The ‘Marshall Plan’ as a meme

I’m not referring to the Marshall Plan delivered by General George Marshall 65 years ago, but of one delivered just 5 years ago as a strategy for microeconomic development and social enterprise.  It opens with a reference to George Marshall’s  speech to illustrate the influence of the orginal:

“Focus of this plan is on the microeconomic sector because this is the most effective way to immediately meet the fundamental objectives of a Marshall Plan: policy directed against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.”

What it says in the summary about a social enterprise innovation fund is pehaps more interesting:

“It is proposed that the United States of America be actively engaged in supporting this project, financially and any other way possible. Ukraine has clearly demonstrated common will for democracy. Ukraine has also unilaterally taken the first critical step to fulfill this program, thus clearly demonstrating initiative and commitment to participation required in the original Marshall Plan sixty years ago. The US side is presumably attempting to foster democracy in another country, which never expressed much interest and shows little real interest now. That of course is Iraq, where recent estimates indicate a cost of $1.5 billion per week.

 “That same amount of money, spread over five years instead of one week, would more than cover the investment cost of the initial components of this project, and allow a reserve fund for creating new projects as Ukraine’s intelligentsia invents them in the Center for Social Enterprise. It is proposed that Ukraine and the US provide equal portions of this amount. Ukraine is certainly able to provide that level of funding, given that projects are designed with the same fiscal discipline employed in the traditional business sector. That means they pay for themselves, one way or another.

 “Project funding should be placed as a social-benefit fund under oversight of an independent board of directors, particularly including representatives from grassroots level Ukraine citizens action groups, networks, and human rights leaders.

 “This program provides for near-term social relief for Ukraine’s neediest citizens, most particularly children who normally have least possible influence and no public voice. Over a few years time, the net cost financially is zero. Every component is designed to become financially solvent, through mechanisms of cost-savings and shared revenue with other components. One component, Internet, provides essential communications infrastructure as well as a cash surplus to be used to offset any lingering costs of other components such as childcare, and otherwise goes to a permanent social benefit fund under oversight of the aforementioned independent, citizens-based non-government board of directors.

 “Any number of other social enterprises can be created. Furthermore, any number of existing for-profit enterprises are entirely free to contribute any percentage of profits they wish to increase the proposed initial $1.5 billion social investment fund. If for example the total fund comes to $3 billion, that amount would generate at least $300 million per year in a hryvnia deposit accounts at any one of several major Ukrainian banks, to provide ongoing funding to continue to create and expand social enterprises.”

In 2006 when it was completed and in 2007 when published online, There had been no crisis in capitalism, there was no social innovation fund,  no Benefit Corporations or L3Cs. Bill Gates had not launched the Giving Pledge or spoken of Creative Capitalism, yet all of these elements are proposed in the paper.

In 2010, they could also be found in a competition for ideas to unlock  the estimated $120 billion of social investment locked up in US bank accounts, the SOCAP Inpact Challenge.

There is a similarity in several areas.  The “profit for social purpose” business model, which was used to fund the ‘Marshall Plan’ research,   A social enterprise innovation fund to which forward looking organisations are invited to contribute and the use of surplus revenue to invest in seed funding social enterprise, as prescribed in earlier business plans.

It was in 2008 however that the ‘Marshall Plan’ was presented to the EU in what was know as the EU Citizens Consultation and was visible online until a few months ago.  The business model where profit is invested primarily into a social purpose is described along with the social investment fund in the synopsis of the P-CED white paper published online in January 1997 and visible on web archives going back a decade.

In 2011 I became aware that the EU Social Business Consultation had produced a set of recommendations. They were again, very similar to the concepts described in the ‘Marshall Plan’

My MEP Sir  Graham Watson agreed that there were similarities without being outright “copy and paste” plagiarism and raised the issue with Commissioner Michele Barnier.

Commissioner Barnier replied in turn saying that he was unaware of our work and that similar concepts had been evolving globally over the last decade.  In my many years of discussing the subjext, I’ve found nothing which precedes the 1996 paper on this subject.

Within 9 months of our letter to USAID and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which again refers to the cost of war in Iraq,  one of the committee members, Barack Obama announced plans for a social enterpreneurship agency and social innovation fund – to be paid for closing tax loopholes and ending the war in Iraq.

Put together, this raises a big question. The concept is good enough for the US President,  can win a competition on social investment and form the basis of social enterprise development in the EU – why is there no interest in a project which puts it into the context of a formal strategy plan dealing with a real life (and death)  situation, namely microeconmic development and social enterprise in Ukraine with the primary objective of placing children from orphanages and the streets into loving family homes.

Here’s what USAID had to say about it.

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