A new focus at Esmee Fairbairn
Responding yesterday to David Floyd’s critique of social investment I was reminded that it was this foundation who funded the Alternative Commission on Social Investment.
I know those involved fairly well online, even meeting Dan Gregory in person.
What I described to David was our argument for investing in childcare reform, quoting from our ‘Marshall Plan’ proposal for Ukraine:
“In this case, for the project now being proposed, it is constructed precisely along these lines. Childcare reform as outlined above will pay for itself in reduced costs to the state. It will need investment for about five years in order to cover the cost of running two programs in parallel: the existing, extremely problematic state childcare scheme, and the new program needed to replace it for the purpose of giving children a decent life. The old program will be phased out as the new program is phased in. After this phase transition is complete, the state will from that time forward pay out less money for state childcare. Children will have a better life, and will be more likely to become healthy, productive assets to the nation rather than liabilities with diminished human development, diminished education, and the message that they are not important — the basis for serious trouble. There is no need whatsoever to give these children less than a good quality of life as they grow and mature. The only problem is reorganization of existing resources.”
Today I discover that children leaving care is the new focus of the foundation. The focus that was beyond the focus of Social Enterprise UK in 2006.
The ‘Marshall Plan’ related how a vicious cycle of poverty plagued the childcare system of Ukraine. Something I emphasised to the EU Citizens Consultation in 2008:
‘We see a staggering array of social problems arising directly from poverty, including but not limited to tens of thousands of children in orphanages or other state care; crime; disrespect for civil government because government cannot be felt or seen as civil for anyone left to suffer in poverty; young people prostituting themselves on the street; drug abuse to alleviate the aches and pains of the suffering that arises from poverty and misery; HIV/AIDS spreading like a plague amidst prostitution, unprotected sex, and drug abuse; more children being born into this mix and ending up in state care at further cost to the state; criminals coming from poverty backgrounds, ending up as bandits, returning to communities after prison, with few options except further criminal activity. These are all part and parcel of the vicious negative cycle of poverty, and this threatens to destroy Ukraine, if Ukraine is defined in terms of people rather than mere geographic boundaries.’
The new focus at Esmee Fairbairn was the primary focus of our work as a business which puts people over shareholder value, the New Bottom Line.
‘This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for “people-centered” economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority — as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether. This is in keeping with the fundamental objectives of Marshall Plan: policy aimed at hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. This is a bottom-up approach, starting with Ukraine’s poorest and most desperate citizens, rather than a “top-down” approach that might not ever benefit them. They cannot wait, particularly children. Impedance by anyone or any group of people constitutes precisely what the original Marshall Plan was dedicated to opposing. Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first — not secondarily, along the way or by the way. ‘
I was struck by this comment from the commission report last year:
“There is a real feeling that the social investment community isn’t listening to the people on the front line… There’s a growing resentment, and a feeling that the social investment world is a London thing, with London-based intermediaries. There’s a feeling it’s a lot of people in London with clever ideas who are talking to each other.” — Jonathan Jenkins, chief executive, Social Investment Business, quoted in Civil Society — 03/06/14
I know that Jonathan Jenkins certainly didn’t want to talk to us.
From my perspective in the trenches, not talking to each other is the greater problem. Otherwise Esmee Fairbairn might know of our efforts in social investment and childcare reform.
As I describe in part to David, its a recurrent experience, being “beyond our focus”, “not aligned with our mission” and “not invested here” which impedes us.
We have no shortage of social enterprise support organisations who shirk the task they’ve been publicly funded for — supporting social enterprise practitioners, while trading in their own opinions.