One Laptop Per Child is a nonprofit that’s sought to address educational inequity by providing children with rugged, bright green, antennae-laden laptops. Stove Team International has decided that they can protect the environment by placing low-smoke, fuel-efficient stoves in homes across Latin America. LifeStraw began as a humanitarian effort to filter water-borne diseases in African countries; since roughly 2011 it has pivoted to market its product as outdoor gear.

While arguably interesting ideas, nonprofits like these beg the question: Are updated stoves and plastic-heavy laptops and straws really what these communities need? Are these the most pressing problems these communities would address if they had the resources and power to select issues and initiatives themselves? Or is nonprofit work sometimes more about the good-natured intentions of people in the West fashioning themselves as global do-gooders instead?

“The fact is that, in most cases, the solutions and systems and changes that are envisioned are not coming from the community itself and not owned by the community itself,” M. Scott Frank says. Frank is the executive director and co-founder of InteRoots, a self-described non-colonial nonprofit launched in 2018.

The Denver-based organization came out of 10 years of discussing the issues that plague philanthropy with Frank’s friend, Ronald Kibirige, now chair of InteRoots’ board. The result is InteRoots’ community-centric approach to philanthropy where everything — from the impetus for a project to how it’s executed and even to InteRoots’ board itself — is community-led.

Read the full article about generating community-led culture by Cinnamon Janzer at Next City.