I’m not sure if any Baha’is who live in Alaska read this humble little blog. I only ask because if there are any fellow Baha’is from there, they probably already know the news that I’m about to share with you.
The great State of Alaska has recently decided to become so transparent that they have put their whole checkbook on the internet for everyone to see.
All expenses over $1000 are detailed and shared on their Division of Finance website. You can download the spreadsheet in either Excel or Adobe PDF.
Can you imagine that? total transparency from a state government?!? I was floored when I read this! Like many others I don’t hold politicians and by relationship, the bureaucracy of government in high regard. But here they were surprising the heck out of me!
One of my pet peeves is how opaque the Baha’i administration is when it comes to the fund. I’ve already gripped about it here so you can read that instead of me rehashing it all.
As far as I know, there is no precedent for the kind of transparency that Alaska has implemented in any religious organization. In the previous discussion Sonja mentioned that as a member of a local New Zealand Baha’i community they did have transparency. But sadly, I find this the exception, rather than the rule. Even this iota of transparency is limited to the local level. I have heard of no NSA being equally transparent with their member community.
But even if no religious organization is transparent… who cares? I want the Baha’i Faith to blaze trails, to go where others haven’t, to be refreshing, exciting, invigorating, and to inspire individuals.
Money is just that, money. It is not the end all and be all of a community. It is simply a tool. So then the question is, are we using this tool to our best ability? are we bending it to perform fully in service of the Cause? are we using it in a way that encourages fellowship, unity and growth?
I would argue that more transparency would serve those ends rather than less. This is not a new idea really. Many for-profit organizations have this level of transparency. Just search for “open book management”.
To me, personally, when I see that the Baha’i administration doesn’t share information about the fund… it communicates that they don’t trust me. That they don’t want me in the loop. I’m not included. I’m supposed to stand over there and just hand over my money.
On the flip side, asking for transparency can be seen as a sign that we, the Baha’i community are implying that we don’t trust those who are on the institutions and manage the funds of the Faith. All I can say is that, unfortunately, we don’t have a spotless record on that. Mistakes have been made and since we are only fallible human beings struggling to transform into higher beings, we will undoubtedly continue to face such challenges.
Which then begs the question, would it serve such purposes to be more transparent or less? would secrecy and opacity serve the interests of those that stray? making it easier for them to hide and defraud? or would it make it more difficult?
In any case, the advantages of transparency go leaps beyond such concerns. The much larger picture is that transparency and the sharing of information creates unity and inspires individuals to be motivated by loftier ideals.
Anyway, those are my rambling thoughts. What do you think?