Monday, June 30, 2014

One of these things seems just like the others – one of these things is 'zactly the same...@SesameWorkshop

Educate Sesame Street about Autism Speaks. Frankly, after over four decades of working for and with “nonprofit” organizations, I am not sure this will do any good.  As a “nonprofit” organization, I see no  difference between Sesame Street's parent organization and any other such entity, and so believe that the same factors motivate them as motivate Autism Speaks.  And those are the Almighty Dollar and What They Can Get Away With. Above all, Money makes strange bedfellows.

I hate to rain on anyone's parade – but I have learned that most nonprofit organizations do not really care what their socalled constituencies think or want.  If they did, they might work themselves out of existence.  Instead, they care about perpetuating themselves, maintaining employment for their staff and administration, and per diems for their Boards.  In my experience, the only differences between most “nonprofit” organizations and most corporations are that corporations  at least have to be accountable (on paper) to shareholders and the organizations chase income in different ways.  I wish I had a tenner for every time I, as a Development Consultant, advised a nonprofit that it was unethical to misrepresent what they were doing to dip into a new pot of money....and they  did it anyway.  

I imagine that a refreshing burst of naivete resulted in the thought that CTW or Sesame Workshop or whatever guise they are in today would even consider what Autistics and allies think, if it might conflict with a new way to bring money for operating expenses in the door and put another product (and its rights and spinoffs etc.) out the same door.  The problem is that naivete of the way the world works results in an unrealistic view of potential impact.  And face it, in a capitalist society, money rules. Whatever end-of-the-rainbow pot of gold Autism Speaks is presenting probably looks sweet to the “Development Personnel” at Sesame.  And how their actions appear to neurodiversity activists is probably pretty far down in their list of impacts to the organization.

No matter how much I think, and how much I try to find words, and how much I try to believe I can have an impact on a nonprofit juggernaut, I am stopped by the wall of Experience.  I come up against years of work and volunteer life, and the unfortunate tendencies of organizations and their Executives to want to fit in, think as little as possible, and jump like smallmouth bass at potential new financial resources.  Those tendencies rarely include a sense of shame or even embarrassment at being caught with one's “due diligence” being less than diligent, respect to a consituency being less than respectful, or stated values being in conflict with actions taken.  

Take diversity as a stated value.  Take respect as a stated value.Take being different, more caring, more inclusive than the corporate mold as a stated value. Take presuming competence as a stated value.  Take the worth of each individual as a stated value.  Take the utility of Rubber Duckies as a stated value.  On every one of those yardsticks (well, maybe not the Rubber Duckies), Autism Speaks  comes up short.

Sesame Workshop, do you really want to be  just like the others, or be the “one of these things (that) is not like the others,” as your values seem to claim?

Jane Strauss is a photographer, attorney in remission, autistic jewish feminist woman, educator, former Development Director in a nonprofit, and parent to 5 amazingly diverse offspring who also happen to display significant Spectrum traits and some of whom have diagnoses.  Back in 1971, her Senior Class's Class Song at Wellesley High School was “Rubber Duckie.”

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