In that, I know I’m far from unique, yet it happened at a time when I was trying to help a colleague who was seriously ill. He was an American without health insurance.
The Novartis drug Glevec had been my salvation though the cost of it far exceeded my income. For my American friend the prognosis was fatal.
When he died, he’d been considered something of a hero, in his efforts to help others.
“The author of breakthru report “Death camps for children” Terry Hallman suddenly died of grave disease on Aug 18 2011. On his death bed he was speaking only of his mission — rescuing of these unlucky kids. His dream was to get them new homes filled with care and love. His quest would be continued as he wished.”
Interviewed a year earlier he’d described his efforts in social enterprise to leverage social investment:
“The funds will be directed to concluding a project in the Ukraine which involves funding the training of residents to develop social businesses. Included in this work is supporting children who have disabilities, many of whom have been left to die in secretive locations. P-CED is helping to move these children to safety and give them access to modern healthcare.”
Among those I’d approached seeking collaboration were Virgin Unite, who’d been soliciting project ideas. I reminded them of their founder’s words some weeks earlier at the Davos Ukrainian lunch, hosted by oligarch Viktor Pinchuk, that “business should focus more on solving social problems”
That same year, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson proclaimed that his department were helping firms who help others. He and Tony Blair ended up helping Ukraine’s oligarchs.
In 2007, we’d delivered a ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine, which described how this could be done on a national scale. It argued precisely what Richard Branson was advocating.
“Business enterprise, capitalism, must be measured in terms of monetary profit. That rule is not arguable. A business enterprise must make monetary profit, or it will merely cease to exist. That is an absolute requirement. But it does not follow that this must necessarily be the final bottom line and the sole aim of the enterprise. How this profit is used is another question. It is commonly assumed that profit will enrich enterprise owners and investors, which in turn gives them incentive to participate financially in the enterprise to start with. That, however, is not the only possible outcome for use of profits. Profits can be directly applied to help resolve a broad range of social problems: poverty relief, improving childcare, seeding scientific research for nationwide economic advancement, improving communications infrastructure and accessibility, for examples — the target objectives of this particular project plan. The same financial discipline required of any conventional for-profit business can be applied to projects with the primary aim of improving socioeconomic conditions. Profitability provides money needed to be self-sustaining for the purpose of achieving social and economic objectives such as benefit of a nation’s poorest, neediest people. In which case, the enterprise is a social enterprise.”
That wasn’t the only coincidence. With Paul Polman of Unilever and others Branson soon started showing an extraordinary interest in Ukraine, but it fell far short of our primary focus, the vulnerable and voiceless chidren in institutional “care”. Paul Polman overlooked that the new business model he envisioned already existed.
Branson sat alongside Bill Gates, Muhammad Yunus and Tony Blair at Davos 2014 to discuss whether capitalism could deliver both financial and social returns. Tony Blair , the PM who’d made social enterprise government policy, chaired the meeting
Now ask yourself this. Do you want an NHS with free access to treatment at the point of delivery or something privatised by Richard Branson?
While you think about that, here’s how my dead colleague saw it:
The term “social enterprise” in the various but similar forms in which it is being used today — 2008 — refers to enterprises created specifically to help those people that traditional capitalism and for profit enterprise don’t address for the simple reason that poor or insufficiently affluent people haven’t enough money to be of concern or interest. Put another way, social enterprise aims specifically to help and assist people who fall through the cracks. Allowing that some people do not matter, as things are turning out, allows that other people do not matter and those cracks are widening to swallow up more and more people. Social enterprise is the first concerted effort in the Information Age to at least attempt to rectify that problem, if only because letting it get worse and worse threatens more and more of us. Growing numbers of people are coming to understand that “them” might equal “me.” Call it compassion, or call it enlightened and increasingly impassioned self-interest. Either way, we are all in this together, and we will each have to decide for ourselves what it means to ignore someone to death, or not.