TEFL Equity Advocates: a conflict of interests

Every day on Twitter there are inspirational advertisements for the TEFL Equity Advocates.

They invite everybody to join in the fight against the discimination of NNESTs.

When you go the TEFL Equity Advocates web site, you see promotional stuff about training courses that Kiczkowiak runs or supervises if you click on the WEBINARS and TEFL EQUITY ACADEMY options on the home page.

The just cause to stamp out discrimination against NNESTs should, in my opinion, be rigidly separated from Kiczkowiak’s attempts to sell his own stuff.

42 thoughts on “TEFL Equity Advocates: a conflict of interests

  1. I think they’re pretty well separated. They both have two different websites. On http://www.teflequityadvocates.com there’s almost zero mention of the courses,so I think your criticism is unfair. I don’t think visitors to TEFL Equity Advocates see promotional materials for the courses.
    It’s true I share them on Twitter and FB together with TEFL Equity Advocates posts, but having separate social accounts just for TEFL Equity Academy courses would not be physically manageable. There are only so many hours in a day 😉
    TEFL Equity Advocates continues to be completely free and all the content published there is free. I also avoid publishing anything to do with TEFL Equity Academy there to try to keep the two as separate as possible.
    There’s also a lot of free content on the Academy, such as webinars, blog posts and pdf guides.
    By the way, just out of curiosity, why do you think that the two ventures shouldn’t be combined?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You say “I think they’re pretty well separated”. They are not. There are various links to your courses on the TEFL Equity Advocates web site, for example the Webinars and Lessons Plans menus where your courses are advertised.

      You say “there’s almost zero mention of the courses”. False: there is a lot of mention of them.

      You say “I don’t think visitors to TEFL Equity Advocates see promotional materials for the courses”. They do if they hit the right menus.

      You say “I share them on Twitter and FB together with TEFL Equity Advocates posts, but having separate social accounts just for TEFL Equity Academy courses would not be physically manageable. There are only so many hours in a day.” I leave others to judge this excuse for using the NNEST cause to promote your own private commercial interests.

      You say “TEFL Equity Advocates continues to be completely free and all the content published there is free”. That doesn’t excuse using it to advertise your own products.

      You ask “By the way, just out of curiosity, why do you think that the two ventures shouldn’t be combined?” Why do I think that the venture of fighting against NNEST discrimination shouldn’t be combined with the promotion of your own private commercial ELT training courses? Go figure.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Geoff – it would be great if you could at least get the facts straight and stop misleading the readers of your blog. First, the courses aren’t advertised in Webinars or Lesson Plans. The former takes you to a completely free webinar people can sign up for. The latter has no link to TEFL Equity Academy. The one direct link to the courses in the menu is the TEFL Equity Academy, which is pretty self-explanatory and visitors can choose or choose not to click on it. They’re certainly not encouraged to do so. So yes, there’s pretty much zero mention of the courses, not a lot as you suggest. If you take a look at all the posts and links on TEFL Equity Advocates, you’ll quickly realise that the few links there are to TEFL Equity Academy easily make up much less than 1% of these. I’d also say the one direct link in the menu is pretty unobtrusive. My stats show that on average 1-2% of the visitors click on it daily. If I wanted to use TEFL Equity Advocates to promote the courses and drive all the traffic there, this percentage would be much higher than this.. So, you might not like the fact that I run online courses. That’s fine. But please do get your facts straight before writing the next post. This one is unfair and misleading.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The courses you charge for are advertised in various places on the TEFL Advocates web site. The TEFL Equity Academy should, in my opinion not be part of a web site devoted to fighting a cause. You also advertise your own courses on Tweets with the TEFL Equity Advocacy brand name and on Facebook.

        The Free webinar is promotional.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Various places such as? I think I’ve already explained above how much linking to TEFL Equity Academy there is on TEFL Equity Advocates, but feel free to ignore this and continue misleading the readers.
        When it comes to the Twitter and Facebook accounts, they’re connected both to TEFL Equity Advocates and Academy. In fact, that’s the name of the FB account, but perhaps you didn’t notice.
        It would not be physically possible to have yet another social media account for the courses. There are only so many hours in a day. Also, as I explained below, I see TEFL Equity Academy as a part and an extension of TEFL Equity Advocates,so it’s just logical that I would use the same social media accounts. Many of the people who follow me there are interested in the courses, and the response from the followers has been very positive so far.
        By the way, are you going to give any reasons why you believe TEFL Equity Advocates and Academy should be completely separate, or will you keep us guessing? I thought this blog was devoted to a critical academic debate rather than superfluous claims with no explanation

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  2. Dear Geoff,

    Ok, I’ll bite. Marek (have you two ever met, by the way?) really believes in this project (as far as I can tell from the times – two, I beleive – I’ve met him) and invests his time and effort in it. He makes no secret of this.

