueness in the distribution supply chain. Opaqueness, along with high transaction cost and mistrust, is common within all pockets of the supply chain. Traditional non-profit organizations aggregate donations and contributions in a base community, and then distribute these goods in foreign communities. One of the major downsides of this approach is that contributors cannot trace where their contributions are at within the whole supply chain.

We at The Unmentionables realize the drawbacks and challenges of this approach; that’s why we came up with a better solution: The Unmentionables’ Smart Aid Model. We purchase items within local communities, providing an informed, direct acquisition of goods, which brings tremendous economic and employment benefit to the local community. The Unmentionables utilizes this method in Greece: volunteers distribute needs assessments to displaced people, which are accessible in English, Arabic, Farsi, and French. We then utilize the data aggregated to inform our purchasing, helping narrow the margins of purchasing and distributing unwanted or unneeded products. Requested products are then purchased in bulk from original manufacturing suppliers or with Greece-based vendors, and then distributed.

More can be done to further enhance the transparency and trust within nonprofits’ distribution supply chain with the utilization of blockchain technology. Blockchain allows anything of value to be recorded and distributed- but not replicated. This allows transparency, as the ledger is public, and reduces transaction costs as the ledger is owned and maintained by the end users. Blockchain technology has recently come into the spotlight; however, adoption is still in its infancy.

Leveraging blockchain technology will enable an elevated level of confidence for donors and nonprofit organizations. According to The Charities Aid Foundation’s 20-page report, “Giving Unchained- Philanthropy and the Blockchain,”

“If people can see exactly where their donations are going, and exactly what an ‘organization’ is spending money on, then there is little room to hide. For those charities that can use this ‘radical transparency’ to demonstrate that they spend money relatively effectively, this could lead to increased support.”

Bringing clarity, transparency and accountability in different parts of organization's distribution supply chain will inevitably serve more people with emergency aid. Join us in logistical conversations and process strategies, as we learn from those who have come before us, and work with like-minded groups to maximize impact.