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Collaboration: The man from Oxfam, he say no

The recent discussion about collaboration between business and NGOs reminded me of an approach we made to Oxfam in 2008 with regard to our work in Eastern Europe on microenterprise development. By this time, our proposal for business and NGO collaboration on a 'Marshall Plan for Ukraine had been widely disreibuted and read.

Oxfam were appealing for business donors, I offered the gift of our experience for mutual benefit:     .  

Dear Sirs,

A recent  message from Social Enterprise consultant Geof Cox alerted me to your microfinance  work in Russia.

Rather than the contribution of a major financial sponsor, I represent a small business  which operates as a social enterprise in the UK and may have something else to offer, based on our own experience of  leveraging microfinance  for  Russians living in poverty.

Our work in Tomsk for what became the Tomsk  Regional  Initiative and Microfinance Bank, began in 1999  with a  development strategy paper directed at US government which resulted in a initial $6m investment for Tomsk and Seversk.

The initiative ran from 2000-2005 and resulted in 14,000 loans for 10,000 new businesses.

Since 2004 we as P-CED (People-Centered Economic Development UK Ltd) have operated as a UK profit for social purpose company, a  social enterprise delivering  both profit and social capital  to economic development in Eastern Europe.

We gain our revenue from software development as an IT services company which serves several large UK corporations and government departments.

It has long been our belief that business can work together with NGOs and government to eradicate poverty and I ask therefore, if there is any way in which by supplying yourselves, either in the capacity of our field experience in Russia and social enterprise in general, or as IT service providers helping us generate the revenue required to support our own efforts toward a common purpose in Eastern Europe.

Since 2002, we have been focussed on Ukraine with the aim of replicating and scaling up from what we achieved in Russia. Below I offer links to our development advocacy and the revenue source which now drives it.


Jeff Mowatt

The reply from Oxfam had been that my offer could not be accepted.

The 'Marshall Plan' and work that preceded it had put forward the then radical idea that business could operate for the common good, just as well as it could for the benefit of shareholders. The bottom line could be people first, as had our own: .

"Traditional capitalism is an insufficient economic model allowing monetary outcomes as the bottom line with little regard to social needs. Bottom line must be taken one step further by at least some companies, past profit, to people. How profits are used is equally as important as creation of profits. Where profits can be brought to bear by willing individuals and companies to social benefit, so much the better. Moreover, this activity must be recognized and supported at government policy level as a badly needed, essential, and entirely legitimate enterprise activity.”

It can be considered some degree of progress that Oxfams's CEO now sings from the same hymn sheet saying people should replace profit as the bottom line in business That however doesn't deliver any social outcomes.

So what about the business side of this collaboration? many had been approached but one in particular stands out. The Virgin empire of Sir Richard Branson,, who'd spoken at the 2009 Davos Philanthropic Roundtable aka Ukrainian Lunch saying business should focus more on social problems. Precisely what we'd been doing in Ukraine, so I called on Virgin Unite who'd been soliciting project ideas.  

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

As an aside, I tuned into the ongoing debacle about the Clinton foundation and Hilary's deleted emails this morning, where it was noted that the largesty number of donations came from Ukraine. No surprise that Bill Clinton was one of Branson audience, Tony Blair too. Blair sat alongside Branson 5 years later when he's uttered those immortal words - "A business is an idea that makes a positive difference to other people's lives"

That of course excludes children starving in orphanages or anything that undermines the vested interests of Ukraine's moguls.

That takes care of NGOs and Business, leaving only collaboration with government. :  

It opened with these words:

“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?”

None of the most intractable problems are going to be fixed and that brings us to what was warned about from the beginning when the point ha first been made to Bill Clinton -  " People in poverty have nothing to lose"

In the case of Ukraine, we'd made it clearly in 2005  

"Peace does not and cannot exist for people in poverty, unless they are harshly suppressed by government or other forces.  Poverty is a horrible existence and lifestyle, and is bound to breed violence, not peace."