    You also make no secret of being involved on an educational project and invest your time and effort in it, but you have different levels of financial commitment and therefore risk in the game (for comparision, he – Marek – runs a website with its own domain name, which costs money and yours, as a matter of general interest when it comes to financial incentive, does not. He shows interested readers where they may find him to take ideas further. So you do, as a matter of fact (see https://criticalelt.wordpress.com/about-us/, retrieved 2017.11.04a at 20.01hrs CET – “Since 2004, I’ve worked freelance, doing English immersion courses at home, working with post-doctoral students at the Universitat Politecnica de Barcelona and as an associate tutor in the Distance Learning MA in AL and TESOL pogramme at Leicester University.”)

    He does not employ people (nor, do I suggest, do you!). He charges – lat time I looked – $9,- for access to a course online that will – with all the good will in the world – almost certainy not repay his investment in time or effort in any time soon.

    He points towards a clear issue – that people who enter the profession having won the lottery of birth have widely accepted status in the “profession” (read: employability) that their competence does not justify, other things not being equal because people do not think like economists. He is right to point this out. Your (correct) argument with him that there is a measurable distinction between nativespeaker-like and nonnativespeaker-like competence and performance in general is irrelevant to the professional Rawlsian Justice as fairness argument of this.

    The guy gets to travel from somewhere in Poland or the UK to somewhere on continental Europe and (if he’s lucky) get his fares paid) and (if he’s really lucky) get a couple of hundred Euro for his lost three days for his trouble, and you think he’s milking the cash cow and perverting the course of justice? Come on!

    I like your thinking, Geoff, and I like your style, but seriously, unless you are going to put up a more robust case than you have here I really have to say you are not really thinking through to your usual standard.

    Unless, that is, you were just trolling and wanted to catch a reader slightly in his cups. which you have, in my case. Or have I missed something here, which I have just given you the chance to expand on? (and if so, you’re welcome, and I look forward to the rejoinder 😉

    Cheers,
    Anthony

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Anthony,

      Thanks very much for your comments.

      The case is a simple one, and it has nothing to do with arguments about native speakerism, or anything else you mention.

      The case is this: Kiczkowiak is using advocacy of NNESTs to promote his own private commercial interests. He shouldn’t. That’s all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Anthony,

        If Nick is promoting his own private commercial courses on the Hands Up project web site then yes, I do have the same issues with it.

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      2. Hi Geoff,

        Nick gets his work funded indirectly by virtue of his decision to establish the project as a charity. This allows organisations to sponsor the work, and this sponsorship allows Nick financially to do what he does.

        So is the fact that the charitable status of the Hands Up project allows sponsorship income to fund Nick’s work and donations to fund other aspects of the work OK , whereas Marek not establishing himself as a charity but instead offering services which generate income that he funnels into the project isn’t OK?

        If Marek established the project as a charity, got an organisation to sponsor it and thereby gain income to cover his costs attached to doing the work would be acceptable?

        Is it purely the direct commercial route Marek is taking to funding his work all you object to, and not that he is seeking income to fund his work generally that you object to?

        Sorry to keep asking questions, I understand that you object to how Marek is funding his work, but I’m not clear on why.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hi Anthony,

        If Nick uses sponsorship to finance his work for the charity, that’s fine, as long as there’s a proper contact that anybody donating money can see, and as long as he’s not lining his own pockets with money donated.

        If Marek were to set up a charity, the same would apply. But he’s using the TEFL Equity Advocates brand to promote his own commercial, teacher training courses and he’s free to do what he likes with the money he makes from those courses. Whether or not he uses some of that money to finance his cause is not the point: it’s still unfair practice, in my opinion. He should call his academy the Marek Kiczkowiak Academy or something, and he should advertise his courses separately.

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      4. I’d appreciate if you checked facts before you write something, Geoff. Just so you know, I asked Scott specifically whether he’d endorse TEFL Equity Academy courses. He was happy to do this and wrote a testimonial for a specific course, different from his previous endorsement of TEFL Equity Advocates. The fact that he mentioned my advocacy work was entirely up to him.

