Collaboration, the Holy Grail?

As many are aware,  in social enterprise, alongside start up funding,  collaboration and market awareness are perhaps the scarcest of resources.

Seemingly none of our customers know or are even aware of what we do.  Most are corporations, some even sponsor social enterprise and at the same time have failed to pay our invoices.

The social enterprise support organisation,  SEUK and the APPG on social enterprise both have policies to ‘showcase’ social enterprise and irrespective of membership, all of us pay in taxes for these organisations to exist.  By and large, such support  has been a matter of  being referred on to another party, because one is ‘outside their current focus’

But what of social enterprise itself, where  with the notable exceptions of those like David Floyd,  most won’t engage in any way with their fellow travellers.  David’s interview this week with June O’Sullivan brought it home to me.

“not one of my 2,000 parents who comes in here every day even notices, cares or gives a damn about social enterprise”  said June.

If corporations don’t care, parents don’t care – then who does?

Last year, responding to the suggestion of David Mills,  editor of the Guardian social enterprise hub,  I’d offered an article as the basis for a Guardian blog .  It described how we began, with a paper proposing an alternative to capitalism, leading to our impact on childcare reform in Ukraine.  He was too busy, he said, when I followed it up.

Around six months  later, I read an article in the same  hub.  about creating a fairer economy. It asked whether the social enterprise movement  might re-shape capitalism.  As I responded, some had been and introduced both this and our work on childcare reform in Ukraine,  proposing  a franchise model for impact investment. Take note of what is says about lack of collaboration from Unicef and The British Council who are both sponsor of Guardian hubs.

That the author was neither aware of this,  or cares to respond is testament to what social enterprise has become, for those who have the privilege of a public pulpit.  If  June O’Sullivan doesn’t care, what can she expect from others?

Though she may not have been aware of this focus on an alternate paradigm, the Guardian editor certainly had been. So why was it published, in the knowledge of such inaccuracy?  From my experience, they have editorial control and responsibility.

My article on changing capitalism and other papers were also sent to Jo Confino, editor of the sustainable  business hub.  He, Iain Cheshire  and others have been,  in contradiction of Henry Ford, building a reputation on what they’re going to do.

Jo, who considers himself as a ‘thought leader’ is at his self-stroking best when writing  on spirituality in values led business of  the “loneliness and disconnection” we experience . As if  unaware of what I’ve described of our own work, on the ethics a sharing and people-centered economy

Though myself agnostic, I quote the spiritual leader od the Catholic Church from Caritas in Veritate:

“Striving to meet the deepest moral needs of the person also has important and beneficial repercussions at the level of economics. The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly — not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred. .”

I remember when my deceased colleague wrote to of his visit to one of the institutions he’d described in his article on Death Camps, for Children. He said, of children who developed nutritional disorders and began to fade away – “It’s as if in the loneliness and misery of their existence, they stare into the abyss and simply decide that they don’t want to be here any longer”

He died alone and in poverty far from home. His appeal to his own government for collaboration, dismissed.  Yet to the end focussed only on these children, as a local civic leader and friend reveals.

GSB editors really didn’t like it at all when I challenged the thinking of Mark Kramer , who claimed corporations could profit from solving social problems.  I described our own work which proposed profit should be used for addressing this particular childcare problem and had been censored for it.

The censorship extends even to the discussion group on Linked where the same subject came up recently . As the only participant who’s taken an alternative to capitalism and applied to a business, on might imagine I have some right to comment. This sadly,  is not the case.

When, finally mainstream journalism tuned into the issue we’d been raising it came from the Sunday Times, along with their own agenda, since one of the journalist has links with UK Conservatives, their article concluded.

“If by our deliberate blindness, children are allowed to suffer such depravities then, by our inaction, we are all guilty.”

That pretty well sums up all those who’ve obstructed, maligned and censored our efforts to leverage change for these, the most vulnerable of children.

Though admittedly a small business, we’re the first to set out with a proposal for an alternative to capitalism, and yet in elite gatherings talking the walk of  ‘Capitalism with a Conscience’ seems to be the order of the day.

We’d caught the EU at it, when I challenged Commissioner Michel Barnier though my MEP.  Their social business consultation bearing an incredible resemblance to an earlier contribution, which they’ve since removed from the web but not the archives. Though he admitted “many similarities” between our work and what the consultation explored. I’m not holding my breath, for his offer of future collaboration. He is after all, a career politician.

Regrettably from around 2002, it became necessary to defend our work from the unscrupulous by copyright.  Most of all 5 years ago, when face by the clear and present danger of it being hijacked by a ‘ reputed mob boss’ in Ukraine.  We’d not anticipated ‘friendly fire from those we sought support from, which include both UK and US government organisations. Illustrating once more that we pay tax to support those who obstruct us,

Among those opining on Conscious Capitalism is Tim West, editor of Social Enterprise Magazine which also blocks my comments online.  Last year they’d asked for a social report for the SE 100 index.

In my social report, I’d said  “the overall theme was one of a new approach to capitalism in which profit would be invested for social as well a financial return”. No surprise now that  it wasn’t published or that the business of which Tim West has since become director, offers no response to my introduction

Can it be any surprise that  collaboration is so rare in social enterprise when those in such prominent media roles, put so much effort into keeping practitioners out of the disccusion by means or censorship.  We must be treading on their ambitions to be considered thought leaders.

So we shall, if as a consequence others are brushed aside and perish  Here are some thoughts which seem a more distant hope than ever, left behind by one who walked the talk:

‘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.’

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