Saturday, 16 May 2009

more awards for conservation and charity

I have written about my dislike for awards in the past. Such as the Charity Times awards for 'Best charity'. In particular I dislike awards which require an entry fee, and even worse, often a large payment to attend the awards ceremony. And most of the people I have discussed this with agree with me.

But there are other awards, where agreement is rarer. And that is awards for individuals. There are a number of prizes that are given to individuals who are deemed to be significant in some way or other. But I also have serious reservations about giving awards to individuals, for a number of reasons. First, it is always very difficult to decide who deserves an award. Very often it is the pushiest person, as modesty is rarely rewarded. Second, awards frequently contain an element of political correctness. And third they feed the contemporary obsession with celebrity culture. But the backers for awards just love giving them to individuals, largely because of this latter reason -- they can generate more publicity. The reality is that while the charismatic individual can achieve a lot, ultimately it is organisations that make the real, sustainable, long lasting difference. The really good charismatic individuals do not need awards, but the organisations they represent and work for often struggle to get funds and recognition.

It was some while back that I began to have doubts about the value of rewarding individuals with conservation 'Oscars' when helping BBC Wildlife Magazine draw up a list of the most influential conservationists. And this list did not have prize money attached to it. The problem was, that even with a long list of only British conservationists, that it was a little bit like competitive team sports -- someone had to lose, and it did not mean that the losers were any worse, or the winners were any better. But we only ever hear about the elation of the winners. What about the depression of the losers? At least when it's an organisation it is not so dependent on an individual's ego, or presentation abilities. And at least with an organisation it stands a better chance of having a lasting effect.

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