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      5. My aplogies; I was confused by the fact that he mentioned the TEFL Equity Advocates work, not your courses. I’ll delete the comment.

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      6. He did mention the courses too “innovative way he applies research into ELF”. But this probably didn’t fit your overall narrative, did it? Please don’t delete the comment. At least people can see where we disagree.

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      7. I’m sure it was. Not the first one. You’re kind of fond of saying things, then editing them, or deleting a post all together when someone points out the mistake. I just think that you could be more careful before you write something. I remember a very similar situation when we had our little back and forth about the ‘native speaker’. And I’ve seen this happen on other occasions on your blog. In short, you know how to rub people the wrong way.

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      8. I don’t delberately rub people up the wrong way, and I’m not fond of saying things that I have to rectify / delete, when they turn out to be mistaken, but I recognise that I make mistakes, sometimes because I’m too quick to publish posts. Again, I apologise for the remark about Scott’s endorsement.

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    2. Thanks for your comment, Anthony. You explained it better than I would have 🙂
      I’d only add that indeed the costs of running TEFL Equity Advocates have been steadily rising. So far I’ve paid for everything from my own pocket and have also received help from others. There’s also the huge time investment that’s involved. It’s much more demanding than running a blog. It’s practically turned into a full time (unpaid) job.
      Of course, there are different ways in which I could try raising the funds to continue running TEFL Equity Advocates. I’ve decided that running online courses is a good possible way of doing this. They are closely linked to the issue of native speakerism, and from the feedback I’ve received from the teachers who’ve enrolled, they seem to help them overcome the ‘native speaker’ bias in ELT.
      Also, as Anthony pointed out, some of the courses are either very cheap, or free (e.g. webinars, pdf guides). This I think shows to anyone who keeps his mind open that my main concern is not making lots of money out of the discrimination ‘non-native speakers’ suffer from.
      In addition, Geoff, you have no idea either whether I’m actually making a profit, nor how I might be using the money earned through the courses. Has it ever occurred to you that I might actually spend it on further advocating equal opportunities via TEFL Equity Advocates? For example, I’ve recently decided to invest in opening a job board, which is completely free to advertise on and to apply for jobs.
      And do you honestly believe that my main goal with TEFL Equity Advocates is to promote my private commercial interests, Geoff? That would be a ridiculous claim to make. Much below the standards of the academic criticism that you typically engage in on this site. Much more akin to making superfluous claims or to trolling.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve no idea whether you’re making a profit, and I didn’t say or imply that your main goal with the TEFL Advocates is to promote your private commercial interests. I said that in my opinion you should not promote your own courses on the TEFL Advocates web site, which you do.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nope, I don’t. As I said above, I don’t promote them there. Having one link in the menu is different from promoting.
        By the way, would you care to explain why you feel so strongly about this, or should we continue guessing?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Sorry, but there are parts of the TEFL Equity Advocates web site that promote your own commercial courses. They might not be plastered all over the place, or the focus of the web site, or whatever. But they are present, as they are on are tweets and on Facebook.

        Why do I have to explain why I “feel so strongly about this”? I don’t feel strongly about it, I think it’s a conflict of interests, and simply wrong for you to use the very strong TEFL Equity Advocates brand to sell your own stuff.

        And by the way, I think it’s wrong for you to suggest that I’m trolling, if trolling is speading lies and insults anonymously.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. So perhaps you’d care to explain why you think it’s wrong, or should we continue guessing? You haven’t really given any arguments to support your opinion. And there seem to be a few people disagreeing with it, who have clearly explained their reasons, so it might be helpful if you did so as well. Otherwise, I don’t see much point in discussing this further.
        Fair play. I’m not sure trolling has to be anonymous. How about misleading the readers rather than trolling? That’s perhaps closer to the reality.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I think it’s wrong for you to use the TEFL Equity Advocates brand to promote your own teacher training courses because the former is a just cause and the latter is a private money making venture. There is the potential for you to take advantage of people’s interest in the just cause in such a way that your private training courses benefit. Note I say “the potential”. I’m not accusing you of anything, except perhaps poor judgement.

        I’m not misleading people. I limit myself to saying that pages promoting your private teacher training courses appear on the Tefl Equity Advocates website and that you use the TEFL Equity Advocates logo to promote your courses on Twitter and Facebook.

