Questions for Social Enterprise UK
This month in London a conference will discuss the matter of balancing profit with purpose and I noted that Beyond Good Business bore a strong resemblance to our own arguments for business which puts people over profit maximisation.
It’s time to ask why Social Enterprise UK were so reluctant to support it.
In 2004, it was with a business plan to tackle poverty that we introduced our profit-for-purpose business model to the UK and the DTI confirmed that it qualified to be described as a social enterprise. We argued:
‘Dealing with poverty is nothing new. The question became ‘how does poverty still exist in a world with sufficient resources for a decent quality of life for everyone?’ The answer was that we have yet to develop any economic system capable redistributing finite resources in a way that everyone has at minimum enough for a decent life: food, decent housing, transportation, clothing, health care, and education. The problem has not been lack of resources, but adequate distribution of resources. Capitalism is the most powerful economic engine ever devised, yet it came up short with its classical, inherent profit-motive as being presumed to be the driving force. Under that presumption, all is good in the name of profit became the prevailing winds of international economies — thereby giving carte blanche to the notion that greed is good because it is what has driven capitalism. The 1996 paper merely took exception with the assumption that personal profit, greed, and the desire to amass as much money and property on a personal level as possible are inherent and therefore necessary aspects of any capitalist endeavour. While it is in fact very normal for that to be the case, it simply does not follow that it must be the case.’
After a year of being turned away by support organisations, I wrote to the chair of the Social Enterprise Coalition, Baroness Thornton. 13 years later, I have yet to receive a reply.
Redirecting our focus toward Eastern Europe, in 2006 we began researching a social enterprise development proposal described as a ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine. Working alongside local civic activists, we’d stumble on what had been described as a ‘death camps’, psychoneurological internats — institutional childcare facilities where those deemed imperfect were a source of profit.
In 2006 we joined the Social Enterprise Coalition introducing A ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine. We were told that our work was beyond their focus.
In 2008, we appealed to USAID and the Senate FRC for support describing the extent of corruption:
‘Whether by intent or default, rural PN facilities have become money farms and money laundries having almost nothing to do with child care. Kids are thrown in at age 4, often with barbaric and draconian misdiagnoses, and essentially left to die from neglect. They are not there for medical help. They are there to justify government budget expenditures out into the middle of nowhere in places most people haven’t reason to know about and thus no reason to ask or care about. When folks do know about it, they almost without exception do not dare to speak openly about it. These facilities have been extremely difficult to research. University professors, social protection officers, pediatricians, judges, lawyers, doctors and ordinary citizens who have some knowledge of PNs all understand full well that PNs are hands-off and people do NOT ask questions about them.’
Later in 2008, the ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine was submitted to the EU Citizens Consultation. I quoted from the proposal which had been published a year earlier in For UA magazine.
‘The most urgent component of the project below is relief and modern medical treatment for tens of thousands of Ukraine’s children diagnosed as psychoneurologically handicapped. Many have died in state care, in primitive and inhumane conditions. Many are misdiagnosed, and end up in atrocious conditions. Following intense publicity and public discussion of the issue during final preparation of this project, Ukraine’s government agreed on 5 March, 2007 to open more than 400 new treatment facilities for these children all over Ukraine. That commitment from Ukraine’s government was a major step forward, clearly demonstrating Ukraine’s willingness and ability to take initiative in childcare reform first and foremost.’
In 2009, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson would tell a social enterprise summit that his department were helping firms to help others. As it turned out he was offering a lot more help to Ukraine’s oligarchs with an EU access agreement that would trigger violent uprising.
In 2010, a fellow traveller, Martin Murphy alterted me to the news that the British Council was partnering with USAID and PwC in a social enterprise development plan for Ukraine. They were soliticiting partners , so we shared our proposal and heard nothing. Founder Terry Hallman called on PwC to respect our IP.
In 2011, Terry Hallman’s death was reported by Maidan leaders. It met with silence when shared with the social enterprise community.
Later, in an online conversation with David Floyd, Nick Temple, deputy director of Social Enterprise UK, sniped “There’s a lot of criticism online about your work in Ukraine”. When challenged to explain he blocked me on social media and now opines on inclusion.
The British Council/USAID project was a soft channel operation, bringing on board Ukraine’s oligarchs. The ‘Death Camps, for Children’ article had named them:
“Excuses won’t work, particularly in light of a handful of oligarchs in Ukraine having been allowed to loot Ukraine’s economy for tens of billions of dollars. I point specifically to Akhmetov, Pinchuk, Poroshenko, and Kuchma, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list. These people can single-handedly finance 100% of all that will ever be needed to save Ukraine’s orphans. None of them evidently bother to think past their bank accounts, and seem to have at least tacit blessings at this point from the new regime to keep their loot while no one wants to consider Ukraine’s death camps, and the widespread poverty that produced them..”
It would take a letter from my MP to persuade Martin Davidson of the British Council to inform us that their partners “are expected to make a financial contribution”. That isn’t declared in any of their solicitations.
Though CEO Peter Holbrook wasn’t at the helm when we introduced the ‘Marshall Plan’ he did join the expert panel of the EU Social Business consultation. MEP Sir Graham Watson agreed that this initiative plagiarised my submission for the EU Business Consultation and conveyed my complaint to Commissioner Michel Barnier.
As violence erupted in 2014, civil activists were calling on the EU for support. Their appeal included a ‘Marshall Plan’ for sustainable economic revival. I forwarded to MEPs
Michel Barnier is VP of the European People’s Party, who are now developing their own ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine
Meanwhile Lord Mandelson is ‘helping firms to help others’ by joining another ‘Marshall Plan’ conceived by oligarch Dmtri Firtash, as a “get out of jail” card.
“Dirty money from the East has become a resource for dozens of European structures and politicians. Sergii Leshchenko reports on some of those that are only too happy to open their doors to a Ukrainian oligarch willing to invest millions in cleaning up his image. “
Writing for International Business Times, Lord Adebowale laments that ‘too many companies are putting profit before principle’. That’s a point we made 20 years ago.
As chair of Social Enterprise UK , you’d imagine he was in a position to encourage those that don’t, but he won’t. Even with support of government funding and the fees of members who get brushed aside. It beggars belief that they accept awards, while leaving us hanging, to die in the trenches.
The good news is that outside of this self-serving cabal, there are those who do want to put principle and people before profit. The list includes the Vatican, UN General Assembly, Coops Europe, Fair Trade International and Blueprint for Business.
We put it like this when we called for their support 13 years ago:
“Traditional capitalism is an insufficient economic model allowing monetary outcomes as the bottom line with little regard to social needs. Bottom line must be taken one step further by at least some companies, past profit, to people. How profits are used is equally as important as creation of profits. Where profits can be brought to bear by willing individuals and companies to social benefit, so much the better. Moreover, this activity must be recognized and supported at government policy level as a badly needed, essential, and entirely legitimate enterprise activity.”