Save the Children, in launching a campaign against UK poverty have been criticised for straying into overtly political territory, says the Telegraph:
Mr Forsyth, who advised Tony Blair during his time in No.10 and was latterly Gordon Brown’s communications director, insisted that poverty levels were worsening under the current Government.
“No child should see their parent going hungry or start the new term without a warm coat and with holes in their shoes,” he said. “Poverty is tearing families apart, with parents buckling under the pressure of mounting bills and children seeing their parents argue more about money.
“That’s why for the first time in our history we are launching a UK appeal. We need to help poor families survive the recession.”
As a critic of Big Society, it would be tempting to lay the blame on the coalition government It goes back further, to the government Justin Lewis were advising who’d made social enterprise government policy.
In 2003, P-CED founder Terry Hallman had been fasting for the US government to ratify the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. I wrote earlier of our interaction with US presidential candidate John Edwards and the foundation of the Center on Poverty Work and Opportunity in 2005. I invited him to work with me in the UK
In the proposal he wrote for the UK in 2004, he described how impoverished communities could be simulated through micro economic development to create new enterprises, having proven the concept over 5 years in Russia. Warning of this risk of uprisings he drew attention to the insufficiency of capitalism as an economic paradigm.
“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.”
Back in 1996, he’d presented his seminal paper on an alternative economic model to the White House It warned that money imagimeed into existence as debt would increasingly disenfranchised those least able to compete to the point that they could only respond with violence.
Within 4 years the failings of capitalism would be apparent to the rest of the world, in another 3 years the arrival of anticipated uprisings. Now it’s beginning to look like the situation he described in Russia when he wrote:
“There were also critical food shortages in the region, children living on the streets because they considered orphanages intolerable, women having to resort to prostitution to feed their children, and a near-total lack of new economic opportunities. Economic opportunities for women were routinely negotiated in bed, if at all.”
In 2006 much the same was reported in our national strategy plan for social enterprise, as introduced to Erste Bank, Grameen Creative Labs and three governments
“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.”
What few realised until after 2008 was that the problems in Russia and now the US and much of Western Europe had been set in motion some years earlier with the deregulation of markets and OTC derivative trading. We were creating money which had no tangible anchor, it would inevitably implode. From 2009, some of the more recent material on this issue was gathered for our study guide for students at the International Economics for Ecology conferences.
Social enterprise in the UK from the outset was about showcasiing. The word was used by Gordon Brown and is still used by the APPG on Social Enterprise and SE UK.
Rather than a broadly based strategy to tackle poverty by whoever felt compelled to act it was a a tightly controlled strategy of nominated ‘ambassadors’ and ‘thought leaders’. There was a gravy train of public funding and a growing establishment who didn’t want others et the discussion table, even if they were investing their own profits as we were to resolve social problems.
Social enterprise would increasing become a round of end to end conferences. There was a living to be made from being an “expert” yet sadly little support for grass roots organisations who were trying to walk the talk.
It has taken those full 8 years for government to come up with Big Society Capital and it’s going to be managed by for-profit intermediaries, who now seem unable to find projects which are “investment ready”.
Eight years ago one of the first to dismiss fighting poverty through this alternative to capitalism had been ICOF the funding arm of the co-operative movement. Social Enterprise Coalition chairperson, Baroness Thornton a Labour Cooperative peer, even disregarded my letter to her at the House of Lords about this. Clearly any external suggestion about funding social innovation was far from welcome.
This has been something in which Social Enterprise London and the Social Enterprise Coalition said they could not help. The South West Regional Development Authority said they’d get back to us, if it matched their own plans and the APPG on Social ERnterprise simply ignored us. The APPG on microfinance turned down the offer of a presentation on impact in Russia.
We moved on to Ukraine and the cause of children abandoned to state care. In proposing to end the vicious cycle of poverty and asserting that Every Child Deserves a Loving Family.
Today, and probably now too late, Cooperatives UK have joined in the call for a ‘cooperative’ capitalism using the same reasoning as our own, the ‘Debt Threat’ described in our 1996 white paper.
Poverty is clearly among us and defeating it isn’t a battle that can be won under any individual banner.