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  3. I don’t feel that there’s too much promotion on the site. I just looked at it again and found that most of the promo stuff is under the ‘tefl equity academy tab’, so it’s not plastered all over the site or anything. The courses on offer through the academy seem mostly relevant to the cause anyway. I’ve only interacted with Marek on social media but he seems to know his stuff on topics like ELF – I don’t begrudge someone making a few bucks in return for sharing their expertise. I wouldn’t say the TEA draws much attention to the training Marek is offering, which is a shame as it looks like some courses might promote more interest than they would be a conflict.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Peter,

    The courses are offered through different pages, not just one. A free webinar is obviously promotional.

    My only point is that Kiczkowiak should not use the powerful brand name of TEFL Equity Advocates on the web page, on Facebook, and in tweete to promote his own private commercial interests.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. In business, the issue of a conflict of interests is a common one. It arises when a person who has a public position in government or as head of a charity or non-profit making organisation also has personal interests which might benefit from his or her official actions or influence.

        In this case, your position as founder of TEFL Equity Advocacy clashes with your personal position as a teacher trainer who advertises his courses on line. There is the chance that the goodwill created by the non-profit making TEFL Equity Advocacy activities will benefit your personal commercial interests. The TEFL Equity Academy, which can be accessed directly from the TEFL Equity Advocacy website, is a private business venture. Even calling it The TEFL Equity Academy seems to me to be wrongly taking advantage of a strong brand name of a non-profit making organisation.

        How much would a teacher wanting to promote courses similar to the ones you offer have to pay to generate the amount of publicity and goodwill that you get from being associated with TEFL Equity Advocacy?

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      2. I can now see a bit better where you’re coming from. First, however, TEFL Equity Advocates is not a registered charity nor a non-profit organisation. It started as a blog and simply grew over the years to start featuring webinars, online courses and now also a job board. It’s never been a non-profit or a charity, unless you consider a free blog that’s doing advocacy work that.
        Second, the strong brand is there because I’ve developed it. It’s just natural that I’ll continue using it, especially for courses that are closely linked to native speakerism. So it’s a bit harsh to say I’m taking advantage of the brand. If you were to develop an online course and post something about it here, I don’t think anyone would claim you’re taking advantage of your brand. You’ve developed a strong brand for yourself on this blog.
        With regards to your last question, it would take a while. However, it’s also taken me a while to develop TEFL Equity Advocates brand and web presence. It’s not like I’m taking someone else’s brand and using it to my own advantage. Mind you, with hard work and posting quality content regularly, you’ll can develop a very strong online presence in just a few months. I don’t see anything wrong if then this teacher wants to use the brand they’ve created to offer a product that is related to the content of their blog.

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      3. You completely miss the point. You developed a brand to promote the cause of fighting discrimination against NNESTs. You’re now using that brand name to promote courses which you make money from.

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  5. For anyone reading this, please note that the pictures of the first two pictures of the courses Geoff put in the post are not on TEFL Equity Advocates website. TEFL Equity Academy has a separate website where all the courses live. The courses aren’t advertised on TEFL Equity Advocates website, and any links to them are kept to a bare minimum.
    It is true that the Twitter and FB accounts are linked, but that’s because the Academy is an integral part of TEFL Equity Advocates. Also, the FB account name clearly states that it represents both TEFL Equity Advocates and Academy. The Twitter account description also does this.
    I’d also point out that if you go through the feeds,you’ll see that there’s a balance between the posts shared from TEFL Equity Advocates and from the Academy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Methinks you do protest too much. Anyone who goes to the TEFL Equity Advocates website can find pages promoting your own private courses. You use The TEFL Equity Advocates brand to promote yourself and your courses. Period.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Hi Geoff and Marek!

    Like I wrote in my tweet, I think it is hard for anyone to separate cause and business. How can one against the coursebook and still write them? Or against standardized testing but still promote them? Or against 6-months teacher training while being a trainer? But that is not Marek’s case actually. He is offering a service to help NNSTs to improve their speaking skills and knowledge about Lingua Franca (if I recall correctly?). He certainly found a niche to develop his own business.

    When a friend of mine, who writes for Richmond, asked me if I wanted to write blog posts for them too, I was very clear about my position and the chance for writing for a publisher or do any work did not fit together. In fact, it would be hypocritical of me to accept that offer.

    Although I don’t like seeing cause and business being mixed together, I don’t think Marek really did see all the work he had put into TEAdv leading the way to TE academy. I mean I don’t believe that he intentionally created the need for his product or service. Things naturally happens. However, I don’t see with good eyes either the use of equity for both sites or any link between them. The word equity carries a very profound meaning and fits pretty well with the cause.

