Adult swim with Oxfam

Oxfam is busily providing relief to drought- and famine-struck people in the Horn. On Wednesday, Duncan Green, Oxfam’s research director, asked his blog readers whether Oxfam’s Nairobi guesthouse should stand by their policy to keep the pool closed (it came with the house).

Some might think the question trivial, but I find these things symbolically important to the outside, as well as the inside. One of the worst transgressors in my mind is the World Bank, frequenter of business class and 5-star hotels–possibly more than any organization in the world.  That has to shape organizational people and practice, and not necessarily in a good way. (See my diatribes here and here).

Duncan gets many good, serious responses. No one brings up the issue that most people only go into humanitarian aid in order to do things like skinny dip with other thirty-something single do-gooders.

Nonetheless, I agree wholeheartedly with his winning comments. I particularly admire B and D.

Calvin: ‘Use the pool but don’t enjoy it’

Ros: ‘How we all agonize that we are not Gandhi’

But by popular acclaim, the prize for best comment goes to Matt for this gem:

A) Form a swimming pool collective with a rotating chair, with use of the pool to be voted on every week. Pool to be funded by bake sale at the local international school.

B) Divide the pool surface area into 100 square use rights – sell rights to the staff and/or guests, who are only allowed to swim within their allotted area, unless allowed to by other freeholders. Let residents buy and sell these rights to each other and let the market reach an efficient outcome

C) Let NGO workers use the pool, but constantly make them feel guilty about it: surround the pool with posters of photos from recent/ongoing drought. Actually, this could be a win win situation – if you run into anyone who seriously objects to the idea of Oxfam using a pool, let *them* stand on the side and heckle the swimmers.

D) Randomly allocate 50% of your guests with passes to the pool. Use pre and post survey data on stress levels, health, etc to evaluate the actual impact of pool usage. If you’re concerned about financial viability, charge a high price and then randomly distribute vouchers of varying levels to the treated group to tease out the demand curve for pool usage.