More interstellar non-profit NGOs

Continuing the discussion from NGOs for a somewhat "Traveller"-like setting:

While I was walking my dog this morning I had thoughts about young volunteers from rich colonies taking a while before they settle down to work as volunteer aid workers and proselytisers for progress [towards the ideals of their own colonies] on poor colonies. Models I had in mind included Australian Volunteers International, Habitat for Humanity, the US Peace Corps, and the European Solidarity Corps. Such efforts would of course be subject to all the usual problems: patronising ethnocentricism, lack of useful skills, tendency to undermine local institutions, high costs, lack of accountability, focus on low-value projects that lack lasting impact or transformative power, crackpottery, cultural imperialism, and promoting trade dependency.

The thought occurred to me that the Alliance for Independent Development might well operate such a program, even collecting donations and recruiting volunteers on colonies whose governments opposed its hidden political agenda. That would lend it credibility and provide cover for its operators, without its principals having to pay and provide staff for a lot of development programs that it isn’t actually interested in.

Then I thought that I ought to add an NGO to my list of interstellar NGOs that represented a large organisation with wide foundations that collected money to support, and that arranged, such voluntourism. I thought that a team of troubleshooters acting for such an organisation (to rescue feckless volunteers and to patch up the worst of the damage they had done) would make an excellent schema for a party of player characters. A lot of players aren’t going to want to play agents of the AID.

And then I thought: “why not have both?”


For that majority of you who have lost track of the state of play in the list of Interstellar NGOs, here’s the text from the current draft of the Players’ Introduction:

The Alliance for Independent Development brokers development assistance for poor colonies free from meddlesome Imperial conditions. It is a front for rich governments in the Colonies’ Rights faction, sometimes covering clandestine operations.

Amnesty researches, publicises, advocates for, and sometimes discreetly rescues prisoners of conscience, pestering tyrants and secretly staging jail-breaks and rescues.

The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Persons advocates for the liberty, civil rights, political equality, and reproductive rights of androids, uplifts, parahumans, and digital sapiences. It is supported by, and believed to provide cover for agents of, Esbouvier.

The College of Archivists , which historians and sociologists strive to qualify for, gathers and preserves records of all sorts, prizing diaries and interviews. To promote candour in informants it keeps secret archives and publishes a confidential journal. It steals and hides information.

Democracy Unlimited advocates for democratic reforms, promotes best practice in electoral methods, and supplies election monitors. It is discreetly supported by some colonies in the Responsible Government faction, and is accused of conducting clandestine operations.

The Ethnological Society promotes the practice of participant ethnography, organising field work for aspiring members, and sometimes helping them out of difficulties. It maintains marvellous collections of anthropological material, and is sometimes accused of promoting superstition in order to study it.

GreenWar campaigns to protect wildlife and wilderness. It opposes projects that will damage or alter biomes (even ones resulting from past terraforming), such as terraforming projects on new worlds. GreenWar has been accused of terrorist attacks on New Worlds Realty.

Human Heritage strives to record and conserve cultural treasures of art, literature, drama, architecture &c. It organises exchanges, exhibitions, and tours, and tries to protect artists and performers and their artistic freedom.

The Humanity League campaigns to protect non-combatants in war and prisoners of war, provides medical services &c., and organises relief in disaster zones and other humanitarians crises. Respected and influential, it enjoys almost official status, and its logo (a red handprint on white) is a recognised badge of neutrality.

The Institute campaigns against the creation of artificial persons such as intelligent androids, parahumans, and digital sapiences. It also opposes the use of social engineering to create “unnatural” social environments, and even opposes the construction of orbital habitats.

The Interstellar Brigades monitors ideological wars, collects and reports accurate accounts of what occurs in them, and helps interstellar volunteers reach the sides they want to fight on. The Empire is not amused.

The Œuvre of the King of Prussia opposes research, development, and use of immortality treatments, fearing that wealth and power would concentrate in the hands of immortal tyrants. It has been accused of terrorism.

The Planned Progress League advocates for technocracy and the use of social engineering and psychoengineering to create just societies with happy populations. It provides advisors to reform movements. The PPL is discreetly supported by governments in the Public Safety faction.

The Reporter’s Guild advocates for professional standards in journalism and like endeavours. It accredits ethical reporters and aggregators, defends the freedom of reporting, and provides quasi-consular support to its insured members in difficulties.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Autochtones strives to publicise the plights and improve the treatment of alien sophonts, particularly those on planets settled by humans.

The Sons of Patrick Henry campaign against slavery, serfdom, and like institutions, also mass incarceration. Some rogue effectives attack tyrannical trends in government.

Ulterior Technical Consulting LLC is an interstellar employment agency that specialises in finding opportunities for qualified and experienced experts in military training, leadership, military engineering, and supply. And tries to get them out safely if their employers lose.

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It seems to me that the AID and this hypothetical new organisation, while they’re both interested in sending aid workers to places, could be philosophically quite opposed: AID is saying “we will build you up so that you can stand on your own”, new-org is saying “we will build you up so that you can be part o interstellar society”. Which could be fun when they find themselves on the same planet, maybe even working on the same projects.

And if an AID volunteer team can include some covert operators who can act young and enthusiastic, presumably new-org’s teams can too.


The AID is actually saying “You can have ‘development assistance’ without having to make political reforms or account for where the money goes. Vote with the LRA!”

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Is this going to become a book or something?
It’s good.

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The “scorecard” in post #2 is an extract from the brief player’s introduction to my perennial SFRPG setting. Just at present I am working on a book of descriptions of the societies on a selection of inhabited planets from that setting, which has the working title Forty Exotic Worlds and might be done by the end of March, Deo volunt.

When that is done the next thing I have slated is The Rogue Effectives’ Handbook, which ought to be about playing and GMing RPGs in which the PCs make up a team of special operators working for an NGO (or freelance) in Flat Black. My plan at the moment is that the Rogue Effective’s Handbook should contain perhaps twenty-five one-page descriptions of NGOs (not all of them non-profits) that PCs might work for — or against.

And then after that maybe a book of outfit and equipment, maybe The Imperial Servants’ Handbook, or maybe Another Forty Exotic Worlds.

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