How an Economist does Social Work


How an Economist does Social Work
 
วันที่ : 1 มกราคม 2551 นิตยสาร/หนังสือพิมพ์ : Living in Thailand
 
 
          Social work focuses on solving problems, especially for people who can not survive on their own. Types of social work found in Thailand include providing social welfare, creating public benefit, developing communities, protecting the rights of people who cannot negotiate for themselves, etc.

          Many people who undertake social work sacrifice their time without expecting financial remuneration. However, recent research indicates that the work of volunteers in private development organizations is, for the most part, ineffective. This may be partially because the volunteers overlook the importance of evaluating how well they use resources and how strong their work outcomes are.

          I believe that if these volunteers apply some economic approaches, their use of resources and work outcomes will become more effective. I propose some of these economic ideas.

          Opportunity
Cost

          Opportunity cost measures the difference between the highest desirable outcome and the less desirable outcomes of other options. Simply, each option about the way we use our resources has a different outcome. An option with a less than optimal outcome will produce a higher opportunity cost than for a choice producing the best possible outcome.

          Social work relies on all its resources. But some social workers officers may neglect opportunity cost when planning their use of resources, including the implicit or hidden costs. For example, they need to consider the labor costs of their volunteers – a cost often ignored.

          Moreover, some social projects have more volunteers than the project requires, or they use people with the wrong skill sets, meaning some volunteers are overqualified for the project. You would not have professors reading books to the blind or doctors collecting donations door to door. Instead, other options would produce more efficient outcomes.

          Social benefit must be greater than social cost.
 

          Another idea is that Marginal Social Benefit must be higher than Marginal Social Cost. That is, each cost unit that society puts into social work must yield a greater output than the input. Thus, volunteers should choose the type of social work they want and decide how many resources they will need. They must carefully manage all possible options to achieve the highest possible benefit to society and best help those in need.

          People interested in volunteering should use a volunteer network (e.g. the Volunteer Bank) to match their abilities, skills, and training with a suitable project. Volunteers skilled at business administration should either become social entrepreneurs, who start businesses that support social projects, or hire others to do the social work for them, an option with lower opportunity costs. Even Bill Gates devotes himself to his Microsoft business but has created a foundation to manage his sizeable charitable funds.

          Social projects in Thailand have limited resources. If volunteers apply these two economic principles, social improvement projects in Thailand will become more effective. In this way we will be able to generate the highest outcomes while resolving a number of social problems.
 


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