I am reading Jon Krakauer’s, Three Cups of Deceit (free download for 72 hours) about the alleged controversy surrounding Greg Mortenson. The real test in my mind is what would one do if this was your cause in the media’s cross-hairs. Here is my playbook.
- Apologize to your readers, fans, staff, volunteers, students, teachers. Take responsibility for the whirlwind of attention that is currently distracting the public from focusing on the cause.
- Offer to be interviewed by 60 Minutes or an equivalent national media platform. Acknowledge discrepancies and take responsibility where misstatements exist and offer to address them by a specific deadline (see number 5).
- Resign from the Central Asia Institute (CAI). Ask the board and staff to submit and cooperate with a professional audit of the programs, financials, fundraising, and governance of the enterprise. Hire well respected professionals to perform audits. Greg should offer to fund these costs so they are not incurred by the organization.
- Effectively immediately, assign a significant percentage of the profits from Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools to benefit the Central Asia Institute (one can argue this should have been the arrangement from the time the first book was published). No longer make the CAI purchase copies of the book for further distribution or sale.
- Make a personal call to the US Military, Jon Krakauer, international educators, and individuals who resigned from the board and staff to verify the importance of the work that the Central Asia Institute performs. Allow them to honestly state their disagreements with how the Central Asia Institute was run. Jon Krakauer acknowledged the importance of the CAI’s work during his 60 Minute interview. The cause should not suffer due to the misdeeds of its founder.
- Consistent and constant communication about the actions being taken to verify the use of funds and resources. Studies have shown it takes 18-24 months to regain public trust after a scandal. Thoughtful and authentic strategies can condense this timeline but only if transparency exists.
I wish the Central Asia Institute much success but worry when I see these statements released.
Update: Here is the link to an interview Greg Mortenson did with Outside Magazine this week. He clarifies some misstatements but stands by other narratives that are disputed by 60 Minutes and Krakauer’s book. Take a moment to read the comments at the end of the article. There are some HUGE fans of Greg’s work and then some individuals that are devastated. The controversy is now becoming the purpose of Greg’s work and no longer the change he was trying to manifest.