18 April 2011

Greg Mortenson

So even though I don't get to watch 60 Minutes, I'm reading a lot about what was on last night in the US.  It seems reasonable that these questions about Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute are finally getting asked.  They've been hinted at for a long time and it's reasonable for an institution like the CAI to get looked at more carefully.  But it doesn't seem that there's anything to get anyone too upset yet.*

In my opinion, it was always clear from Mortenson's books that he doesn't really know how to run an organization like the CAI.  Many of his stories show how stunningly naive he was when he went into Central Asia.  If the kidnapping story is faked, and it always sounded off, I can't figure out why it was added, because I don't think it was exciting, but incredibly foolish.  That one story has always been the biggest turnoff for me in all of Greg Mortenson's stuff.

It's also obvious that Mortenson is difficult to work with and doesn't know how to keep track of anything.  I'd never had donated money to anything he did at the first, although I'd have donated my time in Central Asia.  I might donate now, even with the current revelations.

The numbers from the 2009 audit aren't really surprising.  41% of donations going to schools in Central Asia isn't bad at all; I'd have expected it would have been lower.  Another big chunk went to travel, outreach, and fundraising in the US.  If you've heard about Greg Mortenson, you know that money is being spent to get the word out.  It really doesn't seem all that unusual for a group like this.

I imagine this isn't the end of the story, and we might find out a lot more that's not so nice, but right now I'll wait and see.  I'd like someone in Central Asia to have figured out a way to make education more accessible at a reasonable cost.  Of course, someone else is doing a good job of it too.  It's the Aga Khan.  But it helps to have an incredibly rich man running things.  You don't have to spend so much getting the word out.  Anyway.  Till another day.

*The best reason why you shouldn't get mad?  See Joshua Foust's post today on Registan.  Two quotes, in case you don't click through:

If Greg Mortenson’s poor records and fabricated life story weren’t as equal or more important than the many horrible mistakes the U.S. military has made, why would 60 Minutes devote as much airtime to it as the Haditha massacre?
...the amount of money the Central Asia Institute may have wasted since 1996 is less than the cost of a single JSF engine the military doesn’t even want but Congress is forcing them to buy!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks. I agree with your assessment. I must say, I don't trust Kraukauer as a researcher either. So while it's important questions are asked, I think Mortenesen is fair to say the dates are wrong simply because people don't keep track of dates well, etc.
    And the money thing, look at any other charitable organization, half is a good number. But I do think CAI should be more financially transparent.