    I see nothing wrong for Marek offering his courses, as long as advocacy and academy are two very separate things, which are not at the moment. So, I do agree with Geoff that is a conflict of interest. But whose interest, we should ask!

    The truth is that social media and networking (connecting with ppl with the interest of marketing their products and services) are tools for business and people in ELT have discovered that. Someone in Twitter mentioned Smart product design. What does that imply? Say it blatantly or use jargon, facts are facts.

    I’d take Geoff’s post as a warning that mixing the two can harm the cause. I’m sure there are ppl out there who will be okay for Marek to get money out of the cause and others who won’t. I think Geoff’s point is valid.

    Ps. Posting a comment because Marek asked if other people had felt the same way. I actually did.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I second basically everything Rose wrote above. Probably not intentional, but I do think there is a conflict-of-interest (which is a matter of perception, not an accusation of wrongdoing).

    This seems like the sort of thing that could (just maybe, possibly?) be resolved (mitigated?) with a clearly stated, prominently placed disclaimer that the fees are either a) wholly used to fund/support TEAdvocates or b) private income for Marek and may be used for TEAdvocates or not. Or whatever the most accurate description is.

    Buyers should be able to find info about what their money is going toward. Whether it’s used (wholly, partially, not at all) for TEAdvocates should be made clear. Imo, this would go some way to lessening the conflict-of-interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment, Michael. Appreciate your thoughts. I don’t agree that there’s a conflict of interest. As I explained above, TEFL Equity Advocates has never officially been a nonprofit or a charity. It’s true that it has been built on promoting a good cause and trying to tackle native speakerism. In a way, it’s always offered a service in the form of a potential solution to the problem. This main aim hasn’t changed at all. What’s changed is that apart from all the free service TEFL Equity Advocates offers, there’s now also a paid one: online courses.
      This wasn’t my intention at the beginning. In other words, I did not develop TEFL Equity Advocates with the intention of selling a product. Otherwise, I would have done it a long time ago. This is simply the direction in which the product evolved.
      However, I do agree that clearing things up a bit is a good idea. Transparency is definitely the key. I think the readers and followers of TEFL Equity Advocates should know where the project is heading, what are the reasons for the Academy, etc. I’m actually working on a blog post where I’m going to address these issues, so stay tuned 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I believe it is very enterprising of Marek to pursue his interests and offer courses for other teachers. It is commendable and should not be discouraged. I am disappointed in this blog post and I hope that Geoff can recognise Marek offers a service (irrespective of brand or placement). A lot of good has been championed by Marek and I am pleased to have been part of his journey.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. “Since then, it has grown to now feature a regularly updated blog, a job board, and most recently on-line teacher training courses on TEFL Equity Academy. Similarly to the rest of TEFL Equity Advocates activities, the aim of the courses is to further raise awareness of the profound ‘native speaker’ bias in ELT, and to give teachers the tools to overcoming it.”

    Having recently discovered this blog, I am reading other threads to discover a bit more about the author. My speciality or maybe I ought to say expertise is analysing the differences between Emotional Realities and Factual Realities and on reading this thread I thought I would, as an observer, (you could apply quantum physics to this.) Check out the realities. The above quote is taken from the home page as displayed on my phone. As one can clearly see the Academy is mentioned, as a link, on the opening page. Hence Geoff’s premise that the Academy is being promoted directly by the Equity Advocacy website is undeniable, a Factual Reality. Which then begs the question, the motive behind it and herein lies all the emotional interpretations and conflict.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Russell. That’s actually a recent addition to the ‘About’ page, which I added after this post. This discussion has certainly made me think about how I should proceed, and I’ve decided that I neither want to, nor see a valid reason to separate the sites. It would also not be physically possible for me to manage both separate sites. I’m going to explain this and some other small changes in a blog post this weekend.
      The reason for the courses is stated in the quote you put in your comment. I see them as further extending TEFL Equity Advocates work, continuing to raise awareness of native speakerism, but focusing more on the bias within how we teach English and which English we teach. The courses also aim to offer practical solutions to the problem. It would be impossible to offer all this completely for free, unless you are comfortably well off and willing to work full-time and not be paid.
      I’ll further explain the reasons for the courses in the upcoming blog post, so stay tuned. Would definitely be interested to hear what you think.
      Best,
      Marek

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