So often we think of philanthropy as an individual endeavor. Often, but increasingly less so, as something undertaken by the well-to-do and uber-wealthy. Innovation is churning within the philanthropic establishments and creating exiting new ways and means for us to effectively distribute resources where they are needed most.

But what about international states? They too act as unique entities on the philanthropic global stage though admittedly on a different scale. But they too desperately need a new way and means to distribute resources.

What got me thinking about this was this post about a recent OECD report that summarizes recent foreign aid trends amongst the 22 richest countries. Basically, despite the brouhaha Bono and Angelina bring to this work, behind closed doors government officials are scaling back their global philanthropic activities (aka foreign aid).

Dean, from the posted linked above, was on to something when he pointed out the arbitrariness of the 0.7% GNI standard for foreign aid contributors. He says that the amount should be based on “some combination of needs and capabilities to use the money” rather than a UN standard created decades ago .

I’m certainly no expert on foreign aid or it’s technicalities of distribution, but it is rather obvious that the current system is not adequately meeting needs. So what if we push into Dean’s thought further? What if, say, countries have to organize themselves enough to say what they need, how much, for how long and why and really, truly stick to it? What if they are required to state how they intend to play a part in solving the issue they require money for and are held to that, at the cost of future aid?

Admittedly, this reeks a bit of sanctions and unfair in many lights – itself very flawed. But what if we, as intelligent citizens, went with this idea as a thought experiment and wrought its inner workings? What can we take from the innovations within the domestic philanthropy sector? Would any of the ideas provide a pathway out of the current quagmire of ineffective foreign aid?

The questions continue and I can’t help but draw parallels and direct connections between individual philanthropy and foreign aid. But simple answers just no longer work anymore (and that’s all I seem capable of coming up with) and I am left dumbfounded in the wake of this recent downturn in global citizenship.

For too long now we, the public, have understood that there is something broken in this system beyond the amount that our state is giving. And people continually shock and amaze me with their ingenuity and innovation in the private and nonprofit sectors. So why a more open public is not called on to help innovate this area and help it break free of itself is really beyond me.

For now, keep your donations up at Kiva and your favorite nonprofit overseas…they need you more than ever.