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My Pitch to Rich was a 'Marshall Plan'

Business - "It's simply an idea that makes someone else's life better" says Sir Richard Branson

We may have argued that , but it gave me the nagging feeling that the life I'd made better was his.   .

It was March 2009 and Richard Branson had just spoken at Davos of the need for business to focus more on social problems. An event hosted by an Ukrainian oligarch originally called The Ukrainian Lunch.

We'd been working in Ukraine to delivered a 'Marshall plan' to address major social diparities. It had been in the hands of goverment since February 2007 and the following August it was published in full in a prominate Ukrainian news portal:

Hello Virgin Team,

I’d submitted several suggestions to your website with no response and this was a follow to explain our work.

At the Ukrainian lunch in Davos, Richard Branson gave a talk suggesting that business should focus more on social problems.

This is what we’ve been doing in Ukraine for 7 years to reach the point that our efforts have persuaded government to adopt changes to childcare policy. We’re a small business rendering 100% profit to do something about the plight of orphans and street children in Ukraine.

One of my submitted suggestions was about raising funds to help the founder of a charity Happy Child who support sick and disabled children in Ukraine. She herself is disabled and in need of surgery.

Another suggestion is the proposal to create 10 models of excellence for the rehab centres Ukraine’s government agreed to last year. Little has been done since the announcement.

If the Ukraine lunch speech was an indication of intent to apply this in Ukraine, then we’re able to show the way.


Jeff Mowatt

In our proposal we'd argued the case for capitalism to be applied for social benefit and from what Branson said at Davos, he'd probably seen it,. To put this into context, it would not be untill 2011 when 'Creating Shared Value' made much the same point

An inherent assumption about capitalism is that profit is defined only in terms of monetary gain. This assumption is virtually unquestioned in most of the world. However, it is not a valid assumption. 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.'

The major focus of the 'Marshall Plan' had been childcare reform and within weeks of delivery, government had signalled adoption of major recommendations. It had been self-funded. We needed financial support to proceed and sought if from USAID. 

In the 'Death Camps, For Children' series which exposed conditions in a place known as Torez, our late founder had pulled no punches when pointing to the root cause of social inequity 

'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.'.

As one may observe, this included the host of the Davos Philanthropic Roundtable who in contrast has been a major donor to the foundations of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Unsurprising they were present at the 2009 event.    

In 2013 I took the opportunity to share with McKinsey on the Long Term Capitalism initiative and soon after came Paul Polman of Unilever. saying 

"When people talk about new forms of capitalism, this is what I have in mind: companies that show, in all transparency, that they are contributing to society, now and for many generations to come. Not taking from it.

It is nothing less than a new business model. One that focuses on the long term. One that sees business as part of society, not separate from it. One where companies seek to address the big social and environmental issues that threaten social stability. One where the needs of citizens and communities carry the same weight as the demands of shareholders."

Blair was the chair at the 2014 event where the focus had been the crisis in Ukraine. They were trying to discover hoe capitalism can deliver social and environmentasl returns:

It was August 2014 When Sir Richard called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Ukraine.

Polman and Pinchuh were among those offering ther assistance.

In the 'Marshall Plan' we'd made the case for delivering modern healthcare

"Most important is the welfare of each of these children. There are at this time, for example, numerous institutions across Ukraine where children die on a daily basis from little more than lack of knowledge about how to help them. The actual cost of helping them immediately is nothing more than one-day workshops for existing staff, to demonstrate basic, simple medical interventions common in the West. These institutions are generally closed to the outside world, difficult to access due to imposed secrecy, and are mostly in very rural areas where even the closest neighbors have no idea of the reality of these facilities.

The point, again, is very simple: to protect safety, health, and security of each and every child in Ukraine. There is absolutely no reason why this cannot be done"

By 2008, Big Lottery were handing out grant funding to Sir Elton John and Pinchuk's wife, Elena Franchuk 

In February 2008, We'd written to USAID and copied the letter to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and US Ambassador  We'd applied to a USAID grant program for £25k and they'd left us hanging. We'd find later that they had another agenda.If you haven't guessed, yes,  it involved Pinchuk and Akhmetov.

“Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am writing to you to request your support in advancing critical relief for Ukrainian citizens – with first focus on children in state care, the worst result of Ukraine’s political machinations. This is mentioned in some detail in “A Marshall Plan for Ukraine” referenced at the end of this document. I will fill in some gaps here.

It ended

“We are grossly underfunded in favor of missiles, bombs, and ordnance, which is about 100% backwards. Now, with even the US Pentagon stating that they’ve learned their lesson in Iraq and realize (so says top US general in Iraq ten days or so ago) that winning hearts and minds is the best option, I and others shall continue to think positive and look for aid budgets and funding spigots to be opened much more for people and NGOs in silos, foxholes and trenches, insisting on better than ordnance, and who understand things and how to fix them. We can do that. We can even do it cost-effectively and with far better efficiency than the ordnance route. Welcome to our brave new world. Except it’s not so new: learn to love and respect each other first, especially the weakest, most defenseless, most voiceless among us, then figure out the rest. There aren’t other more important things to do first. This message has been around for at least two thousand years. How difficult is it for us to understand?”